Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Meet Nigella Lawson

Yesterday I got to meet another of my culinary heroes, or in this case heroine. Nigella Lawson. Nigella is a terrific writer and a wonderful home cook. In fact when she was introduced yesterday as a "great chef" the first thing she did was to say she is not a great chef and is not even a chef at all. She is completely unapologetic and honest about her abilities and her lack thereof which makes her entirely refreshing. Almost the anti-Martha in some ways, she is eager to point out her imperfections and as if to illustrate the point she managed to burn a pancake in front of about 100 people in her cooking demo which she quickly abandoned in favor of a frank discussion of cooking instead.

Nigella is very funny in addition to being drop dead gorgeous. She is somehow attractive to men and unthreatening to women, a rare combination. It's because of her attitude towards life, especially about home cooking and her ability to make us all feel like we can do it too. Perhaps because she has faced so much unexpected tragedy in her life--the loss at an early age of her mother, sister and first husband, each of cancer, her philosophy is that "simplicity is the key to everything" and that "anything that is true in the kitchen is true out of the kitchen". She explained that her cooking show that takes place in her home kitchen came out out the circumstance that her husband was sick and she needed to make some money and yet not leave home. While not having faced anything like those conditions, I can certainly relate to her assertion that her life is "a balance between fear of boredom and laziness". Perhaps this explains while I rarely cook the same thing twice and often fail to clean up?

While telling the audience that she believes too much of what we think about food comes from food professionals, she also carries her own whisk in her purse, just in case she's asked to cook something. She summed up her passion for cooking by saying that "I like the whole world of food" and that "outside of sex, food is the most intimate communication you can have".

Endearing her to me forever was the assertion that she finds it hard to imagine there is a meal better than roast chicken and mashed potatoes, that and the fact that like me, she refuses to wear an apron.