2008 NYC Wine & Food Fest: TimesTalk with Nigella Lawson

During my NYC Wine & Food extravaganza over the weekend, I had the opportunity to sit in on two of the TimesTalks discussions held on Saturday afternoon. The first TimesTalk I attended featured New York Times Magazine editor at large Lynn Hirschberg interviewing ‘domestic culinary goddess’ Nigella Lawson, who spoke candidly and animatedly about her food experiences. And yes, she’s just as outspoken and beautiful in person as she is on her shows, “Nigella Express”, “Nigella Feasts”, and “Nigella Bites”.

Wearing a brown boatneck top and a long black skirt, Lawson spoke about her move from political writer to culinary writer to television food host, her struggles with the passing of her first husband, and the similarities between writing and cooking.

While Nigella began as a writer, penning columns for The Sunday Times, The Spectator, and British Vogue, she made the transition into television shortly after her first cookbook was published. Lawson noted that before she moved into writing culinary features, she realized she was using cooking “in order to marshal [her] writing thoughts.”

“Cooking is manual, practical, and wholly consuming,” she explained, “I think there’s a story and truthfulness in writing about food.”

When Lawson’s first husband, journalist and educator John Diamond, was dying of throat cancer, she found solace in cooking, sometimes struggling with John’s inability to truly enjoy the food she created. She found the best gift she received during this difficult time was a delivery of groceries from a friend.

“The enjoyment of food is an important part of life. In times of suffering, people tend to ignore [the grief], but it hasn’t been forgotten. Even when people are ill and unable to eat, it’s not as if they’ve forgotten about food. In the end, food is about sustenance and nourishment.”

On organics:

“It’ll be very interested to see how [the organic market] fares in the current economic climate…I would rather not eat meat than eat meat that’s been raised both inhumanely and dangerously.”

On her script-less, conversational television tone:

“It’s as if someone’s in the kitchen with you. You don’t really know what you want to say until you say it.”

On praise for supporting a healthier body image for woman by encouraging the enjoyment of food:

“I like being applauded for eating…We should be grateful that we can buy all kinds of foodstuffs year round.”

On having guests over for dinner:

“[My friends] aren’t as nervous as I am when I have people over to my place. I feel like [my guests] expect more.”

~Jennifer Heigl

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