10 Delightfully Inspiring, Quotable Things Nigella Lawson Said This Weekend

updated May 24, 2019
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You guys, I got to see the feminist cultural moment everyone is talking about this past weekend. I was there for it and it was fantastic. Okay, okay, no, I wasn’t at Coachella; I did not see Bey slay the stage. I’m not talking about that moment, but about another, rather quieter, one. So let’s say the second most important feminist event of the weekend: Nigella Lawson in conversation with Samin Nosrat at Cherry Bombe Jubilee on Saturday.

And I learned three things: Nigella is taller than I realized, she is incredibly fun to listen to in person, and she is unbelievably, delightfully quotable. Here are 10 inspiring quotes from her conversation that made me think, laugh, or cheer.

Cherry Bombe Jubilee is an event hosted by some rather fearsomely chic ladies to discuss and celebrate women in food. It was my first year attending and I found it disarmingly warm and enjoyable, and programmed with a genius touch in its arrangement of speakers, voices, and conversations.

For the keynote, Samin Nosrat — the author of one of the best cookbooks of 2017, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (and remember when we toured her lovely Oakland kitchen back in 2012?) — interviewed Nigella. Their conversation ranged from Nigella’s philosophy of cooking (vs. cheffing) to how her beauty has affected her career.

Here are 10 moments that I loved from, as Samin introduced her, “the patron saint of pleasure.”

On why so many women cooks avoid the word chef.

Male chefs often seem to cook out of this military-style mania. But I don’t cook out of battle mania. I have plenty of mania in my head, and I cook to defuse it.

Cooking is a less confrontational pursuit than cheffing.

On women feeding themselves.

Women are encouraged to feed each other but not themselves. Cooking is an act of generosity and kindness and it’s important to be generous and kind to oneself as well.

I think the only thing you should feel guilty about is not taking pleasure.

On vegetables.

I don’t eat a bowl of kale to be good. I eat it because I enjoy it. In fact, I saw [a nutritionist] recently and she said, “You’re the first person I’ve ever told to actually eat fewer vegetables.”

On guilt in food.

I’m often asked this question about, “What’s your guilty pleasure?” But I think the only thing you should feel guilty about is not taking pleasure.

On the importance of food as connection to life.

My first husband died of oral cancer, and he was ill as I was writing my first book and I saw what it was like when food was taken away from someone, and when they can’t eat, and how important it is to have connections to food and one another.

On easy recipes.

Sometimes I’m told a recipe is too simple. But really, no one ever says, “That was really delicious. Pity it was so simple to make!”

It [the recipe] is not there to be taken seriously! It’s just there to be eaten.

On baking.

There’s something in baking that plays into our desire for transformation, because it is much more alchemical, and that’s a beautiful thing. I think also, that no one needs a cake. But that’s what makes it special and wonderful and a treat.

I don’t think that any of us can afford to turn away from pleasure when it offers itself.

On the beauty and body pressures of television.

You have to resist people’s accounts of you and not be pushed in a certain way. But is difficult because we’re all humans and we have human vanity, and we want to be made to look as good as we can. For me, the emphasis has always been on my weight, whether I’m thinner or fatter or this or that, and I always try to ignore that. But as a woman going on television who is not a thin woman, you get an enormous amount of aggressive behavior, as if somehow, you’ve slightly offended all these perfect specimens of men.

I’m very glad I didn’t do TV when I was young. Because I think that would have been really quite disconcerting.

On gratitude and pleasure in food.

Those of us in this room who can afford to eat, who have the blessing of food in our life, I think to take it lightly is a bad thing. There are people who haven’t got food, and those of us who do, to not take pleasure in it seems such a distortion of any sensible values system.

On cooking as morality.

It’s not a moral force for good. I don’t think that it makes anyone better than anyone else. It’s just pleasure. Life is such. But I don’t think that any of us can afford to turn away from pleasure when it offers itself.

Quotes lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

More on Nigella’s home-cooking philosophy: Nigella Lawson Wants Home Cooks to Stop Using This One Word

Read more from Nigella, in her new cookbook: At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking