Waiting for Nigella Lawson

Why Italy? It’s the first question Jessica Allen will ask

Nigella Lawson will be in Toronto on Monday to promote her new cookbook, Nigellissima, in the Chatelaine test kitchen, just three floors down from the offices of Maclean’s. 

I, for one, am excited. For years her first book, How to Eat (1998), sat on my bedside table. To be honest, I rarely cooked recipes from it–heck, I rarely cooked at all–but it was so beautifully written that I couldn’t put it down. And she lead me to other food writers, including Elizabeth David and Anna del Conte. Food writing, Lawson taught me, was a genre all unto its own.

Eventually, I used her books to actually cook things: her recipes for chocolate Guinness cake, key lime pie and Madeira cake still make routine appearances in my limited baking repertoire.

Nigellisima, her 10th book, has 120 Italian-inspired recipes and are written with Lawson’s usual flare, which includes descriptors that are singularly hers in style: Radicchio is “beautifully bitter;” Marsala-soaked porcini mushrooms have “husky depth;” and her cinnamon almond cake is “meltingly damp and fragrantly redolent of marzipan.”

Bu why Italy, and why now? In fact, the germ for her latest book may predate her other literary offerings. Lawson, who started as a journalist (by 26, she was the deputy literary editor of the The Sunday Times), spent a year working in Florence during her gap year at university. Not only did she work as a chambermaid during her sojourn, but she also learned how to cook–and eat like a Florentine, and a life-long love affair with all things Italian was born.

When I speak with Lawson on Monday about her new book I’ll ask when to adhere to and break with Italian culinary traditions and find out how she manages–after all her books, TV shows, awards, apps and gastronomic entrepreneurial forays–to stay genuinely enthusiastic about food.

Stay tuned.


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