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Nigella Lawson Orders Food Like A Method Actor «

Nigella Lawson: I’m gonna take … I’m gonna slurp. You’re gonna have to be patient.

Dan Pashman: Go ahead, slurp. Yes. Take your time. I’ll slurp too, so we’ll slurp together. Here.


Nigella Lawson: That’s a very good slurp.

Dan Pashman: I’m an audio professional, Nigella. [LAUGHS]

Nigella Lawson: Okay. Okay. Fire away, what are you gonna ask me now?

Dan Pashman: This is Nigella Lawson, food TV star and author of eleven best selling cookbooks.

Dan Pashman: Well, I saw in your — in some interview that I read, you said — what was the quote — oh, “that you get murderous and suicidal when you don’t eat.”

Nigella Lawson: Hmm. 

Dan Pashman: Have you had a chance to eat today.

Nigella Lawson: Yes, I have. You’re very lucky because I didn’t yesterday. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: And — yeah, I did. I had a very big American style salad.

Dan Pashman: What denotes an American style salad, besides the size?

Nigella Lawson: No, it’s the size.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]

Nigella Lawson: I did actually have some things removed from it.

Dan Pashman: Really? 

Nigella Lawson: Yes. 

Dan Pashman: What did you have removed?

Nigella Lawson: I had some onions removed and some tortilla chips removed. And I think on reflection I should have had the tomatoes removed.

Dan Pashman: Just because of quantity?

Nigella Lawson: Just because of quantity and they were not ripe.

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] That too. Yeah.

Nigella Lawson: Obviously, I ate it all … But nevertheless. So I did have a big salad and it had lots of avocado so I am very full up.

Dan Pashman: Good. good. I did study abroad in London many years ago, and I remember being struck that in the McDonald’s there, if you supersize the meal you get a fries and drink that are the size of the regular meal in America.

Nigella Lawson: That is astonishing.

Dan Pashman: Right and if — when you supersize in America the size of cup and fry container that you get in America, like they don’t even send those containers across the Atlantic.

Nigella Lawson: I wonder if it’s changed now. 

Dan Pashman: I wonder.

Nigella Lawson: Now that we eat as much as you.

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: That’s an alarming thought. As is the idea that you came to London and spent your time in McDonald’s. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] I was 21-years-old, Nigella.

Nigella Lawson: Yes, that’s okay.

Dan Pashman: You know, I didn’t have as refined …

Nigella Lawson: No, you didn’t have the budget either, I suspect.

Dan Pashman: That’s true. Yeah. I remember deep pan pizza, all you can eat pizza night, five pounds. 

Nigella Lawson: Oh, no. Depressing. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: Did you eat anything good?

Dan Pashman: I twas in London hat I learned frying was an art. 

Nigella Lawson: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: I never thought of that and I had phenomenal fish and chips …. 

Nigella Lawson: Yes. 

Dan Pashman: Which I know is a bit of a cliche

Nigella Lawson: No, that’s great.

Dan Pashman: Seashells of Listen Grove

Nigella Lawson: Yes, that’s right. Yes. 

Dan Pashman: Will forever be in my heart. No, I’m dying to go back because back then I didn’t really like spicy food. 

Nigella Lawson: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Now I like spice. And there are so many great different cultural cuisines in London [Nigella Lawson: Yes, yes. ] that I didn’t even know to look for the first time.

Nigella Lawson: I would like to come back and eat more here. 

Dan Pashman: And just take the time.

Nigella Lawson: And take the time. 

Dan Pashman: Right. Right. Go on an eating tour.

Nigella Lawson: You’re so frightened of risking a bad meal when you’re somewhere a short time, whereas you can take more risks when you’re there in a place for a longer time.

Dan Pashman: That’s so true. Is there a recent experience you had with that feeling that you had wasted a meal?

Nigella Lawson: Often. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: I’ll tell you what I find very difficult. Just generally going somewhere and not having any choice. It reminds me of being a child. 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Nigella Lawson: And then I realize maybe that’s why I cook such a lot because then no one can impose their will on me.


Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies it’s for eaters, I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people.

