Nigella Lawson had a solo pandemic, drinking Campari & putting potato chips in bowls

Nigella Lawson signs her book

Last summer, Nigella Lawson said words about the pandemic and how she was too distracted to cook in the early weeks of lockdown. It made me feel better, like I wasn’t terrible for being too unfocused to cook for twenty minutes at a time. Nigella’s two children are all grown up (Cosima is 27, Bruno is 24) and out of the house, and Nigella divorced Charles Saatchi years ago, so she spent the pandemic year alone in her house. I guess she got out of the “too distracted to cook” thing, because now she says she wrote her new cookbook entirely in lockdown, and she says that she actually enjoyed having a quiet house all to herself. She spent the pandemic year wearing sacks, eating chocolate in bed and trying out recipes for one. It sounds blissful.

Life at 61: She rarely wears makeup and sticks to a “baggy black thing” wardrobe, prefers “lounging about flat out” to sitting, eats chocolate in bed—and makes sure to revel in it all. “I feel that you get to a certain age, and your desire for comfort is so much greater than your vanity.”

Her mother Vanessa Salmon: “Diagnosed with terminal cancer two weeks before her death [at age 48], she started eating—for the first time, she said giddily—without worry or guilt,” Lawson writes in her 12th cookbook, Cook, Eat, Repeat, out April 20. “How unbearably sad.”

Losing her first husband & her sister far too young: “A loss doesn’t magically go away. The wound is always there, but it’s not as raw. And it is not linear—you go up and down; some years can be harder. You don’t know why it is that you can be plunged into lowness or why some things don’t upset you.”

The fragility of life during the current pandemic. “I’m my children’s only parent. I wasn’t going to risk anything.” So she spent much of it alone (Lawson split from her second husband, Charles Saatchi, in a very public divorce in 2013), writing her book and cooking for one.

She loves solitude: “I’ve grown to love solitude, which was just as well since I’ve been plunged into it. I’m not a huge drinker, but I did take up drinking more during lockdown: Campari sodas. I don’t have one every day anymore, but I did for a couple of months. I’d think, ‘What potato chips am I going to have with my Campari soda?’ I put them in a bowl, like my grandmother did, and I rather like that ceremony.”

Vaccinated & true to herself: Lawson is now happily vaccinated but has still been in “semi-lockdown” in her London home due to restrictions in Britain, and says she’s found comfort in finally being her true self. “A lot of people in my family have died of cancer, and I don’t think you can witness that and equate thinness with health. It’s quite alarming. I don’t focus on what people say about me, even when I’m filming. I occasionally think, ‘Oh, why didn’t I hold my tummy in?’ but it doesn’t last because I was trying to be something other than I am, which would make me feel even more uncomfortable. The shape of your body, that’s where the flesh settles, isn’t it? You can’t do an awful lot about that.”

[From People]

I wish Nigella’s cooking show had been more of a thing here in America – I used to catch the reruns on The Cooking Channel and I always found her so soothing. But that’s me – I watch cooking shows to relax and decompress, and Nigella’s soft accent and ability to whip up extravagant chocolate desserts soothed me. I love the story about drinking alone and putting her potato chips into a fancy bowl, why not?? And this it really important: “A lot of people in my family have died of cancer, and I don’t think you can witness that and equate thinness with health. It’s quite alarming.” Thank you.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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25 Responses to “Nigella Lawson had a solo pandemic, drinking Campari & putting potato chips in bowls”

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  1. Esmom says:

    PBS cooking shows on Saturdays were my ultimate relaxation for years. I really enjoyed Nigella’s show, too. She makes cooking seem effortless and achieving balance seem easy, too.

    I tend to not eat when I am anxious or depressed, I can get to a place where food seems to have no taste. So I tend to associate thinness with unhappiness. And when people say “wow, you look so great,” they have no idea. I never comment on people’s weight because you just don’t know how they are feeling. I will comment on someone’s hair and/or makeup, though, when they are looking extra amazing.

    • Darla says:

      Very wise. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. When I told my favorite aunt “wow you lost weight you look so good!” and I will never forget the stricken look on her face for the rest of my life. She had just been diagnosed with lung cancer and hadn’t told me yet, and didn’t yet know how bad it was. She was dead within several months. I’ve never commented on weight loss again.

      • SarahCS says:

        It’s a weird thing that in our society this is seen as something we comment on and it’s a compliment. I’ve now lost two of my aunts to cancer and she’s absolutely right.

