It’s no secret that I adore Nigella. And yes, I am being a shameless show off by sharing this photo of us from a few years ago. Indeed it’s framed on my wall, how did you know?
I had the honour and pleasure of working with Nigella a few years back while part of LifeStyle Food Channel and can honestly say that what you see is what you get. The smooth honey voice, cheerful disposition and infectious laugh? It’s there on and off screen.
Fast forward a few years to last night and I was in the beautiful but decidedly un-intimate setting of the Sydney Opera House, watching Nigella as she engaged in conversation with the delightful Annabel Crabb.
It got me thinking of all the things I love and admire about Nigella. So here are my top 8.
- She tells it like it is
For someone so seemingly posh, Nigella is pretty down-to-earth and practical.
Mid cooking demo at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival a few years ago, she exclaimed a hair had fallen in the dish she was making.
‘Oh well’ she reasoned. ‘I must have eaten truckloads of my mother’s hair while I was growing up.’
How true is that? It’s just a hair people. Move it to the side and continue cooking.
2. She’s practical
‘Beside my bed I keep a collection of condiments: Maldon salt, Tabasco, chilli sauce, soy sauce.’
This admission came out last night as Nigella was telling us about her two ‘modes’ – the ‘moving at the speed of light’ mode and the ‘comatose on the couch’ mode. The condiments come in handy for the latter when she can only bear to eat food amongst soft sheets. Nigella revealed that one of her luxuries is expensive linen. And how she proceeds to ruin it by dripping soy sauce everywhere. We’ve all been there right?
3. She is a superb writer
No surprises here as she’s a trained and experienced journalist but this is really what sets her apart from the legions of other would-be-cooks in the world. She’s a writer who happened to fall into food and subsequently the recipes play second fiddle to her unique way of storytelling. Before you even get to the ingredients you know the provenance of the dish, the mood she was in when she created it and the occasion that inspired such a dish. Anyone can throw a few ingredients together but not many can transport you into the heart and soul of a dish before you’ve even stepped foot into the kitchen.
4. She’s risen above avocado-gate
Oh yes. The culinary scandal of 2015. In her new series, Simply Nigella, Nigella takes a few minutes to extol the virtues of avocado on toast on any day for any occasion. She clearly notes that ‘this is hardly a recipe’, and goes on to suggest ideas for jazzing up this old classic with new flavours. The next day an indignant media declared that Nigella was hoaxing the public by ‘calling avocado on toast a recipe’.
For god’s sake people, did you not read the title of the show??
5. Nigella loves mushy peas
She couldn’t possibly love them as much as I do but they factor high on her culinary scale. For years I’ve been walking into (UK) fish & chip shops, ordering a tub of mushy peas and walking out sated. When I’m not in the UK I rely on the canned variety or Harry’s Café de Wheels to tide me over. Look at Nigella’s back catalogue and you’ll see they have appeared in a recipe or two. Her rationale?
‘Whenever an ingredient is regarded as low rent I feel compelled to use it’.
6. She’s healthier than you might think.
‘People think that all I do is sit around and eat chocolate cake’ an exasperated Nigella told the Opera House audience. Although it’s hard not to think that when so many episodes of her earlier series’ end with her sneaking to the fridge in the ‘middle of the night’ wearing silk jimjams to steal a slice of the chocolate caramel fudge cake she cooked earlier in the series. I only wish I looked so good when indulging in midnight snacks.
The truth is that she does have a number of healthy recipes in her repertoire and even a section dedicated to ‘temple food’ in one book.
7. She’s a glutton and proud of it.
A boy once declared I was greedy. No this wasn’t in the school yard, this was a few years ago. To his credit he is French and he thought it was a compliment.
But it’s true. I am greedy. The definition of the word is ‘showing an intense and selfish desire for something’. I show an intense and selfish desire for food about 97% of the time. And so does Nigella. So that makes it okay.
8. She’s humble
Before Nigella left the stage last night she turned to the audience and politely asked:
‘Can I please do something silly and infantile before I leave? Can I please take a photo of you all?’
She then proceeded to take a ‘selfie’ with everyone in the expansive hall.
Nigella you’re my hero.