Dan Pashman: Over the past 20 plus years Nigella Lawson has hosted hugely popular food TV shows on the BBC, Food Network, and more. Her cookbooks have sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. She’s best known for the books How to Eat, Feast, and the one that really launched her career — How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It’s a classic of that genre of books that promise simple recipes as the key to a better life. Her latest is Cook, Eat, Repeat: Ingredients, Recipes, and Stories – and she’s on tour in North America talking about it now.

Dan Pashman: And I really admire Nigella’s work because, you know, there’s a lot of food personalities out there, who are like, I’m gonna show you how to make this thing and it’s going to be so, so easy. And then you watch them make it, and you’re like that was not easy. I’m gonna … I would really struggle to do that. And Nigella actually delivers. She has great recipes that are simple but that often have one or two ingredients that are the kinds that I would never know to add. 

Dan Pashman: And I’ve gotta say, coming into this conversation, I knew Nigella was smart and funny, but as I learned she also has an amazing ability to just cut right to the heart of a question and say something really profound in a way that’s so plainspoken you can miss how amazing it is. In fact, I think I got as much from listening back to this conversation as I did having it in real life. So you may need to listen twice to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Dan Pashman: Let’s pick it up where we left off at the top of the show. Nigella was saying that she doesn’t like eating at places with very few choices. But, she told me, she also doesn’t like too many options.

Nigella Lawson: I find making decisions incredibly difficult.

Dan Pashman: Why?

Nigella Lawson: I don’t know. Because I suppose you’re saying no to a whole range of possibilities. So I have in a restaurant what I call my Stanislavski ordering technique.

Dan Pashman: Oh, wow. Wait this is — that’s the acting …

Nigella Lawson: Method.

Dan Pashman: Acting method. right.

Nigella Lawson: Method. Acting. You know, that’s method acting rather than acting method. 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Nigella Lawson: Method acting when you only had to live something. 

Dan Pashman: Right.

Nigella Lawson: So I go through a menu and I actually have — and I am, and I understand that’s me with — that’s me with the pasta with sage and squash. I mean, pasta with sage because I’m eating pasta …

Dan Pashman: So you put yourself in the head of that character.

Nigella Lawson: Do I want — I’m me, doing that? No, I don’t want to be having that now. No I actually — it’s not what I want to be eating. 

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: And I have to go through the various things. And then after, really, it’s just everyone is like yawning. [YAWNING] 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: Then you order now and then I do it. And then so then the waiter goes — and I go, “Come back, come back! Actually, no, I’m going to have the chicken,” or whatever. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] 

Nigella Lawson: And I really go through things like that and I try — and I change my mind and I sometimes I think you just have to go with your first instinct, you see? You mustn’t deliberate for too long. It corrupts. It corrupts as a direct force of a desire.

Dan Pashman: Right. I understand. I like the Stanislavski method. So you really — it’s like you’re testing out different versions of Nigella Lawson. 

Nigella Lawson: And unfortunately, quite a lot of these Nigella’s eating these other things have to be killed off. 


Dan Pashman: Can we talk for a minute about Colman’s English mustard?

Nigella Lawson: Funny you should say that. I’m going to move away from the mic just warning people. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. All right. 

Nigella Lawson: Okay. 

Dan Pashman: She’s opening her purse. Nigella is opening her purse. 

Nigella Lawson: Yes. In here … 

Dan Pashman: The plastic bag is coming out and I see tube of some kind.

Nigella Lawson: Yes. You can see a tube of Colman’s English mustard.

Dan Pashman: Oh, my God.

Nigella Lawson: And a pinch pot of Maldon salt.

Dan Pashman: Oh, my God. That — you’re the British Beyonce. 


Dan Pashman: Like she has hot sauce in her bag. You have Colman’s mustard. And we should describe to people like it’s got a specific type of heat, almost like a horseradish-y, back of the throat spice. 

Nigella Lawson: Yes, it has. It’s a bit like the British wasabi.

Dan Pashman: Yes. That’s a good way to describe it. And I also love the mouthfeel of it. It’s got a little bit of a slight texture, almost like a hoisin or a gochujang sauce, hat’s like a little bit — it’s got a floury kind of thickness to it that I find so pleasant.

Nigella Lawson: Well, it has. But of course, you know that traditionally it came as a powder and you would mix it up and people would mix it up to the texture they liked. 

