Nigella Lawson goes Italiana


British food writer and broadcaster Nigella Lawson's with her latest cookbook Nigellissima, featuring Italian-inspired recipes. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

First aired on Q (19/2/13)

Do people need another cookbook? According to British food writer and broadcaster Nigella Lawson, the answer is no. But do they get pleasure in it? Yes.

The "Queen of Food Porn" recently added another title to her line of best-selling cookbook collection: Nigellissima features Italian-inspired dishes with everything from macaroni to crustless meatzza. She's not Italian, but in an interview with Q with Jian Ghomeshi, Lawson said she's lived in Italy and wanted to write this cookbook for a long time. She didn't let the 500 Italian cookbooks she already owns intimidate her.


"I enjoy doing what I do and as long as people are willing to humour me and read my books and enjoy them, then I will continue to write them. And I suspect if they didn't, I would continue to do what I do, albeit unpublished. I do what I love and if you're lucky enough to do that, you don't question it."

Nigellissima isn't intended to reflect authentic Italian cuisine. In fact, she says Italian food doesn't exist. The country only formed in 1860, so she says Italian cuisine is regional. "We think there's one recipe that's going to be the authentic one. You could look for an Italian meatloaf recipe, go to a particular village and every single house on that street, and I bet you every single person -- man, women, whoever -- would have a different meatloaf recipe."

The cookbook successfully managed to satisfy the taste buds of Italians; it was translated and published in their language. The kitchen goddess doesn't want to see traditional Italian food be eroded at all, but doesn't mind an add-on.

"I strongly believe that cooking is like language, and language evolves."

Lawson's career continuously seems to be moving that way too; she also has a cookware line, TV feature, and apps to her name. She can also be watched these days on ABC's The Taste, where she acts as a judge and mentor to amateur and professional cooks. The contestants concoct culinary dishes and give the judges blind taste tests. It's like The Voice, except with food. She never thought she would take part in a reality cooking competition but felt the show would be done with integrity.

"I don't think cooking is a competitive sport. I thought this is really improbable to the point of completely lunatic. Let's do it! And I like the idea that because you're tasting blind, you're not criticizing people. You're just talking about the food."

When it comes to cooking, she admits she even uses fake chicken broth.

"I feel it's very important to be straightforward and honest. And anyway, I just don't have time lofty and snobbish. It seems to me such a reductive attitude."

She's enjoyed her culinary career, but writing remains most personal. To her, it's about the writing, not just the formula and recipe.

Asked how she would describe Nigellissima, Lawson said "it's as Nigella as possible with an accent: spontaneous, food loving, very much influenced by Italy and the champion of the home cook who's strapped for time."


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