How to eat.

How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good FoodI began to learn to cook when I was in my early teens but it wasn't until my early twenties that I began to learn about food. For about ten years I had a subscription to Vogue magazine and although I took it for the clothes and the looks, one of the things I most enjoyed and usually read first, [after the customary look right through with a cup of tea] was the cookery column.. When I first started reading it was written by Arabella Boxer but over time I noticed a subtle change in tone and realised it had been taken over. The new writer was Nigella Lawson who, until then, had been deputy literary editor of The Times newspaper. I quickly realized that here was a person who cooked like I cook, who shared my love of food and learning about it, who understood  my reticence with certain dishes and who gave me the confidence to try new things.Needless to say when How To Eat was published in 1999 I fell on it. I still remember the Vogue photo's of her dancing with her husband John Diamond at the book launch looking fantastically glamorous with her trophy hair.
There is nothing chefy or prescriptive about the recipes in this book or about Nigella's attitude to food. The recipes are largely uncomplicated and where the ingredient list is lengthy or the cooking time consuming Nigella is there, handing out soothing guidance and encouraging us forward. She is the champion of the home cook.  I became a vegetarian thirty years ago and only re-introduced fish ten years or so ago so I have by no means cooked everything in this book  but I have made quite a lot from it and it is to How To Eat that I turn first for recipes of any kind. The pavlova we eat every weekend of the summer, the gravy we eat on Christmas day, the salmon fishcakes which freeze so beautifully, not to mention the fish pie recipe which inspired my own and the rhubarb recipes for which we specifically planted extra fruit. Every dish that I have made using this book has worked perfectly.
Often, when I have a little fallow time as something finishes in the oven or cooks on the stove, I pick up this book and read something. The television Nigella, National Treasure, is a mystery to me, we don't have a set. It is the Nigella of the books that I feel I know. The woman who writes so warmly and with such enthusiasm for food and life that just reading a page or two is satisfying. She is an extremely good writer and it is for this, as much as for the recipes that I love this book. It is part memoir, part food tutorial and always a pleasure to be indulged. There are many cookery books and writers in the world indeed, I have some of their books myself. For many the great Elizabeth David or Jane Grigson have been their inspiration and both have a place in my kitchen but for me, when I look for culinary companionship and understanding it is, and always will be Nigella Lawson.

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