"You cannot be powerful if you're not fed—and you should be able to feed yourself."
We're thrilled to have home cook evangelist Nigella Lawson as our first guest on SALT + SPINE, the podcast on stories behind cookbooks.
You might know Nigella from her 10 hugely popular cookbooks—or from her TV shows like "Nigella Bites" or "Nigella Eats." For 20 years, Nigella has been producing cookbooks geared for home cooks, starting with her first book How To Eat, which is a staple worldwide and was called “the most valuable culinary guide published this decade” by the Sunday Telegraph.
Nigella's latest work, At My Table, is a celebration of home cooking and includes over 100 accessible and delicious recipes—from the chicken and pea tray bake (which we loved) to Turkish eggs to a recipe for "subverting" that spiralizer in your pantry.
“It’s a celebration of home cooking," Nigella says. "But more, it’s a celebration of the freedom and the creativity of the home cook.”
We sat down with Nigella at San Francisco's The Civic Kitchen cooking school to talk about her continued approach to creating recipes that are delicious and accessible to home cooks, her reluctance to center books on a theme, and what lessons she has for home cooks across the globe.
Additional reading from this episode:
"The food in this book—which comes from my kitchen, is eaten at my table, and will be eaten at yours—is the food I have always loved cooking. It doesn't require technique, dexterity, or expertise, none of which I lay claim to. Life is complicated; cooking doesn't have to be. It doesn't matter how many cookbooks I write or how many times I am erroneously called a chef, I will never be a professional. But then, no one needs qualifications to cook, or human beings would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long time ago. I cook, as you do, to feed myself, my family, my friends. A home cook is not a lesser being than a chef, though a markedly different one.
I hate hearing people describe themselves as 'just' a home cook. We may not have the technical proficiency of a chef, but why should this matter? We cook to bring pleasure, comfort, and flavor to life, to the table. This is not to say we operate in bumbling chaos, although I have learned over the years that I need a certain amount of this.
In a sense, a recipe is a way of finding order in the mess of life. It's a guide, something to hold on to. And because of this, it must always be reliable, and as exact as possible, even if cooking itself can never be a precise art."