Dan Pashman: Oh, interesting. 

Nigella Lawson: My late mother-in-law always used to make it to runny for me in that I hated that. I remember that was a real problem. And I always mix one thing, that so much of what one likes or dislikes it in food is about texture. And if you have children, so you know that. When they dislike eating something, it’s nearly always the texture they dislike rather more than the taste.

Dan Pashman: I just recently — I’ll be honest, Nigella, I — it took me a long time to really develop a taste for some of the more sort of acidic, bitter mustardy types of flavors, spicy foods and all. I only just acquired a taste for mustard in my late thirties.

Nigella Lawson: Hmm. But the mustard here is vinegary rather than hot.

Dan Pashman: Right. That’s true. But now I’m getting into all the mustard, [Nigella Lawson: Yes.] and I was at a burger place ..a

Nigella Lawson: All the mustards.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Yeah, all the mustards.

Nigella Lawson: That’s such a great title for something.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Yeah. Well, were’s what happened with me with Coleman’s is that — so I got into it. 

Nigella Lawson: Mm-hmm. Yes. 

Dan Pashman: And bought a little jar. I kept it at home. Now I have two little kids and my wife and my mother-in-law both make fantastic meatloaf.

Nigella Lawson: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: And since, especially, my kids came into the picture, there’s been a lot of meatloaf in our house. 

Nigella Lawson: Yeah, of course. 

Dan Pashman: Because it’s easy, it’s quick, and the kids like it with ketchup.

Nigella Lawson: Mm-hmm.

Dan Pashman: And I used to love it, but after many years of many meat Loaf’s, I got burnt out. 

Nigella Lawson: Yes. 

Dan Pashman: And I made it. I declared. I said, no more. You know, you got — you can make it for the kids, but I’m just going to just — I’ll fix myself something else. Coleman’s reinvigorated meatloaf for me.

Nigella Lawson: [GASPS] That is fabulous. And I mean, I say, I feel very proud as a British person to hear this.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] What are some of your go to? Like, what’s something that’s going to be served to you in a restaurant you know you going to be going to your purse to get out that Coleman’s?

Nigella Lawson: I feel — you know what I’m a bit uncomfortable about doing it in restaurants. I think it’s a bit rude, but I’m afraid to say I, I think for me it’s like ketchup, so I kind of want it with everything. I had a roast chicken last night with, you know, black truffles in it. And it was only by a huge effort of will that I didn’t — I mean, if I had my — I had the mustard, actually. I didn’t know it was in my purse. I thought I’d left it upstairs. And so I just thought, oh, no, I haven’t got my mustard and I don’t —hmm. Could I —should I go into a different room and get it? But — oh, I’ll never mind. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: And I didn’t. But in a way it would have been rude to the chef. But so I kind of want it with everything. I like adding it to a plate of greens as well. 

Dan Pashman: Mmm. 

Nigella Lawson: And England, we get it in glass jars, you know, at home and I will always keep that and make dressing with it. You know, the bottom part of it. 

Dan Pashman: Right.

Nigella Lawson: I … it’s bad. I do like it with almost everything. 

Dan Pashman: Why is that bad?

Nigella Lawson: Because I think I mean, in a way, you’re introducing too much of the same note.

Dan Pashman: And we should describe …

Nigella Lawson: I haven’t ever yet eaten it straight from the tube. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: It might come to that.

Dan Pashman: Yet. Today could be that day. 

Nigella Lawson: It could be. I mean, I’d be perfectly happy to have it on a bit of bread. 

Dan Pashman: Right. You have a recipe for emergency brownies.

Nigella Lawson: I do.

Dan Pashman: Which is brilliant. And the whole recipe just makes two brownies. And you write that …

Nigella Lawson: Or four [Dan Pashman: Or four.] if you’re a strange person, which I’m not.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] And you write that this brownie recipe, emergency brownies, is for those times you urgently need a brownie but don’t want to make or rather can’t justify making a whole batch.

Nigella Lawson: Yes.

Dan Pashman: Can you tell me about a time recently in your life where you felt that you urgently needed a brownie? 

