Nigella Lawson is perhaps the most marketable TV chef yet: She's model-gorgeous but not skinny, reverent without being ceremonious, a mom with some personal tragedy in her past, and a woman who takes obvious pleasure in her own recipes. Men like her because she's easy on the eyes; women identify with her pragmatism and lack of pretension.
Lawson, who is the first to point out that she is not a professional chef, favors the hands-on approach to food, literally -- if there's a point where plunging one's hands in the dish will work just as well as anything else in the preparing, she's not going to get food-safetyish about it. Her tactics are not just about ease. She wants people to appreciate food's sensual and pleasure-giving qualities more than to achieve culinary greatness. Her stated motto: "To achieve maximum pleasure through minimum effort." Her carefree demeanor comes through most in her show, where she can be seen snacking and finger-licking her way through a recipe. Here's a pertinent citation from How to Be a Domestic Goddess: "Perhaps the greatest joy of pastry-making is that it's mud-pie time; you get floury, sticky, wholly involved. I don't mean by this that you shouldn't use any equipment.... But you still need to use your hands for that last crucial combining, the rolling, and draping into the pan, and the piecing together of your pie. Just do it."
And while Lawson isn't exactly topping her BBC predecessors Two Fat Ladies on butter and lard consumption, save for a single chapter in How to Eat, she does generally ignore calorie counts, low-fat substitutions, and other concessions to the fitness establishment. If this philosophy means venturing forth on ham baked in Coca-Cola, lamb shank stew, or chocolate fudge cake, then so be it. "If it's something I don't want to carry on eating once I'm full, then I don't want the recipe," the famously voluptuous Lawson said in a Guardian interview in 2000. "I'm quite ruthless. I have to feel that I want to cook the thing again, and more than once. I need to feel that I have to stop myself from cooking it all the time."
The table of contents of Nigella Bites -- named for the BBC-TV/Style Network show she films at her West London home -- shows that Lawson is more concerned with the everyday than with stunning parties and dinners. Categories in the book include "TV Dinners," "Trashy," and "Family Food." She is not administering advice that is going to keep you running to specialty stores or trapped in your kitchen. She does not turn up her nose at frozen peas or other store-bought ingredients. She also acknowledges that mistakes can be made and tells you how to fix them (even if that just means throwing the whole thing out). For those who just want to make something delicious without a lot of fuss, Lawson's kamikaze approach is refreshing and should keep her in our kitchens for quite some time.
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Lawson is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, who served as Margaret Thatcher's chancellor of the Exchequer.
Lawson's husband, journalist John Diamond, passed away in 2001 after the couple had been married nearly ten years. They have two children, Cosima and Bruno. In 2002, Lawson became linked with Diamond's friend, advertising tycoon Charles Saatchi.
Lawson began her career writing the restaurant review column for Britain's The Spectator. She has also been food editor of British Vogue and had a makeup column for the U.K.'s Times magazine. She is also a staple on ABC's Good Morning America.
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