Monday, October 30, 2006

A Feast for the Eyes and the Palette: Nigella Lawson

While I was complaining about Rachael Ray and Paula Deen, an unexpectedly delightful show has moved onto the Food Network. I'm talking, of course, about Nigella Feasts.

Let's get the shallow stuff out of the way: I believe Nigella Lawson is one of the most beautiful women in the world. This is a woman who looks as great in a robe as she does in a little black dress. Her fair skin is gorgeous and her hair has the kind of volume I've been trying to achieve my entire life. As for her figure? Well, I don't know who wouldn't notice those curves!

While she is a striking beauty in photos, it is only enhanced by her classy yet unassuming demeanor she displays on television. In both her shows and her books she is wonderfully playful with language without getting too punny or precious. She is obviously a woman of great intelligence and wit, but is grounded enough to poke fun at her lack of professional chef training and imperfections as a mother.

But the real question is, can she cook? Without a doubt, yes. She shuns low-fat cooking, opting for taste, and uses quality ingredients. Nigella Feasts, which is based on the book of the same name, has featured several dishes that looked delicious.

Yesterday's show featured breakfast foods. While the granola and the raspberry swirl looked good, the real wonder of the show was how Nigella was able to cook some late night drunken grub food (Bacon and Tomato Hash*) wearing a slinky black cocktail dress and not come off like a cheap lush. If Sandra Lee tried the same maneuver, it would be more embarrassing than endearing.

I know that some think Nigella distracts from her cooking by playing up her looks, but I disagree. Nigella's coy looks and sensuous language add to the appeal of her cooking. This isn't staged gimmickry like Sandra Lee's backgrounds and low cut costumes; Nigella is comfortable in her skin and is not shy about showing that she loves to cook. Her love for cooking is apparent in the same way as it is with the other best Food Network shows: Barefoot Contessa, Everyday Italian, Easy Entertaining. On the flip side, the worst Food Network shows are hosted by cooks who clearly would rather be doing anything else: Semi-Homemade, the last few seasons of 30-Minute Meals, and especially Quick Fix Meals . No one is saying that cooks should spend an eternity in the kitchen, but like any other profession, if a cook has love for their work it will show.

My only complaint about Nigella Feasts is the schizophrenic camera work. I thought Barefoot Contessa was bad, but that's nothing compared to the artsy pretensions that go on over at Nigella Feasts. Cameramen: we know Nigella is gorgeous, but we do not need to count her pores. We also do not need to view Nigella through a row of hanging utensils. Hopefully the handheld camera look will go out of fashion soon and we can get back to concentrating on Nigella's cooking.

Food Network has been headed in the wrong direction lately, but adding Nigella to the lineup gives me hope. Now only if they could bring back Mario and Tony.

Nigella's life story is worth a read. She is not only an accomplished cook, but an accomplished journalist as well. She's also experienced a lot of tragedy, losing her mother, sister and husband to cancer.

1The recipe isn't listed on the Food Network site; what gives?


Ray Hernandez said...

She's hot enough that I may trade in my HGTV for some Food Network.

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