Q & A With Nigella Lawson: On Her New Cookbook Nigellissima, The Taste, And Whether There's Too Much Food on TV
SI: For people who have been buying your cookbooks for a long time, can you tell them what's different about this one?
NL: Nothing's ever going to be especially different essentially. To be very different would be inauthentic. I have my voice and it's my voice, and the sort of food I like, which is informal and easy. It's more of the same, but a distillation. Some of these recipes are old ones and some of them are new. The first book was when I was first raising my first child. And there's a chapter on weaning, and feeding toddlers. Of course now my children are teenagers, so it's both the food they like eating and the food they can cook. They say to me in a very reassuring way, "You know Mum, this is your best book so far."
SI: Ha! I so hope that when my kid's that age he'll be that encouraging.
NL: He will be.
SI: There's a section of the new book about an Italian Christmas. Christmas is one of those times when people are so attached to their traditions. Is it a time where you have real stanch traditions, things that you have to cook?
NL: Yes, I do. For some people this could be an alternative -- I do a very traditional British Christmas, but I feel I have a lot more people over around that time of year. There's a lot of party-type recipes. There's the one turkey recipe that I was interested in doing because I am quite interested in the hybrid, the Italian hybrid recipe. Because of the Italian diaspora, there are Italian communities everywhere. People think fusion is a fake thing, but of course there is such thing as authentic ... Australia for example, there are so many Calabrians in Australia that it is a slightly different from what it would be elsewhere.
SI: The word "authentic" makes me insane.
NL: Well I cook authentically like an English person who loves Italian food. So that's why I was interested in doing this. I feel slightly defensive, despite having no connection to it, of Italian American food because actually that is a culture of its own. Food is like language. It changes. And that's in some ways why the French have had problems with language and food, because if it lives it breathes and if it breathes it must change. It interests me.
SI: You've been involved in food media since before it exploded into this feeding frenzy, for lack of a better term. How do you see that? Do you feel like everyone's finally got it, or if it seems a little insane to you?
NL: Actually, when people say to me, "why is everyone so interested in food?" the answer is, well everyone eats. And so it doesn't surprise me. I think it's odd that people weren't interested before. I've always thought of myself as an outsider anyway, because I started from non-food journalism, and a lot of people thought, "what are you doing? You're not a chef, you're not trained." I remember once there was a restaurant critic who a chef got cross with for the same reasons, and I thought, if you think that people who aren't chefs shouldn't eat in your restaurant, don't take their money.
We live in this idiotic age I think, that exults the experts, in cooking and child-rearing -- the two things that if we needed experts for, humans would have fallen out of the evolutionary chain a long time ago. One of the things I love doing is going online and looking at people's recipes. And believe me, I'm not going to some fancy site with experts' recipes, I just like seeing how people cook. Cooking is a form of social history.
I feel in England, I was one of the ones who forced it, the idea of food in newspapers and on TV. Can you have too much? A lot of people think there's too much food on English television. But on the other hand, there are very few things that everyone does three times a day and is necessary for survival. Therefore it does seem to me -- you could argue "why is there so much sport on TV?"
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