        I had a supplier at work meet with me one January and say something along those lines and while yes, I was glad to not be carrying all the extra winter/Christmas weight (because I’ve spent my whole life being told that’s a bad thing), it was because I’d had gastroenteritis from Boxing Day and didn’t manage to get out of bed at all for the first four days. I was dropping a kilo at day in the worst of it. Utterly miserable.

        So yeah, I’ve been more conscious of not doing the same to others since then.

      • Esmom says:

        Oh no, that’s rough Darla, so sorry. Definitely a tough lesson.

        SarahCS, I once got severe stomach flu while flying on a business trip overseas and it was the most miserable experience having to be on the plane and in the airport changing planes and having to throw up every 30 minutes. I just stayed in my hotel room the whole 3 days, so sick. I finally came down to dinner with our clients on the last night, shaky and pale, and my co-worker’s only comment was “just think of how much weight you probably lost!” Sigh.

      • Justwastingtime says:

        Thank you Darla.. I have posted this before but I lost so much weight after an accident and surgery and was so ill and everyone kept congratulating me on my weight loss.. pathetic as my skin tone was a lovely shade of green .

    • Louise says:

      Esmom, I’m like that as well. I stress starve, rather than stress eat. It’s not really a choice, i just have whatever the opposite is of an appetite.

      • Esmom says:

        Yes, the worst feeling is trying to eat and finding that everything tastes like cardboard, basically.

    • Aud says:

      I was only thin when I had an eating disorder. I know not every thin person has one, but the pressure to be thin is linked to that in my mind because of my own experience. So I understand how you feel. Losing weight usually means that I’m struggling mentally and coping by not eating.

  2. SarahCS says:

    She’s 61???

    I love her so much, I rarely watch cooking shows where it’s the chef to camera but discovered Masterchef Australia a few years back and it’s EPIC. They all live in a house together and the whole thing runs for three months. Amazing. Nigella is a regular guest and she’s absolutely delightful. It hurts me to think about her last marriage and what she went through, I’m so pleased that she’s found a good place for herself.

    • Killfanora says:

      Not only is she incredibly wise and self-aware about size and eating, but her recipes are sooooo easy to follow. They are also very tasty and a big wow factor when produced at dinner parties!

  3. Mcmmom says:

    Good point about thinness – I’m at the age when if I see someone has dropped a lot of weight, I think they are either sick or having marital problems.

    • Jane says:

      It is a good point, except I’ve met her in real life and she’s absolutely tiny.

  4. L says:

    She and I would be fast friends. Campari and soda & potato chips are also my go-tos!

  5. Wendy says:

    I love her – she seems wise and so intelligent. When she was having her issues with her ex-husband, it really made me sad.

  6. Kristen says:

    I used to watch her show all of the time. I loved her then and love her even more now.

  7. Jess says:

    I love all of this – esp the comment about choosing comfort over vanity (the opposite of Celine!). My daughter summed up my style years ago like this: you want to look pretty but you care more about being comfortable. She was dead on and it just gets truer by the day!

  8. grabbyhands says:

    This is honestly the only royalty I’m interested in reading about because this woman is a queen.

    Admittedly, having wealth and beauty probably makes getting older much easier, but I still love that she seems comfortable in her skin as she ages – I wish I had that much confidence and security. I want to win a contest where the prize is being able to hang out with her for a week and get cooking lessons.

  9. ClaireB says:

    I loved watching her shows when we got them here. She always emphasized enjoyment of food and didn’t overly focus on absolutely everything being healthy.

  10. Tanguerita says:

    She is one of the few people whom I admire unreservedly.

  11. MissF says:

    I love Nigella, I really do. Haven’t forgotten about the episode of Cook Eat Repeat where she… buttered toast. And that was the recipe. Put butter on toast. She’s the only one who can get away with pulling stunts like that.

  12. Robin says:

    I’ll never forget when she used “initimate terrorism” to describe her marriage to that idiot, Charles Saatchi. It’s something that wraps up the whole experience of being with someone who undermines everything about you.

  13. iconoclast59 says:

    I love Nigella. And she’s so sensual in her cooking shows… I’m straight, but dang, she makes me reconsider! BTW, that Beet, Rhubarb, and Ginger soup in the Insta looks amazing.

  14. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    Always and forever a Nigella fan. That’s all.

  15. Amber says:

    Nigella is great. I love how she makes cooking seem no-nonsense and straightforward. And her recipes are very well-written because they kind of anticipate questions you might have (eg “if it looks too thin at this stage, don’t worry, it will thicken as it cools”). She is a great lady. I appreciate her attitude around body image/thinness too.