Oh Nigella. You are fabulous.
I very rarely read the introductions to cook books. I like to flick through the pictures and the recipes. However, the opening of “Simply Nigella” is fantastic. I want to quote it all to you, because it is just so perfectly written. A polite rant against the notion of “clean eating”, and an articulation of the role that food- and the preparation of it- has on our physical and mental well-being.
“The Clean-Eating brigade seems an embodiment of all my fears. Food is not dirty, the pleasures of the flesh are essential to life and, however we eat, we are not guaranteed immortality or immunity from loss. We cannot control life by controlling what we eat. But how we cook and, indeed how we eat does give us- as much as anything can- mastery over ourselves”
Nigella gets it. Whilst I can’t profess that we are living parallel lives (I have never crept back downstairs in black silk to feast on whatever is in the fridge in a seductive way), she understands- even defines- the role that food (and a love of it) can play in the lives of modern women.
There is a quote, from Julia Child, that I firmly believe in
“People who love to eat are always the best people”
As I reflect on this quote, and look at the people I love in my life, they all love to eat. They are order-too-much, try-anything-once, yes-let’s-have-dessert kind of people. In fact: acquaintances on the peripheral- watch out. This is my new benchmark on whether you’re in or out. Get eating if you want in.
Anyway, the point of this is, Nigella makes it okay to love food, in a guttural-obsessive kind of way. And I like that.
In our household, we take cooking in turns. My go-to books in the last few weeks have been Nigella’s. Why do I love them so much? Now, I do like Jamie Oliver, but those 15 minute meal books were not 15 minutes. I mean, my cupboards are bulging dry stores with spices, herbs and most things required to make, well, most things. However, I still don’t have half the stuff Jamie asks for.
This is another reason why Lady Lawson gets it. When reading through “Kitchen”, you’ve got most of this stuff at home. And if you don’t, you should. If there’s ever something unusual in a recipe, she uses it more than once in the book. That’s practical. I didn’t resent the inclusion of Gochujang paste. I embraced it. And then cooked a load of other stuff with it. Yum, yum Korean food.
The recipes are also usually quick, or a low maintenance slow cook. Proof, once again, that she gets it. Her Sticky Toffee Pudding cheat is flipping voodoo, but it is an amazing tip for a fast, delicious pud.
Nigella has a guttural passion for food, but she is also academic in the study of food. I have a huge respect for her studious understanding of it. She is not a chef, and neither are we.
So, non-chefs. Let’s settle down for the evening and indulge in “Simply Nigella” and start making our shopping lists for the weekend.