Nigella Lawson: Yes, I can. I was watching a film and I suddenly thought, you know, I am enjoying myself and it’s very nice to be here on the sofa watching a film. I got a cup of tea nearby. There is something missing in my life. And I can’t — it’s distracting me. And what I needed was a brownie. I was watching with my son and I made the brownies, and then I had some — we had some slightly too soon, straight from, you know, straight out of the oven when it was still more or less like — it was more like pudding. 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Nigella Lawson: And you could eat with a teaspoon and that was good. And then I left it and I had the remaining bit with a bit of vanilla ice cream.

Dan Pashman: Sounds really good.

Nigella Lawson: For after the film. It was perfect. My evening was complete.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] What movie was it?

Nigella Lawson: It was a film. I’m trying to remember the title of it. It was a — I’m trying to, trying to, trying to remember. See, like I can remember the food and not the film. Is this a bad thing, do you think?

Dan Pashman: No. I think it gives you credibility.


Nigella Lawson: I think it was some sort of — it was a film that seemed to involve too much plot. That’s all I do remember. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Nigella Lawson: Too much plot. I got distracted by the brownie and now I can’t remember the film. I will remember, of course, by the end of the interview. 

Dan Pashman: Right, just blurt it out at any time.

Nigella Lawson: I will. And I won’t even say why.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] 

Nigella Lawson: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Do you ever find the intense desire to have an emergency brownie at a time when you’re feeling sort of stressed out about something or doubt about something?

Nigella Lawson: No, I — do you know, I — one of the things I don’t think I do is use food in that that’s what’s traditionally associated with, you know, comfort eating. I don’t — I think that food that you eat like that make — it doesn’t help you feel better and doesn’t make you enjoy the food more. I rather think I have an intense need for chocolate and I want that or I feel I need salt. Sometimes I have to have salted chocolate [Dan Pashman: Ohh.] for that very reason, which I tell myself is medical.

Dan Pashman: It sounds very medicinal to me.

Nigella Lawson: Well, it is, because I feel that I obviously need the magnesium in chocolate and …

Dan Pashman: And there’s no other way to get it. 

Nigella Lawson: And I slightly have — and I have slightly low blood pressure, so I need the salt.

Dan Pashman: Okay.

Nigella Lawson: So all in all, and I feel it does me a lot of good and I feel much better for it. So in that sense, yes, I will do it to make myself feel better. If I’m tired, I will. But I don’t feel I’m trying to smother a feeling. I’m trying to heighten some pleasure.

Dan Pashman: You’re more about chasing highs than escaping lows.

Nigella Lawson: [LAUGHS] Well, I think eating itself and cooking is a very good way of escaping lows. Cooking is probably even a better route to escaping lows. But I don’t know how possibly it ever is to do that.

Dan Pashman: Why do you think cooking is good for that?

Nigella Lawson: Because I think it is absorbing in your intelligence, to some extent, has to reside in your fingertips and your sense of smell and your sense of taste. And you’re not leading from a thought process.

Dan Pashman: You’re not getting stuck in your head.

Nigella Lawson: No, you’re not and you’re actually free. You’re calming your head.

Dan Pashman: By focusing on something tangible in front of you.

Nigella Lawson: Yes, but it’s important that what you’re focusing on is quite simple. If I were trying to do something — I can’t even imagine, you know? If I were trying to spin sugar, for example, or, look, anything that required a sugar thermometer, something really hideous like that, then I would not be escaping my head and I would be in a state of, you know, existential dread.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] I know your mom’s family owned a food and catering business. 

Nigella Lawson: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: What did she teach you about food?

Nigella Lawson: But it was before my time really. My mother was — my mother — she taught me everything about food, but it was very not related to anything business like. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

Nigella Lawson: She was a very instinctive cook, and I often feel I cook very much like my mother. And by that I don’t mean I cook the same food, but in her way, which is slightly impatient, rather spontaneous, not enormously rule-bound. And that’s for me, a very handy way of cooking, as it means I still come up with food fast.

Dan Pashman: What else about her approach to food do you feel you’ve carried on? 

Nigella Lawson: Well, I think that a dislike of pretentious food. And she had a very good sense of taste with spice. And I think — how do I say this without this — it sounds a bit pretentious — layering of flavor.

Dan Pashman: I know you said that your mom struggled with depression and you’ve also said that you said that you cook in similar ways that she did. How did food play into her struggles with depression?

