The best wellness tip to combat anxiety and general panic about the state of the current pandemic-ridden world is not yoga or essential oils (which it never is, anyway). Nor is it to, God forbid, “putting your intentions out there.” It isn’t proper sleep and exercise, either. It isn’t any of these Goop-esque things. In reality, the best way to stave off anxiety is by watching iconic food writer and all around Extremely Charming Person Nigella Lawson mix buttery yellow rice in a serving dish.
Nigella Lawson is many things: fiercely sharp and witty, intelligent, Very British, a regal queen of the public, and stunningly gorgeous. Is that enough adjective work for me to convince you to watch her make lemon risotto and fall in love? If you are unfamiliar with the food writer, chef (although she calls herself an enthusiastic home cook more than anything), and cooking show host Nigella Lawson, I assume that, like me, you are American, and I urge you to get acquainted with her as soon as you can.
I don’t know what exactly it is about watching others make food that is so enjoyable and relaxing. The incredible and niche rise of Bon Appetit videos has definitely proven that many of us find comfort in watching endearing, warm characters prepare dishes that we call home or meals we are entirely unaware of but now want to try to make so desperately (like the meteoric popularity of the Alison Roman hive).
Nigella Lawson takes it to another level for me, however. There’s something about watching her make a meal without worrying about carbs, butter, or the dreaded “clean eating” nonsense that has seemed to permeate minds for the last few years. No, instead, she makes mouth-watering, real, and enjoyable looking food that promises to fill you up and make you feel sated and whole.
What does Nigella Lawson cook, you may ask? Well, everything –– from pasta dishes (she loves Italian) to chicken and Sunday roasts, East and South Asian cuisine, cakes, cookies, and Middle Eastern-inspired beef dishes among many other things. And she makes it feasible for us at home, too. You too can make an Indian-inspired Kedgeree in the comfort of your own home kitchen, and throwing together a slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken really isn’t something to stress over.
Cooking does not need to be something that throws one into a tizzy is only one of the pillars of the Nigella School of Thought. The other pillars include but are not limited to having passion and enjoyment for what you’re cooking and using truly sumptuous vocabulary to describe food or whatever it is you’re doing at that given moment. What’s particularly wonderful about Nigella, though, is that she doesn’t expect you to have all the fancy kitchen gadgets of a professional kitchen, and doesn’t turn her nose down at freezer ingredients or what some may unfortunately call “low rent” food. All she seems to want is for us to enjoy food as much as she does, no matter how it presents itself. She is a champion of the imperfectionists, a word I believe I’ve shockingly just made up, and is an advocate for embracing cravings and urges you to not suppress your own.
If you are now watching a video of Nigella Lawson cooking for the first time, you may be wondering a few things to yourself such as, “Oh my God, why is this vocabulary making my mouth water?” and, “Why do I feel so warm inside watching a brunette woman fry lamb chops?” These are both true and valid feelings to have. Using phrases like “somber majesty” to describe making the sauce for a sticky toffee pudding in a room filled with a truly insane amount of string lights is something only Nigella can earnestly pull off. She does indeed have an amazing vocabulary that makes her descriptions of food easily translatable to our taste buds beyond the computer screen, and her general manner on camera has been called naughty and flirtatious.
However, Nigella (and I, by default) calls herself warm and inviting, and has stated that she acts on camera as she would if she were home, cooking with friends. And that’s just what you feel like watching one of her videos: a friend in her inviting, comforting kitchen, waiting to eat a delicious and relatable meal while definitely having a snack on something else in the meantime. And she wants you to love it.
Now, let’s talk about what I’m really here for: The Pavlova. If you are unfamiliar with pavlova, a dessert born out of New Zealand comprised of a meringue base, cream, and strawberries, I encourage you to look it up and make Nigella’s chocolate pavlova immediately. It deserves a place in the hall of most erotic desserts to ever be invented. The video of her making the pav in question, though, is for me the equivalent of going to an all-day Korean spa. A British woman faffing around with egg whites and cocoa powder in her aesthetically pleasing kitchen in about 2002 or so is essentially drugs for me, is what I’m getting at here.
In the video presented, Nigella basically states the meaning of life but in terms of whipped egg whites and sugar: “It’s not meant to be perfection. It’s what it tastes like that matters,” she says while mounding the meringue base on a baking tray. And she’s right.
How I Keep Calm is our new series featuring different ways people manage anxiety. If you have a pitch for this column, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with “How I Keep Calm” in the subject line.