Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nigella, Nigella, Nigella

(Say It Like Cary Grant And You Get The Idea)

Chefography - Nigella Lawson

Like her or not, Nigella Lawson's life reads like a romance novel.

Here are the headlines:
Beautiful heroine from troubled upper class British family finds solice in the written word...
and A LOT of GOOD food
Loses mother to cancer
Marries successful journalist, John Diamond
Has daughter
Loses sister to cancer
Has son
Publishes cookbook
Become a Domestic Goddess

But wait, that's just the beginning. As Nigella's star is rising on the career front, partially because "The camera eats her up" - as Bobby Redford said about Tally, formerly Sally, also know as Michelle Pfeiffer, in the classic "Up Close and Personal" - her husband is fighting the battle of his life, which ultimately TAKES his life. Cancer AGAIN.

There's more: She becomes a major publishing success. The American television triumph of Nigella Feasts, awaits her, as does a new man. No matter that he's a major advertising mogul, art collector and gazillionaire, Charles Saatchi. To Nigella, he's just her little snuggin's. (I made that part up).

But it was Nigella's early experiences, as with most people, that colored many adult choices. She had a very tricky relationship with her mother, who had lifelong issues with food. It wasn't until her diagnosis of terminal cancer, (she died 3 weeks later) that Nigella's mother felt she could eat normally. During all of these challenges, food was always a constant comfort to the "bosomy and bottomy" Nigella. (SHE said it, not I.)

In spite of her food issues, her mother was passionate about cooking. STOP THE TRAIN! We have the key here to Nigella’s entire relationship to food and really her whole personality. Abundance, love, giving warmth, overt sexuality spilling out from every pore...It's all in reaction to her mother not showing her love (they became close later), and to her mother's contradictory relationship with her family and food (loved to cook, hated to eat).

Nigella was NEVER going to be like that. From her early years at Oxford, when she cooked and fed all her buds, to “studying” in Italy, which really consisted of immersing herself in the Italian food culture and lifestyle, to her copious meals for loved ones as an adult, it all points to the same thing: making people feel treasured and nurtured. Her profuse offerings from the kitchen today are the result of a little girl who was melancholy and under-loved by her struggling mother. (The issues in the bedroom are not our subject today.)

Woo, now that we have THAT all figured out, do we LIKE Nigella's food? Yes…basically. I like that it’s eminently do-able in the home kitchen. In fact, that’s really her entire point. When she first came onto the food scene, a lot of home cooks were trying emulate restaurant chefs. She was totally against that. She celebrated sharing family recipes and being in her own kitchen, cooking for close friends and family.

Interestingly, she points out that her “Culinary life has no secrets.” That’s a very significant statement. What is the hallmark of an eating disorder, but the secrecy it imposes upon its victim? Her mother’s problems with food were hidden. Nigella lives her life out in the open to prevent the demons of her mother from becoming her own. She’s done such a good job, that she’s made everyone lust after her. Her publisher loves her. The Food Network worships her, Mario Batali admires her. All of the civilised world wants her…She’s so sexy she wants herself.

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