Last night, a thousand souls braved the fenland mist and congregated in Ely Cathedral to hear a Domestic Goddess speak.
As Nigella Lawson took to the stage, she apologised and said that she would not be singing, in spite of appearances – the microphone that she was using did look suspiciously like it had come from a karaoke bar! Nigella was not in that hallowed space to sing; she was there to preach.
To hear Nigella Lawson talk about food is to listen to the most beautiful sermon. Anyone who has ever read one of Nigella’s books will know that, for this self-confessed and unashamed home cook, food is life. The food that we prepare daily or for special occasions is used not only for sustenance but to comfort, to delight, and to show others just how much we love them. The food that we eat tells our life story and it is Nigella’s understanding of this concept and sharing of her own experience that make her my very favourite food writer.
Yes, I am a vegetarian. Despite the fact that half of the recipes are slightly redundant to me, I still love reading the prose. I may have no inclination to cook Nigella’s Mother’s Praised Chicken, but I love hearing the story behind it.
For Nigella, the kitchen is a sanctuary, a place to escape to rather than from. This resonates deeply as Restoration Cake was born of my love of baking and began as a response to an unhappy worklife. I hated my desk job and would flee the office promptly at 5:30pm every evening to be back in the comfort of my kitchen by 6pm. I would either bake something or make the dinner – it was around this time that I started taking evening classes in Sugarcraft too.
I know how lucky I am to now make cakes for my living but my favourite part of the job is still meeting the Brides and Grooms, getting involved in the excitement of planning a Wedding. Cake is synonymous with happy occasions and I get to play a little part in making a celebration that little bit sweeter. If food is life, cake is happiness.
I left the Cathedral feeling thoroughly inspired and clutching my signed copy of Nigellissima to my chest as if to ward off the cold mist outside. I was fortunate enough to have been able to speak to Nigella, having caught her eye at the opening of the Q&A section of her talk (being the one person out of 1,000 who had bothered to wear a hat!) – I asked what advice she could offer an aspiring food writer.
Nigella’s commandments? Find your own voice, write about what you genuinely love to eat or prepare, and just go for it. Sound advice for everyone, really. To hear Nigella talk about her admiration for other authors, Anna del Conte in particular, made it feel OK to be loitering around the bottom rung of the ladder. We all have to make a start somewhere and we all need someone to look up to.
It’s not a great picture, I know, but it was all that there was time for with a queue of at least 500 wanting their books signed too!
So I guess now is as good a time as any to let you know that my very first e-book is in the pipeline (being formatted by the clever people who know how to do this kind of thing) and will be available to buy very soon! It’s a collection of articles and pictures and cakey goodness that I hope you will like.
And I’m off to start writing the next one now! Thank you to Nigella for a wonderful talk last night and for being such a fabulous inspiration.