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Nigella Lawson, Kitchen Confidante 

Wednesday, Nov 25 2015
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The rise of the celebrity chef hasn't simply given us sub-par cookware sets on QVC. No, it has also given us celebrity-chef gossip, and in some cases, celebrity-chef public shaming. In the case of Paula Deen, close scrutiny of a history of racial remarks destroyed her career.

But what of the public shaming of Nigella Lawson, whose allegedly cruel marital abuse was broadcast worldwide? Her apparent asshole of a husband, adman and art collector Charles Saatchi, was seen in photographs grabbing her by the throat in such a brash, public way that viewers were left horrified as to what must happen behind closed doors. It's not as though anyone thought Lawson should be ashamed of the incident; absolutely not. It's that her entire career had been built on the idea of her as a domestic goddess, a muse who is Calliope in the kitchen and Erato in the bedroom, insatiable in her hunger for all things carnal and satiating. Having a shitty marriage didn't fit into that. (For me, having her be attached at all was a bad career move.) Surely, people tuned in to see her on TV because she was their private girlfriend, someone who would wear a tight sweater to spoon-feed them red velvet mousse, her lips still dabbed with cherry juice from the fruit she delicately sucked to check for ripeness only a moment before.

If you're a female chef in the spotlight, you're expected to be perfect. We may think we have left the Mad Men era, but we have not. Men can drink and smoke, cheat on their wives, and be homophobic — Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Fieri — but women will find an audience only if they project some archetype of femininity. Ree Drummond has the perfect family, Paula Deen embodies the ideal of Southern charm and hospitality, Ina Garten lives in upper-middle-class domestic bliss, and Nigella Lawson is the one you want to fuck. You've come a long way, baby.

Being sexy and sensual was her niche, and if she was going to rise up from the ashes at the bottom of her Smeg Range, then she needed to rebrand herself. Lawson's new show on the BBC is an obvious attempt at just that. Simply Nigella, it is called, with the idea that she has shed her previous skin and is now a woman reborn. The title can also be taken literally, as in, Nigella Without The Dickhead in Her Life. As if to sear the point home, it opens with the strains of Stevie Wonder's "For Once In My Life." "Food is therapy" seems to be its message. It's something she can always count on. Life gave her lemons, and she made a dozen lemon cream pâte à choux and ate the whole fucking box. (Actually, that would be an accurate representation of heartbreak. In this new Nigella world, she is still slim and has a healthy relationship with food. Bah, humbug.)

The show is much like her old shows Nigella Bites and Nigella Feasts, which took place in her own home and in her own kitchen. (We are led to believe that, at least). Simply starts in her new townhouse.

"I've settled into my new kitchen, and where I am in my life right now," Lawson says in a voiceover, as the camera pans over her terrace and Greater London. "Come with me, if you will, to the dark side ... And I mean dark."

The camera cuts to a tight shot of a decadent chocolate tart being seductively sliced by a sharp knife. Ooh, push it to the hilt.

Lawson promises that all of her recipes come from "joyous encounters with people or places." Five minutes in, and it's already been hammered home: She's got new energy, a new attitude, and is grabbing life by the bouillabaisse. In this way, I am proud to say that Nigella Lawson is the first female celebrity chef to represent the Woman Scorned Reborn archetype. She's the Tammy Wynette of cookery. Stand By Your Stove, Not Your Man. Not only has she kept her sensuality and sense of self, she has overcome a bad relationship. Combining this with a cooking show is totally and completely brilliant. Go, Nigella, go! She is woman, hear her roast!

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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