NIGELLA RE­TURNS

Nigella Law­son is re­turn­ing to Ho­bart to talk about all things food — ev­ery­thing from recipes to her home­spun phi­los­o­phy of eat­ing to­gether, hav­ing fun and en­joy­ing life

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT - WORDS TIM MAR­TAIN

Su­per­star foodie Nigella Law­son is head­ing back to Tassie to try some more of our in­creas­ingly fa­mous cui­sine.

Nigella Law­son re­quires very lit­tle en­cour­age­ment to start gush­ing about food. A food-lover above all else, the mere men­tion of some­thing she likes is likely to send her into an ec­stasy of en­thus­ing. And when you men­tion Tas­ma­nian food to Law­son, well let’s just say the English foodie and “do­mes­tic god­dess” is look­ing for­ward to her re­turn visit. “Ob­vi­ously I’ll take any ex­cuse to come back!,” she says. “It’s a won­der­ful place, and it’s an ex­cit­ing time to be in Tasmania, it’s re­ally beau­ti­ful and there’s so much go­ing on. And of course the food is so good and the pro­duce is so good and peo­ple are do­ing some re­ally in­ter­est­ing things.”

Law­son will be in Ho­bart for a spe­cial one-night show in Feb­ru­ary, called An Evening with Nigella Law­son. This live stage show, which has en­joyed suc­cess on Lon­don’s West End and is tour­ing Aus­tralia and New Zealand, is an in­ti­mate en­counter with Law­son, as she tells her own culi­nary story and in­vites ques­tions from the au­di­ence.

Law­son vis­ited Tasmania for the first time in Feb­ru­ary while on a pro­mo­tional tour for her book At My Ta­ble. While in the state she vis­ited the Agrar­ian Kitchen at New Nor­folk, Franklin in Ho­bart and Black Cow in Launce­s­ton, post­ing pho­tos of her food on In­sta­gram heap­ing on the praise, much to the de­light of some lo­cal restau­ra­teurs.

When she re­turns, she plans to keep on ex­plor­ing Tas­ma­nian cui­sine.

“The pro­duce is very good, I sus­pect it is some­thing about the way it grows and the soil in Tasmania,” she says. “But what re­ally ap­peals to me is that the sort of cook­ing that’s go­ing on seems to be not pre­ten­tious. It’s about show­cas­ing the in­gre­di­ents, mak­ing food to give ev­ery­one a good time, some­thing that tastes won­der­ful but not about the chef’s ego. It is all about the food and that is im­por­tant to me.”

Nigella says she wants to make sure she goes to dif­fer­ent places this time but also wants to re­turn to the same ones she vis­ited be­fore. “The ones I went to last time were just so in­cred­i­ble!,” she says. “But I’ve al­ready had peo­ple make some rec­om­men­da­tions, so I’m ex­cited to try new places. I like to talk to other peo­ple who live lo­cally or oth­ers who have vis­ited and ask where they rec­om­mend.

“Ev­ery­one has their favourite spot and un­for­tu­nately I would have to spend weeks in or­der to try them all.”

She catches me off guard when she asks me what res­tau­rants I’d rec­om­mend, but when I come up with a cou­ple of places I love, she makes ex­cited noises as she care­fully writes them down, check­ing the spelling to make sure she can find them.

Law­son is se­ri­ous about her culi­nary ad­ven­tures, wher­ever she trav­els. She dis­likes be­ing re­ferred to as a “celebrity chef”, since she never trained as a chef. Orig­i­nally a jour­nal­ist and restau­rant critic, she prefers to think of her­self as a lover of food. In her books and TV shows she makes a point of fo­cus­ing on recipes that are sim­ple and un­com­pli­cated, fast to pre­pare and fun to eat.

And it is a sim­i­lar sense of the raw and un­com­pli­cated that she en­joys about the for­mat of An Evening With Nigella Law­son.

She says she en­joys the ex­pe­ri­ence of chat­ting to the au­di­ence, work­ing with­out a script and see­ing where the con­ver-

sa­tion leads. She trusts her au­di­ence com­pletely, she says. “The first half is me telling my story and the sec­ond half is en­tirely au­di­ence ques­tions, ba­si­cally,” she says.

She says she ac­tu­ally never pre­pares any­thing for these events, not even the first half.

“I en­joy it that way,” she says. “With the au­di­ence ques­tions, there is some­thing authen­tic about the spon­tane­ity of the evening like that. Some peo­ple pre­pare ques­tions be­fore­hand but then they think of some­thing else dur­ing the show. They usu­ally want to of­fer some­thing about their lives as well, which is lovely and makes the whole thing very in­ti­mate and con­ver­sa­tional.”

She says the ques­tions are mostly about food or some­thing re­lated to food but ev­ery now and then they might veer off some­what but that is usu­ally the start­ing point.

“I don’t know what pre­con­ceived no­tions peo­ple might have of me go­ing in,” she says. “They will know my face, my voice, my writ­ing, but I’m very hon­est, I say what I think and some­times my views might sur­prise peo­ple. I like think­ing on my feet. I’m not a per­former, I’m not do­ing an act, I’m just be­ing me.”

Law­son sees food as a cel­e­bra­tion of life: it is some­thing that is both nec­es­sary for life, and some­thing that brings en­joy­ment in life. She finds great plea­sure in the prepa­ra­tion of food as well as in the con­sump­tion of it and sees it as be­ing cen­tral to ev­ery­thing we do, and in many of our so­cial in­ter­ac­tions.

“Food, as a topic, cov­ers so many things: how we see our­selves, emo­tional stuff, how we con­nect with each other, and food holds such a rich repository of mem­ory as well,” she says. “Peo­ple as­so­ciate food with dif­fer­ent mem­o­ries of parts of their lives, and I love con­nect­ing with peo­ple who have all these dif­fer­ent mem­o­ries that cen­tre around the food they have at home.”

But food and eat­ing forms part of a much deeper phi­los­o­phy for Law­son.

“For me it is about the les­sons I learn in the kitchen and trans­lat­ing those to life out­side of the kitchen,” she says. “In life you need some kind of frame­work to give you that struc­ture but at the same time it is im­por­tant to know when you need to let go of that and trust your in­stincts in­stead, go off the plan a lit­tle.

“I write about food in a way that feels like it is about life. It’s not just about the recipe, but about tem­per­a­ment and how we view things dif­fer­ently and cook­ing in dif­fer­ent ways.”

An Evening With Nigella Law­son will be held at Wrest Point En­ter­tain­ment Cen­tre on Wed­nes­day, Feb­ru­ary 6 at 7.30pm. Tick­ets range from $86-$101. For more in­for­ma­tion and book­ings, visit www.nigel­laliveon­stage.com

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