Even Nigella Lawson has bad days - Macleans.ca

Even Nigella Lawson has bad days

The ebullient British cooking show star reveals a few of the things that really bug her

Even Nigella Lawson has bad days


In Nigella Lawson’s new book, Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home, the preface to a beer-braised pork-knuckle recipe reveals a fierce side to the usually amiable British cooking show star. Lawson writes of the humiliation she felt when a German talk show interviewer introduced her with a joke about how the English have a reputation for being the worst cooks in the world. Instead of laughing at the condescending jab, Lawson decided to give her bully a serving of piping hot honesty and replied in a self-described “graceless” manner.

“I told him that as far as the world was concerned, German cooking didn’t accord much respect either,” she says on the phone from her home in London. The program’s live audience went dead silent. Still, Lawson, who has been communicating about food on TV and in magazines and books for more than two decades, refused to smile for the cameras. “I’d heard that bad quip over and over again,” she says. “I’m not one to lash out or confront, but it was a direct insult and a very outdated opinion.”

Lawson’s opinions—which have helped her amass a $25-million empire since writing her bestselling first book, How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, in 1998—have proven to be nothing to laugh at. Now 50, she’s the author of nine bestselling cookbooks. On top of her literary achievements, Lawson has starred in and co-produced nine world-syndicated television series, and has designed her own line of cookware to boot.

The reason for her success is as simple as her five-minute naan pizza recipe. Lawson is the Oprah Winfrey of food. Oprah has those manic aha moments; Lawson has ecstatic culinary epiphanies triggered by the liberal use of words like “gorgeousness” and “sumptuousness.” (Her now-trademark ebullient demeanour has inspired countless YouTube spoofs.)

Although Lawson’s recipes from TV series such as Feast and her latest, Kitchen, aren’t half as fast and furious as, say, the dishes U.S. cooking star Rachel Ray makes—or don’t demand the ridiculous meticulousness of Martha Stewart’s—they do encourage average cooks to go beyond their gourmet comfort zones. “Being scared of making a meal is absurd, so my mission is to make it all seem less daunting.”

It’s a mission she takes very seriously. “I’m such a control freak,” she says, before revealing she spent weeks “driving her team mad” while creating her new iPhone app. “I wanted it to have the same design cues as everything else I’ve touched—it had to be more than a mini-magazine. I insisted my stamp be everywhere, so it is gushing with bells and whistles. I really fought hard—and won—for a little shopping-list function on the app, and I have to say, it’s brilliant.”

One of the things Lawson has no love for is what she considers to be the “hypocrisy of the fashion industry.” Chatting about a former job, a stint as a food editor for British Vogue, one gets the sense Lawson is still scarred by the experience. “I can’t stand places where cults of very thin women are,” she says. “When I walked into the Vogue offices, I could see the editors shaking in fear as they looked at me. I know they were thinking, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I could look like if I ate,’ and some people treated me like I worked at a nuclear waste factory. The way I see it, fear of food and fear of the flesh equals fear of joyous living.”

When the subject of fall fashion shows casting curvier models comes up, Lawson scoffs. “Curvier to who?” she says, before explaining that she is tired of people “talking about a woman who is 140 lb. as if she were 280 lb.” She cannot comprehend “why models are paid to starve themselves.”

In fact, Lawson’s newest hero is Joan Harris, the fictional office manager in the TV series Mad Men, played by curvaceous actress Christina Hendricks. “When I’m having a bad day or start hating myself for something that I’ve done, my motto is ‘Be like Joan.’ She walks across the room like she deserves that space and, believe me, she is never seen as the butt of anyone’s jokes.”


Even Nigella Lawson has bad days

  1. She's gorgeous and I applaud her for being a sexy, curvy, successful woman. But unless she's only 4'7", I'm fairly sure she weighs considerably more than 140 pounds.

    Nigella you are beautiful; don't do us a disservice by feeling compelled to lie about your weight. Keep it to yourself, but please don't lie — it reminds me of Oprah years ago and her peak of plumpness saying she wore size 14. No, she didn't; more like a 24 at the time. I'd say Nigella weighs closer to 185. A sexy curvy 185.

    • i also think nigella is perfect, but i think she was referring to 140 lb models.

      • Oh, you may be right — but surely no model tops 105 pounds! At about 6'! They look sick and emaciated, poor girls, and as Nigella says, they must be so hungry!

  2. She's 50?!

  3. Oh for heaven's sake! Aside from a group of skinny-arsed, self-satisfied, humourles, cretins, who rule the fashion industry, who on earth could care less about how much this woman weighs?!!! 4'7", 5'10", 6'2" – She's gorgeous! She's a star! Look at her skin! Look at her luxurious, shining tresses! This isn't an air-brushed, drugged out teenager made to look like a strumpet. This is a plump lipped, full hipped, REAL woman with REAL breasts! This is not an air-brushed image, darling! Clearly, she doesn't wear a size 2! What a relief to know that Nigella and Christina Hendriks are ALLOWED to thrive in an industry that holds the image of an asexual, teenage boy-girl as the epitome of style and fashion. No wonder teenage girls are going to hell in a handbasket!

  4. In the inside back cover of her cookbook How to Eat, there is a photo of young Nigella before the weight gain and frankly, it would have been too much for the Germans if she stood before a live audience looking as delicate and ethereal as she did in the photo. Looking at her eyes in the light, I can see why so many brunette Barbie dolls from the Mediterrean are given yellow eyes or tiger eyes. She and Buffy the Vampire Slayer both have those golden brown Israelite eyes that aren't hazel eyes. I've paid $30 for authentic afternoon tea and so have a lot of people all over the world. There's nothing wrong with clean simple deliciousness like a perfect roast beef with potatoes.

  5. Woman-hater, Esteban?

    • Pop psychologist weened on Dr. Phil and Oprah, Patchouli? You probably have an arts degree. Nothing I wrote above is directed generally at women. My vitriol is directed specifically at one person. What you should really be questioning is standards of beauty and why anyone should be cowed into and badgered into following the herd. You can obviously read. Your comprehension, however, leaves much to be desired.

      • "Large breasts have a way of making everything so much better. Like when I put a pair on my Hyundai and it suddenly became a hot car."

        Hard to miscomprehend that remark; so what, it only SOUNDS misogynistic?

  6. As a woman brought up in a family in the food-development business,learning about"exotic"foods when I was 11/12years old,
    Nigella is a beautiful woman,both inside and out.I love
    watching how passionate she is about her food
    and life.Also,as a curvaceous woman,her abilities enpower those
    of us that are not reed thin.I have never met a male that would rather
    eat lettuce and cabbage soup all day,nor have I ever met a man
    who didn't appreciate snuggling up in bed with a full-bodied woman.A lot of us are probably much healthier and energetic than
    those poor,sunken cheeked models whose idea of a "meal"is
    a boiled egg and half an apple.
    Nigella also has a daughter who is in her teens ,and I
    think she is setting a wonderful example for her and her friends by showing you can be an adventurous cook,hostess,
    and have a beautiful figure &intelligence as well.With "little"
    girls of 9/10 years of age suffering from anorexia and bulimia,I think
    Nigella Lawson should be crowned a modern day hero!
    My daughters,who are in their twenties enjoy watching her as well!

    • I agree with you!

      One afternoon my brother dropped in and my husband was watching Nigella on TV. I told my brother she was my husband's girlfriend, and they watched her for awhile together and my brother looked at husband and said, "She looks like she'd be a really good cook, doesn't she?"