AOn the morning before the meeting, Nigella Lawson said hello from the Daily Telegraph. Above, right below the latest developments in Afghanistan, the newspaper reports that the British “celebrity chef” has renamed one of her classic recipes. The “Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly” are now called “Ruby Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly”. “Slut” (bitch) has had a “coarser, meaner connotation” over the past twenty years, the paper quotes the cook and adds a neat photo. One is amazed: If the name change of an old dessert recipe makes it into the so-called top news column of a digital daily newspaper – then, yes, then you are obviously dealing with a true celebrity.
“Oh what,” waves Nigella Lawson, arranges the cutlery in front of her plate and puts on a mischievous smile. “That rather reflects what has become of our journalism.” Nigella Lawson is the perfect star: successful, beautiful, educated and, in an English way, humble. “Nigella” is so well known in the kingdom that she has been compared in some articles to Lady Di – the only other woman who did not need a surname to identify. When asked about this, she again finds an elegant way out: “Even in kindergarten I didn’t need a surname – that’s simply because of my ridiculous first name.”
“I’m not a person for small portions”
A pizzetta is already in front of us, pre-cut into six pieces. She is always a little impatient when it comes to eating, says Nigella apologetically. Your conversation partner should choose the next course, but he prefers to be guided by the experienced hand. Nigella has known the “River Café” since it opened in 1987; she wrote the first review, back in the Spectator. The dishes are chosen quickly, each one, she suggests, should be shared.
The good old lunch is actually a little out of style in busy, health-crazy London, and those who still have lunch usually leave it at a salad. Not Nigella. The fig salad comes with a lobster, then a lobster penne and a large plate of vitello tonnato. “I’m not a person for small portions, even though I eat less now than I used to,” she says. “A friend recently said, however, that I would still eat more than a normal person.”
Nigella has stood for unrestrained enjoyment, for more than twenty years when her bestseller “How to Eat” appeared. Anyone who believed that their commitment to unrepentant eating was above all an attitude will find themselves wrong on this lunchtime. She takes a hearty approach, lets the waiter bring her a few more lemons, drizzles, chews, closes her eyes with relish, talks, continues chewing, gesticulates and picks up something. Here someone has a truly sensual relationship with food, an authentic joy in the connection between the palate and the mind, and only after a while does one realize how seldom this can still be observed today; at least in London.
Of course, the Nigella principle only works to a certain extent. She doesn’t do it any differently herself. Our lunch, she reveals in the course of the conversation, is actually her breakfast. At Nigella, drawing from the full is always flanked by renunciation. There is no other way to pursue such a career, with such a dense sequence of books, TV shows and appearances in auditoriums – otherwise it would not be so attractive at 61. In lockdown, when she published her new book “Cooking, Eating. Leben ”wrote, she created a“ strict structure ”: work-outs in the morning, then work, in the evening a Campari soda.