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
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