Nigella Lawson: Dressing Gowned Hero or Zero? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Nigella Lawson: Dressing Gowned Hero or Zero?

Kat Smith and Aamina Siddiqi discuss their views of Nigella Lawson’s persona on screen

Kat Smith - Zero


Nigella: a household name so prominent she needs no surname.

Although she may be considered a nice break from the emphasis on clean-eating with her unapologetically indulgent dishes, I cannot help but feel Nigella’s brand is a little too much.

Cooking in a silk dressing gown, presenting a never-withering smile, as she cracks bog-standard eggs, and giving somewhat violating eye-contact while she tests her creations all results in me cringing in discomfort. "I’m going to rupture the calm by whisking the egg whites" is not something I was expecting to hear in the context of waffle-making, but that’s just Nigella for you.

I cannot help but feel Nigella’s brand is a little too much

Of course, this is harmless. She is frivolous, attractive, and no one is forcing me to watch Lawson’s long introductions about how a table is more than a piece of furniture. I don’t have to endure her enunciated sigh of relief once her electronic mixer had finished.

Maybe I should accept her brand as a transcendence of her cooking ability and thank her for not banishing carbs and saturated fat from our diets. She is the reigning queen of eating for pleasure, something so frowned upon in a generation of gym-bunnies and clean-eaters, so for that, I salute her.

But even if at times I adore her dramatic display of cooking and the breath of fresh air it provides, I’m concerned that cooking and food are not things that should be sold through a sexualised performance.  Her shows are reminiscent of low-fat yoghurt adverts where women make sensual moans to showcase just how indulgent and delicious it is.

Where are the savage Gordon Ramsay-esque female chefs?

It seems that women either have to have vegan, low-calorie, gluten-free, non-carb, sugar-free (the list can be endless) cooking media platforms, or indulgent and over-sexualised ones. Where are the savage Gordon Ramsay-esque female chefs? That’s the content I want to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Food is about enjoyment but she takes it way too far. If I want to learn how to make a waffle, I’ll be on BBC Good Food. Sorry, Nigella.

Aamina Siddiqi - Hero

Nigella loves food. This may seem like a glaringly obvious statement to make, but in an age where food crazes are dominated by a focus on wellness, I admire her for staying true to herself. Despite a media scandal involving an abusive husband and allegations of cocaine use, she hasn’t let any of it faze her in her return to television, and her personality remains unchanged. From her extensive vocabulary to her wardrobe, to the way she smiles at the camera, everything about her oozes glamour and sophistication.

Food is not dirty or the enemy but something to be celebrated and enjoyed

In a recent episode, she admitted to caving in to the allure of the spiralizer, which instead of a standalone device that most people buy, was an attachment to her copper KitchenAid. Affronted with the idea of making ‘courgetti' she uses it to make potato spirals which she then deep fries. This is not Nigella redefining food, but reclaiming it, in a way that means we don’t have to be guilty by association. So much of the 'clean eating' rhetoric relies on a division between good and bad, when really food is not dirty or the enemy but something to be celebrated and enjoyed.

If anyone buys too many varieties of chilli, there would have to be an intervention, but Nigella dedicates an entire shelf in her pantry to it. I must respect her dedication to the endeavour of authenticity through the use of ingredients, even if they can only be found at Fortnum and Mason. What I especially love about her series’ and cookbooks is that dish is preceded with a story. Why create a recipe for brownies unless they need to be made in an emergency?!

Nigella has embraced herself and is truly content in all things ostentatious

Food does not simply have a functional purpose of curbing hunger, but the creation of it provides comfort and meaning, and this is evident in the joy that she gets from cooking – I want Nigella to look at me the way she looks at a plate of food. Her serving style is amazing and I understand that when you’re at the table, it’s a space where the consumption and appreciation of food is the medium through which other things can happen.

The image of Nigella standing in her kitchen in a silk dressing gown whisking waffle batter on a Sunday morning is the level of adulthood I want to attain. Some may say that she’s showing off – I say that she’s embraced herself and is truly content in all things ostentatious.



6th December 2017 at 9:00 am

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