Nigella Lawson: I don’t think they played a huge part except that she, in terms of cooking, but certainly she didn’t have a very healthy relationship with eating. And from that, I, you know, resolved that that was — you know, I would absolutely not succumb to this, you know, very disabling belief that the thinner you are and the less you eat, you know, the better it is. 

Nigella Lawson: My mother came from a different time. And she also died very young, so certain things weren’t developed. And she didn’t have a chance to grow and change in certain ways, which maybe she would have as well. But I think that while we’re very influenced by our mothers, we also learn how not to be as well. And I say that in a sort of a loving, respectful way, but that’s been important to me, you know, feeling that women have permission to eat and don’t have to conform to a particular way of being.


Dan Pashman: Coming up, Nigella teaches me something about hosting a show. And she talks about the criticism she gets, that no man would receive. Stick around.


Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. Before we get back to Nigella, I want to take a minute to tell you about a special project that a friend and neighbor of mine is working on.

CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): Maggie, she loved camping and the outdoors. She was very adventurous and she loved s’mores. And every summer we’d go up to rent cabins in the woods in the Adirondacks, and we’d always make campfires and enjoy s’mores.

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): How old was Maggie when she passed away?

CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): She was 17. She got sick when she was 16 and she passed away just a couple weeks after her 17th birthday. And she asked us before she died to help save kids.

Dan Pashman: This is Donna DeSousa-Schmidt. Her daughter Maggie died five years ago of a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Donna and her husband, Steve Schmidt, started a foundation in Maggie’s honor, to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Now they have a new fundraiser …

CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): And we thought about things that Maggie loved, and one of our first fundraising ideas was s’mores kits. S’mores for More are kits for kids to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): I can eat the s’mores too, can’t I?

CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): Oh yeah, of course! They’re for everyone! 


CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): Yeah, they’re heart shaped. We’ve got custom chocolates in the shape of a heart with smiling faces. And the cookies are graham cracker cookies in the shape of a heart.

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Now one of the issues I have with s’mores in general is that graham crackers are very brittle, Donna. And you put the stuff inside and you bite down into these hard brittle crackers and what happens?

CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): The insides come out.

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Exactly. This is a major structural flaw with s’mores. But, as I understand it, you have introduced an innovation to s’mores that addresses this concern.

CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): Mm-hmm. Absolutely. We came up with a soft cookie that holds the contents in really nicely.

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): And so you bite into it and your teeth will go through the soft, graham cracker cookie. It’s more like a graham cookie than a cracker.


CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Which is better than a graham cracker, I think.



CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): Graham crackers — I don’t know — sometimes they taste a little stale. These are super tasty.

CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): And what do you hope will happen with these s’mores kits?

CLIP (DONNA DESOUSA-SCHMIDT): We want to see them on store shelves someday. It’s literally the childhood snack that gives back. This is like a huge meaningful way for us to raise money in honor of Maggie.


Dan Pashman: These s’mores kits are a major breakthrough in s’mores technology. They’re just as delicious as they sound. And most importantly, all the proceeds go to a great cause. Now, I want to be clear. This isn’t an ad. Donna didn’t pay us to put this in here, we just want to help spread the word. So if you want to buy your own s’mores kit and support this charity, go to smoresformore.org. That’s smoresformore.org.

Dan Pashman: Now, back to my conversation with Nigella Lawson

Dan Pashman: There are a couple of reasons why I think she’s so good at what she does. First, she’s a great communicator on TV. When Nigella’s in her kitchen showing you how to make ramen, you feel like she’s talking just to you.


CLIP (NIGELLA LAWSON): … when I make my own. And I start with the Japanese broth, dashi, that launched a thousand noodle soups. But I just as often use vegetable stock. And what goes in is all important. Some dried shiitake mushrooms, already sliced. And we are firmly back in the universe of umami now.

Dan Pashman: The second thing that Nigella’s so good at, is this. All the very best cooking shows on TV — and YouTube and Instagram for that matter – have one thing in common. They nail the balance between accessibility and aspiration. If you’re gonna get really excited about a cooking demo you’re watching, it has to feel like something you might actually do — but it also has to feel like the person doing it has a life that’s just a little bit better than yours. Like they have just a little more time or money or expertise. Their kitchen is a little nicer than yours. They’re living a life you aspire to. And I think we all make this connection in our minds like, if I cook this dish, for one brief glorious moment, that will be my life.

