Saturday, 13 April 2013

Nigella's new food show (Deccan Herald, April 2013)

Italian food for soul

Juanita Kakoty, April 14, 2013
Though Nigella Lawson has never trained to be a  cook,  she has inspired cooks in kitchens around the world. She is now all set to host a new Italian food show called ‘Nigellissima’, writes Juanita Kakoty  

It’s time for Nigella Lawson’s fans to rejoice as TLC presents her new show Nigellissima on weekdays at 10 pm from April 15 onwards. This show is all about Italian cooking, its simplicity and delectableness. Nigella brings out the essence of Italian food and claims that the show is a kind of personal journey for her. 

“I went to Italy to live there in my gap year, between school and university, and I’ve been back pretty much every year since. For me, the show is a way of looking at how I can bring the Italian spirit and feel and taste into my own kitchen. So it’s really about attitude, about certain spices, about certain herbs and flavourings.” To this she adds, “It is also about trying to explain how very simple and straightforward Italian food can be.” Nigella points out that some of the recipes she brings to the show are traditionally Italian while some of them have been inspired by certain key ingredients or pairing of flavours.

Simply Italian

“The best thing about Italian food,” Nigella says, “Is the exuberance that’s behind it. However simply a dish is cooked, and I do actually appreciate the simplicity of Italian food, somehow there is this feeling that you can actually detect the secret behind it and the passion for a particular ingredient or a way of putting certain spices together.”

She mentions that there are many different sorts of Italian cooking and that “strictly speaking, there isn’t anything like Italian cooking.” It’s a collection of regions, she says, and that it’s hard to lump them all together “because some forms of Italian cooking are what you call the cucina povora, which is about ingredients that need a long time to cook and an awful lot done to them. The other way is based on a lot of stove side last minute quick fire type of cooking and I suppose that’s what I have dwelt on more for this series, not least because it lends itself so seamlessly to the contemporary cook.”

Nigella Lawson is a household name around the world with many successful TV series and bestselling books to her credit. She has inspired cooks in several kitchens around the world; but she never trained to become a cook. “I’m sure there are plenty of chefs who are full of outrage that I’m doing this,” she says.

“But the point is, real cooking is something that people do in their homes, and this is something that’s been going on for centuries.” And then she reflects, “I love chefs. Great chefs get me, because great chefs are not threatened. But I can see that those who haven’t got the confidence that comes with great talent might feel very threatened by someone who hasn’t got any qualifications.” She maintains that cooking is not the preserve of experts and it has no right to be held ransom by professionals. 

“If you needed a qualification to go into the kitchen, human beings would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long time ago.”

Making wrongs right

Nigella is natural and connects well with her followers because of her methods. “When I write a recipe or present it on TV, I might say to people look don’t worry if everything looks runny at this stage, because by the time it’s finished cooking it will have thickened up and it will be the right consistency. 

If I was blessed with more training, I would never worry in the first place, because I would know that. So I feel my concerns as I cook, and perhaps echo the concerns of my readers or viewers as well. And when I make a mistake, I have to make it right somehow. That’s my way of cooking and presenting it to the world. So I suppose the context in which I cook is not so different from that of my readers and viewers.”

Nigella is an ardent learner. “The most pleasurable part of cooking is reading about food, learning how to cook different recipes. I always encourage people to post recipes on my website And I’m always incredibly grateful to them.” About cook books, this is what she has to say, “I think it’s something about life. 

Everyone is looking for answers. And that’s why books appear to be the medium that provide them those answers. I think food books, as long as people know that the primary person to trust is oneself, the person cooking, can help or inspire. What I do is I try and write honestly about the food I cook at home; and show people how it’s not that difficult.

If one wishes to make it complicated, there are ways of doing that; but I’m not good at that part.” Nigella concludes, “For me, what is important is to tell people what they can do with the tools available in their kitchens other than making people feel that a recipe is a gospel or something that’s etched into stone.”

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