A couple of years ago Nigella Lawson talked to Time about her new cookbook, being the only female judge on The Taste, and when it's okay to lick the spoon.
Hi, I'm Belinda Luscombe. I'm an editor at large at Time. Nigella Lawson is a journalist, a cook, a cookbook writer, and the star of several cooking shows on TV. She’s here to talk about her ninth cookbook, Nigelissima. Am I saying that right?
Any way works for me, yes.
Thanks for coming, Nigella. So this book Nigelissima is easy Italian-inspired recipes. If you happen to come across a, the opposite of a domestic goddess like a domestic moron, I'm not sure that would be, what would be the first recipe you would start with?
Well, let me, before you start I have to say, when I wrote a book called How to be a domestic goddess it was meant ironically and also it was written from the perspective of someone who wasn't.
Otherwise, why, why they need to write such a book. I feel all my recipes have to work for people who've never cooked before, even a cake recipe. There's a chocolate olive oil cake which is pretty easy for anyone simply because you don't need machinery to make it. It's pouring and stirring. You pour and you stir, and then you pour and bake, and that's it. One of the advantages of not having any training myself is that when I write a recipe I go through the same possible panic areas anyone else will do, so I will notice, say, don't worry if the sauce looks like it's thinning, it will thicken later, whereas someone who actually had some technique wouldn't be worrying about the filling sauce…
…because they'd know it would thicken later
Well, you, you, this is your ninth cookbook and you do still, I believe, insist on calling yourself a cook.
You’ve been on TV now. You've got cooking shows, you’re like when do you graduate to chef?
Never and most people who call themselves chefs are not chefs. Classically, a chef is in charge of other chefs and is, you know, he's he's he or she is in command. I am not in command and I have no one to command. And I'm, I cook in my kitchen.
Now in the book, in your books, you write a lot about the, you know, the character of foods, what they mean to you. What, is there a food that's, that is most emotional for you? Most emotionally resonant?
I supposed it goes, it goes back to chicken, really, because I feel that is… this again… I feel like so much what we said is really appalling for vegetarians and I did once say it to a vegetarian host, but whether we like it or not, animal sacrifice has been part of human culture since the Bible and the, the thaw before, and I think maybe why people often feel a sense that it's an important family meal when there’s chicken there, it’s because you do have a sense of it being the animal. I don't know, of course, most people would be horrified to think like that, and I don't think it’s conscious, because consciously is shocking, but I think beneath that, there is something so fundamental to being human. I mean, I have emotional connections to all sorts of food but it's more to do with what I've eaten when…
…than, than the actual food stuff, and I suppose I associate the fact that we often had chicken as fast food for lunch as a child.
Your signature actually is to be quite relaxed, about cooking and entertaining, we've discussed this…
I don't do entertaining with a capital E.
Right, I see. So what do you do when something doesn't work out?
One of the things
It depends. I mean, if it's over-salted, that's the only thing you can’t rectify. Anything else works. One of the… one of the things I always tell other people less good about XXX doing myself that I do try is not to apologize. That’s something very unrelaxing about interrupting people saying yes, it hasn't quite worked out, when I did it last time it was better. It’s like people who have garden. They always say, you should have seen it last month. So don't be that person. In savory things, if it doesn't look right, there's very little that can't be saved without lots of, you know, freshly chopped parsley, and sweet things, there is nothing like, you know, powdered sugar put through a tea strainer. Most things are made alright by either.
Now you are on show in, on American TV called The Taste and you are the only female judge on The Taste.
Now women, now women have traditionally been for many years the cooks. Why, why is it that it seems like it's such a man's profession?
Well, it's very difficult. Without making generalizations, which is dangerous, I would say that there are many, very, many conflict-driven women, but the particular aggressive conflict-driven mania that you need to have to be a good chef suits men often better. But most of all, it's really about, it's not really about what type of person you are. I chose domesticity, and if you don't, you can be a chef. But if you do, it is very difficult to have a working life if you have a family, if you have children. That means you’re are up at the crack of dawn to go to market and you don't get back about till four in the morning. I would find it very difficult. I would find it monotonous, because the difficulty is if you, if you’re a chef, yes you, there is this one creative spirit there who comes up with new ideas. But for everyone else, you may as well work in a factory because you're just reproducing the same recipe every time, whereas the liberation of home cooking is that you use whatever herbs you have in your fridge at that time or whatever vegetables or what you've got.
What is your, what do you consider your sort of guilty worst cooking habit, like licking the spoon and putting it back in.
I'm afraid to say I'm not big on, on guilt. I do… funny enough when I taste things, I do something my mother used to. So if I'm stirring with a wooden spoon, she always, it’s funny I suppose these things, she would then, to taste, dip in the other end, and then lick that, lick that, to taste.
Mostly though I feed my children so, for example, I feel I grew up… People often say to me, you look with your hair up, you haven’t got a net. And in a restaurant you have to think of other people. I cook for my children. I grew up eating my mother’s hair, and I don’t see why they can’t grow eating mine. And if they have to have some of my spit in their food, you know, clammy Johns.
So be it. Do you observe the five second rule in your household?
I will eat something myself if it's been on the floor but I would some I would be nervous about making someone else do it.
Someone else, right.
Because it would be just embarrassing to, you know, to give someone food poisoning. No good for business.
Nigella, thanks so much.