Dan Pashman: Accessibility and aspiration. Yeah, I know a lot of people who do it. But nobody does it better than Nigella. 

Dan Pashman: In her recipes she’s famous for her sheet pan dinners, or tray bakes. One recipe from a few years ago is a chicken and pea traybake. You take chicken and frozen peas and just a few other ingredients — garlic, leeks, vermouth — mix them together, dump them on a baking sheet and cook the whole thing. It’s so simple.

Dan Pashman: But her life, as it’s depicted on TV, feels a little more out of reach. She waters the flowers and herbs in her perfect garden, then makes herself a perfect snack before sitting down to work in her gorgeous home. She walks her daughter to her private school in London and stops on the way for a fresh baguette as the sun shines down on them. 

Dan Pashman: As I said to Nigella, on TV, her life feels very aspirational.

Nigella Lawson: Yes, of course it doesn’t — it doesn’t to us as we’re filming it. A television series is such an intense snapshot that it looks like the whole of life is like that. And the music comes in as you lay the table and there’s a close up of a glass and there’s a twinkly light behind the glass. And it’s an enchanted landscape. And I have, you know, a wonderful cameraman and director, and we’re all concerned with making everything beautiful. I really take a lot of care, and I take a lot of pleasure in choosing what bowl I’m going to use. 

Nigella Lawson: I mean, we can spend hours fiddling about with, you know, a pile of plates and back of shot, which only someone with a very, very huge television screen would ever see. That’s what makes the difference between — when I do a book, I — I’m obsessed about the first detail. I might sometimes say on a proof, you know, I think I don’t want the print to be black, I want it to be charcoal. And the font we change a little bit. And that obsessing over detail is part of the pleasure, but part of what makes things feel right at the end.

Dan Pashman: So I do some work hosting TV, you know, food TV type shows. 

Nigella Lawson: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: Certainly, I wouldn’t pretend to have attained your level of success at it. But, you know, when I first started out, the way that I started to think about my sort of performance because let’s face it, it’s a performance.

Nigella Lawson: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: Is I’m sort of creating this TV persona, and that persona is rooted in something real, a real part of myself. But in order to kind of make a persona that’s going to make for good television, you have to kind of like pick and choose a couple of elements of your personality and kind of magnify those.

Nigella Lawson: Hmm. But the camera magnifies of its own accord. 

Dan Pashman: Hmm. 

Nigella Lawson: And the editing process magnifies. So in a sense, I don’t know that you make a choice yourself, which ones to magnify. You probably went on TV, found that certain things were said to be there, and they seemed to be the parts of your personality which, without realizing it, came to the fore. How would you say your personality is and what’s magnified? 

Dan Pashman: Well, I probably I kind of try to focus on this sort of high energy, kind of masculine jokester.

Nigella Lawson: Hmm. 

Dan Pashman: That’s, you know …

Nigella Lawson: But, you see, I think that’s not just a thing of television. That’s, in a way, sounds to me the sort of way one presents oneself when slightly nervous or anxious. And so that’s — you present a version of yourself. And I am the same way as I think I — when I get — I’m — In a strange way, I mean, I was always a very shy child. And there is a moment at which when you are on camera, when you have to overcome, and I have to overcome an intrinsic shyness, and I think I develop a certain archness. 

Nigella Lawson: And that’s true of my personality. I have got a sort of camp personality. But nevertheless, that archness is also because maybe I’m slightly embarrassed, because in the way I was brought up, going on television is a sort of like — is it like showing off and is showing off bad? So I’m slightly embarrassed and therefore I’m slightly arch. So that comes across. But it’s not because I’m trying to present that, but that is the way that I might be as well if I were surrounded by people and having to propel myself through a room. 

Nigella Lawson: So I think that the ways one magnifies one’s personality or maybe even distorts also come on to a lot of us in social situations as well as being on television. It’s a coping mechanism rather more than sheer performance. Does that make sense?

