On Thursday evening, we made a rare venture into Philadelphia to see Nigella Lawson at the Kimmel Center. We don’t often go into Philadelphia these days, as it is somewhat of hot mess. And yes we saw that last night, and the sidewalk was actually torn up right in front of the Kimmel Center.
An Evening with Nigella Lawson was originally scheduled for November 10th at the Miller Theater, and was moved to the Perelman Theater inside the Kimmel. The Miller (formerly the Merriam) is under renovation. I am actually glad they moved it to the Kimmel, and the space is gorgeous and so clean! And my friend and food blogger Marilyn was two rows behind us!! Marilyn is the genius behind Philly Grub.
It was an amazing experience and some very amusing people watching. In front of us to the left was a woman who literally massaged the top of her companion or husband’s head the entire time. In front of my friend to the left of her there was a person who took off their socks and shoes and put their bare feet up on the seat in front of them!
Overall, it was not a bad audience at all, and we had super nice people immediately around us.
Nigella Lawson is warm and personable. Friendly, funny, self deprecating in the most amusing and human way. I have seen other personalities whom I admire “live”, and seriously I walked away thinking how truly nice I think she is. Of course part of it is I am sure is the fact I am an Anglophile.
I took notes while Nigella was speaking. I wish it had been recorded! She is as lovely in person as we see on our television screens. And I don’t mean just beautiful, because she is drop dead gorgeous. I also mean lovely as in the nice person you meet whom you want to have over to your house for dinner.
To follow are the notes I took as she was speaking. You will note her program wasn’t a cooking demonstration, it was also the woman outside the kitchen. And she is not a classically trained chef, like Ina Garten whom I also admire and follow, she’s one of us just elevated. She’s a home cook.
Michael Klein from The Philadelphia Inquirer was the moderator. He was excellent. He and Nigella had terrific chemistry and rapport. Michael’s manner also helped make this a memorable event. Not that any of us should be surprised if you have followed his columns for years.
So here are my Nigella Notes:
When she was 9 she wrote a play on the meaning of existence. Terrapins were the characters.
At 10 she penned a self-described “very bad” murder mystery.
Originally Nigella thought she would be a novelist.
She spoke about finding her voice in writing. Nigella’s voice evolved from writing about food. I guess that goes along with something that one of my friends and writing mentors who is a retired journalist has always has said to me which is “write what you know.“
Writing – find your own voice. Nigella touched on that again. She also noted her experience when writing about food that people are more connected, almost nicer. As a blogger I can appreciate that, because when I post a recipe everybody loves it and no one complains. But if I write about a politician or politics/political issues, the keyboard warriors salute (and charge.)
Funny little Nigella notes include how she feels about fruit bowls- she doesn’t mix her fruit. Every kind of fruit has their own bowl.
Regarding her first book How to Eat– wasn’t sure at first if she would have recipes. She wasn’t sure she knew how to write about food.
“Life is full of unexpected turns.”
Nigella remarked how inspiration comes to us in odd ways, as we “lurch” through life.
She found it fortunate in her work as a journalist to live through her words.
Nigella started with TV at 38 or 40. She had two small kids, a husband who had cancer. His name was John Diamond, and he was also a journalist. He was 47 when he died. On a rather personal note, this resonated with me because my sister became a widow at 43, when my brother in law, then 49, died of a swift moving cancer. So I respect what Nigella went through and was dealing with back then.
Nigella spoke about what her terms were back then in order to do TV. If she could do TV, she wanted to do it from home but unscripted. Wanted to speak naturally. And with two small children and an ill spouse, it was an early work from home arrangement, and good for her for getting that.
I always have loved Nigella programs because she is relaxed and has fun in her kitchen. Her own dishes and pans, and not everything is perfect, much like our own kitchens. And one of my favorite parts of her shows is when she would go into her kitchen late at night for a snack. It’s so human and real.
Oh did I mention her pink boots?? Seriously an important note, they were truly fabulous!
When asked about writing her books, she prefers to do her books as they evolve, not as a “churning out machine.”
This: a cookbook from the ingredients she loved that was an essay, reflecting on ideas, then recipes to follow.
Home cooking because of COVID seems to have inspired this book in part.
This book, Cook Eat, Repeat are essays with recipes, like a companion piece to How to Eat. For that reason, on my own book shelves, these books are together.
On making or creating a book with food- the feeling of creating something.
The practical can make you feel you achieved something- the dizzying feel of achieving from the blank page.
Cooking for one in book because of COVID but she’s done it before. But cooking for one is important- you can concentrate on process of cooking and learn.
Lockdown caused her to spend more time on Twitter. Also notes recipes for one are important. I agree. I have always cooked for myself, even when it was just me.
Nigella hates the term “guilty pleasures.” It “blinks to snobbery” as in liking the “right” things and being afraid to say that you like something.
Essentially she remarked the hell with you shouldn’t be eating something, just try it. Life is too short. Don’t be counterproductive. Guilty pleasures with food doesn’t really work. Feel grateful not guilty.
When asked about things that she can’t live without or would prefer not to live without, there was bread and butter. “Life would be poorer.” She says she definitely needs lemons and salt in life. She remarked about a chips sandwich and referred to it as an English delicacy. As near as I can grasp it, this would be a sandwich of french fries or chips in between two slices of bread with butter.
She loves English mustard. Coleman’s, specifically. I always have Coleman’s dry mustard in my spice rack, and when I can get the actual jarred mustard I do. It has a bite. I use Colemans mustard in deviled eggs along with curry powder.
Now she and Michael Klein chatted about “brown food.” She said she wants to write about not just bright food and color. Not everything has to be high octane in your face. Or Instagram worthy. There is a need in life for the quiet bits. Food might not always blow your mind, sometimes it has a quiet kind of dignity, comfort. Lasts longer. “ A stew doesn’t shout for you to come to the table, it whispers.” (I loved that description.)
Quiet food, comfort food, has equally rich rewards.
It’s not all about the “shouty look at me.” Not everyone needs to be the same. (Amen. I wasn’t destined to live in a beige, beige world for one.)
We evolve our ideas, but your cooking evolves the way your life currently is. “I bumble away” referring to being a home cook. The more you cook the more you know.
“If you can’t deal with a cracked cake in life, life is going to be more difficult.”
What do you want to eat ? People have different palettes.
Recipes express the nature of cooking. Recipes express the nature of the chef.
Then she and Michael took a few questions from the audience. We were all asked to write a question down and basically put it in a little wicker basket when we were checking into the event.
The event actually went over the time allotted, and I could have listened to her for a couple of hours more. It was delightful. It was such a nice change from the obnoxious world we’ve been living in recently.
This was a really cool experience, and well I didn’t particularly enjoy the City of Philadelphia because it’s just so dirty and the streets and the sidewalks are such a hot mess these days, but the Kimmel Center was really nice.
Thanks for stopping by.