Don’t judge people by their size or their diet, says Nigella Lawson


Nigella Lawson had no hesitation when asked what food she felt best represented the Jewish people.

“Chinese food,” she swiftly responded.

The celebrity cook and food writer was appearing in front of a packed audience at the JW3 community centre in conversation with journalist Sam Baker, who asked her about her cooking career and newly-released cookbook Simply Nigella.

The event, which was hosted by The Alan Howard Foundation/JW3 Speaker Series, sold out in seven minutes and was attended by more than 260 people.

“Writing is, for me, a way to connect with elements of my past,” Ms Lawson said. She explained that one of the reasons she had begun writing recipes was to memorialise her mother and sister Thomasina and the way they had cooked their food, having lost them both young to cancer.

“It became important to me that my children could eat my mother’s food, even though they had never met her,” she said. “Cooking is about connection. I connect with others, but also with myself.

“When I am uprooted from a kitchen, I feel disconnected from things.”

Her 10 books, she explained, were all autobiographical, with “each recipe coming from a stage of my life and meaning something to me”. Her latest offering, Simply Nigella, came from a desire to make recipes immediate, but also to “rethink prejudices” – a motto she holds both for cooking and life in general.

She said her interest in “looking forward” in cooking led her this year to try out trendy food ingredients – such as chia seeds and matcha green tea.

But she remains wary of the growing popularity of the so-called “clean eating brigade” –health food writers who shun processed foods in favour of a wholesome, plant-based, sugarfree diet.

“It’s not the brigade I mind so much, it’s the term ‘clean eating’,” Ms Lawson said. “That makes out that every other type of eating is dirty or shameful. I don’t like moral weight given to the size people are or what they eat.

“I believe you have to listen to what your mood says. If my mood says ‘I need to eat some baklava’, then I will eat it.”
She added: “It’s awful to deprive yourself of pleasures in life. People ask me, ‘what is your guilty pleasure?’ Well I think you should only feel guilty about denying yourself pleasure.’”

Getting older, she said, had had a frustrating effect on her appetite, leaving her less hungry and feeling full more quickly.

But, she added, “I have eaten more dinners that I am going to eat, so I’m now determined not to waste an eating opportunity.

“I eat fast like I read fast – I’m greedy for everything.”

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