I used to love watching acclaimed kitchen goddess the luscious Nigella Lawson, when she first appeared on the small screen as the West’s primary exponent of food porn. By God she was sexy I thought, and her defiance of the fashion imperative for women to starve ourselves so we’d look like end-stage junkies was refreshing.
But lately it seems to me that Nigella’s spontaneity has waned, to be replaced by rather more artifice: she is now imitating her original self, as if that original has lost interest in the proceedings and withdrawn, bored, to observe. Another aspect of Nigella’s personality hams it up until she’s almost a parody of herself. This may well be intentional, and if so, she needs to ham it up a little more to reassure us. I suspect, though, that Nigella really has lost interest in the character she created, but how does one discard such a popular and revenue-generating persona?
To be fair, I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the plethora of food shows on the telly, and food porn in print media. It’s not just Nigella. The neurotic inconsistency of slavering over food to the point of self-disgust, and in the next instant whipping ourselves into rigorous weight loss programs as penance, seems to go largely unremarked in popular culture. This is perhaps understandable as between them the two conflicting passions generate billions of dollars in the global economy.
In the big picture the West is in the grip of a mass epidemic of bulimia, an eating disorder in which the sufferer first gorges then, full of guilt and self-hatred at the loss of control, violently purges her or himself.
I’ve never once watched a cooking program without a psychic default button changing my channel to scenes of famine, starving children, and those in the West who do not have access to food and televisions. This doesn’t always stop me joining in the orgy, though as Mrs Chook will attest, never without the comment that it’s disgusting that we engage in these orgiastic events when there’s so many people in the world living off next to nothing, and all too often, absolutely nothing.
The concept of having so much food that we can eat ourselves into overweight and obesity, then literally or metaphorically stick our fingers down our throats to throw it all back up again is, quite frankly, vile. As is the fashion culture that demands healthy women starve ourselves to emulate the frail bodies of our sick and literally starving sisters who have no choice in the matter.
Last Christmas somebody gave us a subscription to a foodie magazine. I never look at it, except to make some scathing comment on a cover when it first arrives. Then I kick it under the couch where the pile grows until someone vacuums. This happened just the other day, and the glossies were hauled out when the vacuum cleaner jammed as a consequence of trying to suck them up. Upon inspection it became apparent that something had been feasting. Tiny teeth had shredded extravagant illustrations, taking bites out of cakes, desserts, casseroles and roasted things. Mrs Chook held the shredded remnants up as if to shame me, but I remained defiant.
It turns out there’s a family of antechinus nesting under the couch and behind the bookcase. This presents us with something of a dilemma, as nobody wants to slaughter the sweet little native animals. Leave them alone and let them eat cake, I advised. I’ve become very cavalier about wildlife in the house since I was bailed up by a snake on my way to the bathroom. Then yesterday there was the green frog who hopped in the back door and hopped out just as fast when I bent to give it a kiss to see what might happen next. Fairy tales have been something of a theme this week, what with the Slipper and all.
I don’t know what we’ll do about the antechinus. I don’t want to think about it.
But whether I watch Nigella again or not, I do pay tribute to her beauty, and her courageous stand against the tyranny of a fashion world that would have us look like pre pubescent waifs, all heron-legged, hollow-cheeked and shockingly fragile. Nigella’s curves are superb, and the image of her wrapping her generous mouth around a wicked midnight snack wearing only her silk dressing gown and backlit by the fridge, will stay with me for a long time, far longer than any of those starved and haunted models on the cover of Vogue.
- Nigella Lawson Cooks Linguine With Truffle Oil, Butternut, Arugula, and Pine Nut Salad (shoppingblog.com)
- Nigella to guest-edit Stylist magazine (guardian.co.uk)