Nigella Lawson on the Glory of Cooking at Home

"I come from a big family, I come from a very big family," she said. "My mother would cry every Christmas Eve, because she'd taken on too much and everything was on top of her, and it was very high-stress. And I suppose I know how stressful it can be, so I want to try to make a less stressful holiday season.

"Christmas is sort of a Thanksgiving and a celebration of the mid-winter. I'm a great believer in the pagan elements, of it's so dark and we can suddenly fill everything with twinkling light and little candles flickering and the air should be really thick with cinnamon and clove and feel spicy and warming and welcoming, and I think that's really what it is for me. It really is about having people around that you can feed and a sense of -- I suppose there's a sense of welcome in the house, and I don't know how to express that except through food."

Lawson remembers the small traditions of her childhood Christmases with fondness, even if her children aren't as enamored. "When I was a child -- and I constantly bore my children with this -- we didn't have huge presents like people get now," she said.

"If we were lucky, we'd get a Christmas stocking and it would be mostly filled with satsumas, as far as I remember, and a few paper dolls that you dress by putting little tags on, and foil-covered chocolate coins. But we used to get a pomegranate, and I remember we could spend the morning, we were allowed to cut open the pomegranate and we'd be winkling out the little sort of ruby seeds with a hairgrip and eating it all morning.

"And there's something that sounds so disgusting to non-Brits, which is bread sauce. It's really delicious, I promise you. But really it's like a savory bread pudding. And you cook stale bread in milk that's been scented, you know, just sort of out-of-shell nutmeg and a clove and bay leaf and an onion, and just that smell to me, that sort of milky clove and bay leaf, is the smell of Christmas to me. And I remember that just from probably before I could speak."

Food as nostalgia; food as comfort; food as a link to the past. For Lawson, food is all three, and one thing more: pleasure.

"My food philosophy, I suppose, is just, you know, take pleasure in it," she said. "I mean, I'm nearly always asked, 'What's your guilty pleasure,' and I always say, 'Look, the one thing you should never feel guilty about is pleasure. You should feel guilty if you fail to take pleasure, because it's important to you.'

"You know, life is hard, and life is full of ups and downs, so to try and look for something bad in what's good seems to me not a good path to take, because there are going to be enough things that are going to be worrying. But apart from that, I've never had any goals, I don't aim for things. I'm very focused, I'm a driven person, but I'm quite focused on what I'm doing at any time. ... So I'm very lucky, and I don't want to question it too much because then I start thinking the wheels might start coming off, and then and then I'd have to find something serious to do!"

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