A heartfelt ode to the one,the only, the QUEEN: Nigella Lawson.
First off – congratulations on a successful resurgence. You’ve sauntered back onto our screens- and into our kitchens – with delicate ease, as though you were a long treasured chalice that we thought we’d misplaced but in fact, had been there all along. I’m aware that it’s terribly uncouth to address one’s heroines via internet letters which will no doubt land in front of thousands of pair of eyes, but if you read on – you might just forgive me.
In recent weeks, I’ve experienced what can only be described as a ‘wobble’. Feelings of worry have slowly bubbled away throughout my system, offering a fresh assortment of uncontrollable factors to despair about. Here’s a few: I started a new job and I’m scared that I’m not very good at it. Despite reaching – and maintaining – a ‘healthy’ weight post-anorexia, my quest for regular menstrual cycles continues. I have a new (ish) body shape which I often find it tough to embrace. Given that I spend most of my time championing the breadth of female body shapes, the last admission makes me somewhat of a hypocrite.
In a bid to distract myself from this feeling of unrest, I immersed my consciousness in a beautiful distraction: watching your new BBC series, At My Table. Three years into my eating disorder recovery, I like to think I’m pretty much all the way there in terms of eating and being okay with it. Yet, as I witnessed you perched on your (fake) staircase, silk dressing draped over your REAL hip curve as you boldly chowed down on your chocolate brownie… I reached a new level of recovery.
Amidst the spindly hands that cup bowls of leafy lunches, and lycra -clad string beans modelling grains topped with some sort of seedling, a woman eating genuinely delicious food in a manner similar to my ‘Pizza Friday’ ritual, was marvellous to watch. Then you spiralised a white potato and deep fried it, commenting, ‘you won’t catch me trying to fashion a vegetable into pasta or anything like that’. I could have quite literally kissed you. The heartfelt affection you showed to that plate of deep fried potato was enough to have me leaping from my seat and headed straight for the box of celebrations which I’d hidden away to save me from my gluttonous, ever -peckish self.
I was shocked at the difference you made to my food mood. A bright, beautiful, (seemingly) happy and healthy woman ‘indulging’ (why is feeding oneself ever considered an indulgence?) in – not just a modest handful of mid afternoon snacks – but an entire plateful, was nothing short of electrifying. The blockage in my brain- which even the creamiest of ice cream struggles to penetrate – began to come unstuck. Obviously I don’t need a tv show to tell me that I deserve to eat whatever I so please and there is so much more to life than being skinny, but seeing it in Nigella form seemed to silence the whispering bastard in my head in a way that my own reassurance had failed to do so.
I then realised something else. Of all the female chefs, cooks and celebrity ‘food influencers’ I’ve watched on many a Saturday morning, not once had I seen them actually eating. Cream-filled, towering cakes they’d prepare, confessing they occasionally, on special occasions, sneak a slice of the ‘naughty’ creation. But not once did I see them engage in a hand-to-mouth movement. If you’re reading BBC1, I’d like more of this please.
Nigella. By your very definition, you are different. A former restaurant critic and self-professed ‘greedy’ eater, you have always worn your impressive appetite on your sleeve. The loss of your mother and sister (and later, husband) propelled the home cook to carry on the conversations by writing of the one constant at the heart of treasured memories; past and future. It’s a sadness I am all too familiar with; with my dad’s untimely death came the inevitable dilution of 12 years of conversations; characteristics, smells and, of course, tastes. Suddenly, there was an empty seat at the dinner table; one less unique set of tastebuds to satisfy. Mum stopped cooking as much and when she did, it more often than not resulted in either me or my older brother scurrying off at the last mouthful – god forbid we missed any pithy conversation on MSN messenger. And although we continued to enjoy family dinners on special occasions, they never quite tasted as delicious as when dad ate alongside me.
— Eve Simmons (@EveSimmns) November 11, 2017
So, we carry on talking, We talk about dad’s insatiable appetite and his affection for Sainsbury’s custard tarts. We remember my grandma’s perfectly pink side of salmon; lovingly adorned with a neat scattering of thinly sliced cucumber – which, we later discovered, came all the way from the fine hands of her Golders’ Green fishmongers. In recent years, the food convo came to some what of a standstill (for obvious reasons), but as I move further through my recovery I find myself longing for edible memories to arrive in my dreams and penetrate into the periphery of modern mealtimes.
In your current book, At My Table, you place great emphasis on the transference of a particularly special place (from your supper table), to another. This particular gem of yours continues to linger in my sentimental thoughts. Whilst the random sequences of life may change how we eat, nothing can change how we used to – and the nostalgic safety that came alongside it. So, thank you Nigella; for both a reminder of my previous life as a carefree eater; and – more importantly – for providing the varied, butter-laden menu of my future.