“Kitchen she devil”, The Observer 12 June 2005

From an interview with Nigella Lawson:

‘I don’t get as down as I did when I was younger,’ she says. ‘Depression is at its worst when you are a teenager I think, or mine was. I also think that if you are a person that can get a great deal of pleasure out of very small things, as I can, you also have to accept that your darker side will be disproportionate too.’

Partly because of her history – her mother , the Lyons Corner House heiress Vanessa Salmon died at 47, then she lost her younger sister, Thomasina, and her husband John Diamond, also to cancer, in quick succession – it is easy to form the impression that cooking has been Nigella’s great escape, one way in which she has made up for the shortcomings of real life. She agrees up to a point. ‘Cooking is like having nostalgia for a golden time that you did not really have,’ she says. ‘You can’t really make everything all right with the perfect roast chicken, of course, but it can make it seem that way for a while.’

Somewhere in this belief also lies the difference she identifies between celebrity chefs and television cooks, placing herself firmly in the latter camp. ‘Real chefs get energy from conflict. Home cooks are naturally lovers of harmony. They want to make things better for people.’ Nigella often likes to think of herself as a peacemaker. She could not, for this reason, ever set foot in a professional kitchen. She loves Gordon Ramsay, but she remembers watching Hell’s Kitchen and him yelling at people that all their risottos tasted different. ‘A chef wants everything the same. I like the fact that every time I cook something, or someone else cooks one of my recipes, it might come out a little bit different.’

She gets so much flak for being a celebrity without actually being a ‘real’ chef, but I’m drawn to her books and shows repeatedly because she has such a clear food/life philosophy, with both tenets echoing the other. If food is the source of life, then we should be allowed to revel in its magic at any pace we like, without apology and no-shortcuts-allowed pretension. All she claims to be is an “eater”, not a chef, and I like how there is no shame in her honesty. This interview was a good read as you get a greater sense of darkness and worldliness from her, as compared to her shows — life isn’t always all perfect pasta, luscious eyelashes, sexuality in a pot roast.

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