Nigella Lawson on the Glory of Cooking at Home

"So we had things like spaghetti with garlic and chili and olive oil, even though when I was young you had to go to a drug store to buy olive oil -- they didn't sell it in the food market. ... The funny thing is now I find traditional English recipes incredibly exotic. I'm not bored with them. And I think that actually because England suffered for a lot of time, and had rationing, that food became somehow meager, whereas I'm very happy to let it find its voice again.

"And I think few things aren't better when they've got a bit of butter in them."

A feeling of grounded domesticity became a goal of her own cooking, Lawson said.

"I suppose I want to show people that it's actually quite simple to cook. That really the sort of food that we think of as real cooking, like sort of the cheffy miracles, they're fantastic, but they're what you go to a restaurant for. And actually most people really relish something like roast chicken and mashed potatoes or meatballs and pasta or a pork chop. That sort of cooking makes people feel welcomed.

"And I suppose to some extent, I've got more and more evangelical about that sort of food. I love home baking. I love anything that makes a home feel like a home, and I think that we live in a society where we spend more time in an office than we do at home, so the time you are at home, it's quite important to feel grounded there and that it gives you comfort."

'I Don't Have Any Particular Gifts'

The sense of home that cooking can create is just one of many rewards Lawson said she finds in the kitchen.

"I feel that I have a sort of a historical interest, I think it's social history," she said. "I think that there's something so beautiful about food, so I get an aesthetic pleasure.

If she had to choose between never again dining out and never again cooking at home, Lawson said, she'd skip the dining out.

"[I] love the fact that in a way cooking is manual labor, the physical elements of stirring and chopping really sort of release something in me. For me, there's so many elements to food, that I feel if I didn't cook I would feel impoverished. ... I couldn't cope in life if I couldn't putter about in my kitchen."

Countless readers and television viewers have turned to Lawson for tips on preparing and pulling off grand domestic feasts. Yet she says she never considered herself to be an exceptionally talented chef.

"It sounds like I'm being disingenuous or, I don't know, falsely modest, but to be honest, I am not really ... good at cooking," Lawson said. "And I cook things which I think taste good to me, but I don't have any particular gifts ... so I just wouldn't want to make it seem like I thought I have some fantastic expertise, which I know I don't. But I trust my instincts. I trust my taste.

"I think that's actually a very important lesson to the home cook, that really it's about preparing something that you want to eat. It's not a crisis if things aren't great. The worst that happens is that supper's not fantastic, but that's OK. So I think the place that I come from is probably the same place my readers or my viewers come from."

'A Sense of Welcome in the House'

For "Nigella Christmas," Lawson said, she revisited her own family Christmas traditions -- including the tense bits.

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