She’s brilliant and British

She’s brilliant and British
Nigella Lawson
Pic Vanity Fair

We seem to have an on-off love affair with the glamour queen of the kitchen; some of us loving her for her unapologetic love of food, and some irritated by her suggestive innuendos and puns. Previously, she has been described in the press as ‘haughty’ and ‘cold’, which is a million miles from her TV alter-ego. However, life for Nigella has not always been midnight meals adorned in silk dressing gowns; she has managed to carve out a life and a business for herself in the face of some truly tragic events in her life.

Born into a privileged and wealthy family in London, 1960, Lawson, went on to study at Oxford University and then to a career in journalism: reviewing books, critiquing restaurants and then becoming a sub-editor for The Sunday Times.

Nigella’s cook books are like no others. Rather than the step-by-step imperatives of her peers, hers read far more organically. Every recipe is accompanied by a story, or a suggestion and more than just a hint of the woman behind the picture perfect make-up. She won’t ever need to write an autobiography, because she has done so already, whether this was her intention or not.

She links food and cooking to personal memories, family, friends and events in her life. Reading between the lines of her words she suggests a less than perfect childhood, with tension ever present between her parents, a depressive mother and her young children.

Just as Nigella was making her way in life, with the world at her feet, her mother died from liver cancer aged, 49. Over the next twenty-five years, life continued to deliver devastating blows. She lost both her sister and her first husband to cancer. Then experienced a tumultuous second marriage that ended in divorce and a bitter court battle, amid all sorts of unsavoury and personal allegations against her and her conduct.

Despite this big-dipper of a ride, with more lows it seems than highs, one thing remained constant and that was her ability to write openly and honestly about her relationship with food and the comfort and stability it brought her throughout those times.

And here is why I think she is brilliant.

In these days and times of women being made to feel fat, greedy or uncouth for enjoying their food, Nigella has gone some way to normalising a healthy appetite and the soothing qualities that food can bring.

A few years ago I saw Nigella being interviewed at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival. She was frank and honest about her relationship with food and she spoke freely about how she embraces her love of the kitchen and openly admitted that she gets great joy from feeding and nurturing herself and her loved ones.

Food for many women is a trigger point and taboo in some way, shape or form; we eat too much, don’t eat enough, we’re too fat, we’re too thin, carbs are bad, fat is bad, fasting’s in, nope it’s out, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Nigella’s got the right idea – just enjoy.

She knows more than anyone that life is too short to overthink the simple pleasure and comfort that a plate, or a bowl of something good, can provide whenever we are in need.

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