Dan Pashman: Yeah. No, it makes a lot of sense. I think that’s a really interesting way to look at it. Yeah, I think you’re probably right that, you know, when you’re feeling less confident, sometimes the best thing to do is to try to play the character of someone who has a lot of confidence. 

Nigella Lawson: Hmm. Hmm. 

Dan Pashman: So in my case, that sort of means like puffing on my chest and being like, “Hey, everyone, today we’re making nachos.”

Nigella Lawson: Hmm. Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: And for you it might be like to raise an eyebrow and be like, I’m in control here. I know what’s going on. I’m playing with you, even if that’s not how you’re feeling on the inside.

Nigella Lawson: Yeah. So when I think, yes, please share the joke with me now, please. You know, that sort of thing. And I also feel that you’re trying to make the viewer feel comfortable as well. You’re trying to bring the viewer in. So I suppose — I mean, I feel that I’ve got quite an intense way of talking to people and how that might come across in real life probably is seen differently on television.

Dan Pashman: Nigella’s particular way of connecting with viewers has been criticized for being overly sensual, even sexual. People comment on the way she licks a spoon. They’re convinced she’s using innuendo every chance she gets. She’s done more than one segment about breakfast or late night snacks in a silk robe. Then there’s the music.


CLIP (NIGELLA LAWSON): And it boils. And you can see the mushrooms are beginning to plump up, but they’re going to plump up even more and lose their flavor into the broth. So turn it down. Lid on so everything stays trapped in the pan. And I’ve got some work to do. Very hard work.

Dan Pashman: Nigella says this is really just that arch or camp part of her personality coming through.

Nigella Lawson: Many people, in very good faith, misconstrue what I’m saying, and they think I’m trying to do a sort of come onto the camera. And I really am not. I feel I have a huge raft of female viewers, who watch the show, who completely get me. And so that’s fine. What men project onto me, I can’t help. I’m not — you know, I can’t be held accountable for that some. It’s …

Dan Pashman: Wait, Nigella. You mean, that’s not your fault?


Nigella Lawson: But, you know, at some stage, I have to say, well, people’s perception of me is their perception of me. And I can’t argue with it. I can say, you know what my — if my attention or intention may have been different. And to an analyst, that wouldn’t be much of an excuse anyway. But nevertheless, I feel I can’t trouble myself with it too much. But I obviously must come across as more flirtatious than I intend.

Dan Pashman: But there are a lot of men who go on TV and are very flirtatious or sensual in their own ways on television. And I don’t feel like it gets the same amount of attention. 

Nigella Lawson: Well, it’s … 

Dan Pashman: Do you feel that there’s a double standard? I mean, do you feel that men who are flirtatious on camera are subject to the same level of scrutiny?

Nigella Lawson: I mean, I think there’s always a very different way that women and men are talked about. I suspect the only way that changes is is if men are looked at in the same way. I don’t ever think things change by getting better. It just — you know, things get worse for everyone …. she said cheerfully.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] And this this question, you know, that has come up at various points in your career. I’m curious, has the MeToo movement changed the way you think about this issue at all?

Nigella Lawson: You know, look, I think that there are many good things about the MeToo movement, and not least is the fact that women can talk about their experiences in the world. But in terms of how I work, which is in a way, in a realm in which I’m the boss, it’s a different —I’m not working in a male environment. But I think now what I would say is television is image led, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. There’s a lot of focus on what someone looks like on television, and you just can’t fight that. And I think that all one can do is refuse to let oneself ever be treated as a commodity.

Dan Pashman: That’s Nigella Lawson, her latest cookbook is Cook, Eat, Repeat: Ingredients, Recipes, and Stories. Want to win a copy? Sign up for The Sporkful’s newsletter by November 15th. Do you see how many cool give aways we’re doing through this news letter. You have got to be on the list. If you’re already on it, you’re already entered into this and all our prize giveaways. If not, get on it by November 15th to win Nigella’s cookbook. Go to sporkful.com/newsletter

Dan Pashman: Next week on the show, I talk with Real Housewife of Potomac, Wendy Osefo. Growing up, food was one of her mom’s ways of showing love. And yet, her mom never let Wendy help out in the kitchen. It was a dynamic Wendy didn’t understand, until a confrontation with her mother as an adult. That’s next week.

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