An Interview with Nigella Lawson
18 Nov 2021
You can spend An Evening with Nigella Lawson at Brighton Dome on Wed 24 Nov, when she’ll be discussing her latest book, Cook, Eat, Repeat. Here she talks about writing the book in lockdown, what we can expect from the event and answering cooking questions on Twitter.
Cook, Eat, Repeat was released on the same day lockdown 2 began. How was lockdown for you and how has the experience impacted on your life?
I am so aware that I am incredibly fortunate. Yes, of course this has been an anxiety-provoking time for everyone, but I had a roof over my head, a bit of outdoor space, food on my table and work that I could do safely at home - indeed, I wrote Cook, Eat, Repeat during the first, long lockdown. Of course, it was hard not to be able to hug my children, but so many people really suffered, either with their health, or that of those they love, or struggled to make ends meet, or had to risk their well-being by going to work, so I am just inordinately grateful.
How long did it take to put Cook, Eat, Repeat together? Is it possible to describe the process?
I’d chosen the themes of my chapters, and I did most of the recipe testing and re-testing (I am an obsessive tester and re-tester!) in 2019, but by the beginning of 2020, most of the recipes were still scribbles in my kitchen notebook and needed to be typed up, which is not a straightforward process, as I often find I’ve left something crucial out of my notes, so need to start testing all over again!
My concentration was rather shot at the beginning of lockdown, so even though days upon days with nothing in the diary is helpful if you’re trying to write a book, it took some time for me to find my way. But then I wrote in shortish bursts - I am someone who needs to pace about as I write and lie on the sofa with a mug of tea at regular intervals - from about 4.30am (with an hour off for exercise!) to 5.30pm every day - celebrating the end of the writing day with a Campari Soda!
I think the period of really solid writing took about 4 months. I had plenty more to say, but had written so many pages that I had to stop before getting all the planned themes/chapters in!
How did you choose which recipes to include?
I wish I could tell you that there is any process at play here, but I just go on instinct. I chose recipes that, in one form or another, I return to often. But as I started to realise that not everything would fit in, I had what I call a Choose It or Lose It session. I select the recipes I can’t live without and make sure they have a home, then I see whether the recipes that remain on the list actually still belong in the book. If I can’t find the right place, it’s bye-bye (for now).
You maintain a very down-to-earth, approachable social media profile, often replying personally to followers who contact you. Why did you decide to start doing this and what do you enjoy the most about interacting with your followers?
I always answered questions about my recipes on Twitter, but once we went into lockdown, I really felt that more was needed and so began answering general questions - what could be made with whatever the person had to hand, or how to substitute ingredients someone couldn’t get hold of for a particular recipe. I really valued the connection and I still do. I know a lot of social media is shouty and aggressive but my little patch of it is such a supportive and friendly community, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Anyway, I’m not interested in monologues: it’s conversation I relish!
What can we expect from your live tour?
This tour is really about the part food – and certain recipes – have played in my life and that’s as much about the emotional resonance of food as flavour. I will also cover the to me very important theme of cooking for oneself. And I will certainly be talking about why I hate the term guilty pleasures!
What’s your favourite thing about being on tour/back on the road/meeting fans?
I always love meeting readers, but now it has a particular significance since the pandemic has made this impossible to do for too long. I think there is a very intimate relationship between a book and its readers. I feel a book tour really celebrates that, and questions from readers and the chats and exchanges that flow from them during the event give me a sense of connection which is a source of much joy and inspiration for me.