“It’s the sim­ple things that mat­ter”

When it comes to Christ­mas en­ter­tain­ing, Nigella Law­son says per­fec­tion is the prob­lem – and em­brac­ing the chaos is key

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view by ADRI­ENNE TAM

Self-styled do­mes­tic god­dess and cook­book au­thor Nigella Law­son re­veals her plans for the fes­tive sea­son and ex­plains why, when it comes to the Christ­mas feast, she prefers to em­brace the chaos.

She is known the world over as the self-styled do­mes­tic god­dess – with a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar food em­pire and nearly a dozen cook­books to her name – so one could for­give Nigella Law­son for feeling over­stretched in the lead-up to that all-im­por­tant Christ­mas meal. But speak­ing to Stel­lar from her London home, food ap­pears to be the last thing on Law­son’s mind when asked to nom­i­nate the most im­por­tant piece of ad­vice for those of us ea­ger to nav­i­gate the up­com­ing fes­tive sea­son with­out break­ing a sweat.

“Never wear new shoes,” the 57-year-old replies in­stantly in that in­fa­mous vel­vety voice that has soothed scores of fraz­zled fans since she came to fame nearly two decades ago.

The weeks lead­ing up to Christ­mas are al­ways busy – and for Law­son, it may be busier than usual this year. Aside from all that plan­ning, she is also in pro­mo­tion mode. Her lat­est cook­book, At My Ta­ble, hit shelves in Septem­ber; its sis­ter TV show Nigella: At My Ta­ble, pre­mieres this week on Fox­tel’s Life­style Food chan­nel. Their theme is sim­ply “a celebration of home cook­ing”, which dove­tails nicely with Law­son’s in­sis­tence that she prefers her ef­forts to ex­ude a pleas­ant, laid-back vibe. Per­fec­tion, dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son or any other time of year, is some­thing she’s never been ob­sessed with.

“Failure is a re­ally es­sen­tial part of life, whether in the kitchen or out of it,” she tells Stel­lar. “Of­ten, when some [dish] has gone wrong and been ab­so­lutely cat­a­strophic and you can’t eat it, you have to say, ‘Sorry guys, it’s go­ing to be pasta with gar­lic and chilli pep­per and olive oil instead.’”

Law­son does not sub­scribe to the idea of a cookie-cut­ter Christ­mas. To her, the most im­por­tant part of the fes­tive sea­son is mak­ing memories in the com­pany of friends and fam­ily. Top of the list are her daughter Cosima, 23, and son Bruno, 21, from her first mar­riage to hus­band John Di­a­mond (who died from throat can­cer in 2001; Law­son and sec­ond hus­band Charles Saatchi di­vorced in 2013).

The food on the ta­ble should taste great, of course, “but it shouldn’t feel like you have a full-time job cook­ing it. You need to re­lax your­self.” Law­son seems to have learnt this at a young age, vividly re­count­ing for Stel­lar, “When I was a child, ev­ery Christ­mas Eve my mother would burst into tears be­cause she got so stressed and there was so much to do.

“And ad­mit­tedly, the shop­ping was a lot harder then. It wasn’t easy to get [all the in­gre­di­ents] and the shops would shut for so long. I vowed that when I was grown up I wouldn’t be like that. So I re­ally am very strict with my­self about not tak­ing on too much, and re­mem­ber­ing why I’m invit­ing peo­ple round. I want to make them wel­come and I want to en­joy their com­pany.”

LAW­SON IS A nat­u­ral-born sto­ry­teller, and At My Ta­ble takes the same ap­proach as her other col­lec­tions; recipes are ac­com­pa­nied by a yarn or mem­ory ex­plain­ing the dish’s per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance to her, and giv­ing in­sights into cook­ing short­cuts, per­sonal in­ter­ests and opin­ions on ev­ery­thing from peel­ing pota­toes (not re­ally a fan) to the word gar­nish (“oh, how I loathe [it]”).

Ar­guably, it is this sort of un­pre­ten­tious and re­lat­able ap­proach that has helped her ca­reer thrive. Aside from cook­books, she has fronted 10 cook­ing shows and ap­peared as a judge on pro­duc­tions in­clud­ing The Taste and Masterchef Aus­tralia. Yet Law­son still insists she is not a chef.“i write about food and I cook a lot but re­ally, I only cook for peo­ple I know,” Law­son tells Stel­lar. “I don’t cook pro­fes­sion­ally and I don’t have any par­tic­u­lar skills.”

Her cult-like le­gion of fans would dis­agree. “I don’t think of it in that way,” she insists of her iconic sta­tus. Still, aside from her suc­cess­ful books and television shows, her so­cial­me­dia feeds boast a cu­mu­la­tive five and a half mil­lion fol­low­ers. There, she says, “you can have a re­ally pro­found in­ter­ac­tion. The fact that when peo­ple cook one of my recipes, they ei­ther hash­tag it or tag me… to see the food I’ve cooked and put on my ta­ble over the years be­come part of some­one else’s life, I find it so mov­ing. It’s ac­tu­ally a con­nec­tion, a real con­nec­tion. In the end, that’s what it’s about.”

And food is per­haps the most po­tent way Law­son con­nects to her past – par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the silly sea­son. One of four chil­dren born to politi­cian Nigel Law­son, 85, and so­ci­ety host­ess Vanessa Salmon, who died in 1985 from liver can­cer, Law­son re­counts wak­ing up like most chil­dren well be­fore dawn on Christ­mas Day to dive into her stock­ing. Hers would con­tain a pomegranate, tan­ger­ine and sev­eral choco­late coins. “I would win­kle out the pomegranate seeds with a hair grip and eat them with ex­cite­ment. Christ­mas to me is the smell of brandy be­ing lit. It’s sugar and vine­gar in a chut­ney – it’s so pronounced that just the taste… I can feel the presents have been opened and we’re on to the left­overs.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.