Internationally acclaimed cookbook author and television personality Nigella Lawson’s experience in front of the camera (her shows include Simply Nigella, Nigella Bites, The Taste, and Nigella Feasts) translated to an easy charm onstage at the Granada this week, in a UCSB Arts & Lectures presentation of a Conversation with KCRW’s Evan Kleiman. Both women were engaging and charismatic in a talk that was deliciously centered around food.
“When I write a recipe, I am bossy and I explain why I do things the way I do,” said Lawson, who emphasized the importance of following a recipe to the letter once and then having the complete freedom to fiddle around with it at home.
Rather than considering her recipes sacrosanct, Lawson encouraged creativity, and said, “Why would I mind? That’s what cooking is.”
Asked about her early interest in cooking, Lawson — who prior to writing her first cookbook in 1998 had a successful career as a journalist covering topics like literature and beauty — said, “I didn’t know cookbooks even existed until I was 15 or so. Then I was fascinated.”
That first book, titled How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, was a bestseller, and was soon followed by another successful book, How to Be a Domestic Goddess, as well as her first TV show, Nigella Bites. All of Lawson’s impressive quantity of work both on screen and on the page seems to embody the idea, which she emphasized in Santa Barbara this week: “Life is full of joys and sadness, but it’s not so full of joys that we can deny ourselves this one incredible pleasure (food).”
In a conversation that covered a wide range of food-related topics as well as the expanse of Lawson’s career, Kleiman did an excellent job of bringing it back to the meal that’s on everyone’s mind right now: Thanksgiving. Though she was born in London, Lawson still has an appreciation for the American holiday, as she said, “From my culinary point of view, the sandwiches (one of her oft-discussed favorite things) are the main point of Thanksgiving.” She later added, “Leftovers, they are one of the most wonderful things about cooking at home.”