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Nigella Lawson: "Risotto Makes me Feel Better about the World"
Photo Hugo Burnand

Nigella Lawson: "Risotto Makes me Feel Better about the World"

A personal interview on why she loves Italian food so much to write an entire book about it, mind you from a sensual British home cook's point of view

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Nigella Lawson is doing her world tour exactly like a rock star. However she is not promoting her new cd, but her book of recipes called “Nigellissima Instant Italian Inspiration” , published in Italian by Luxury Books under the title "Nigellissima, Le Mie Ricette Ispirate all'Italia". Few people know that the famous British food writer, one of the most powerful in the world with ten million pounds to show for it – studied for a year in Florence while waitressing in an hotel, and not only, her subject at Oxford was Italian. She instanly fell in love with Italian cooking.

Her world tour included stops in Florence and Milan, we were able to catch up with her for an interview.

What’s new in this book? Why Italian kitchen in particular?
To an extent, I never do anything new in the sense that I only ever write about the food I cook, and Italian food has always been a huge influence. But what *is* new is that I have devoted a whole book to the subject. Though, actually, there are more Italian recipes in all of my other books than in this one. I have written about more straightforward, traditional Italian food before, but in this book I found myself writing about the influence Italy has had on my cooking, as an English cook. For me Italy - and Italian food - have both been the most enduring inspirations of my life, and my cooking.

How to write a cooking best-seller with many copies sold, without being a chef?
I am glad to say that the official figure of books I've sold globally is around 8 million! I think this is partly because I am NOT a chef: I cook much as my readers cook. I certainly feel a great rapport with my readers, and feel proud to represent them and all other home cooks.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
I think, ultimately, risotto has to be my favorite comfort food. There are many reasons: in the first instance, anything that can be eaten with a spoon and out of a bowl (even if the elegant approach involves a plate and a fork) is for me inherently comforting; plus, with a risotto, the whole point is that each forkful or spoonful is soothingly like another, and that repetitiveness is as comforting as the same bedtime story told nightly to a small child; I think any serious contender for comfort food accolade has to be carbohydrate-heavy, and risotto complies here, too.  Also, making risotto is so comforting: standing by a stove, stirring slowly, ladling in hot stock, stirring again and so on is just the sort of mindless, repetitiveness activity that after a stressed day I find very comforting. I tend to be a fidgety person who is constantly multi-tasking and when I make risotto, I am forced to be calm and still and do one thing and one thing only: stir! But for me, comfort from food doesn't mean I want food that is just carb-heavy and stodgy and narcotic: the comfort of a risotto is matched by its uplifting elegance; it is an exquisite dish that makes me feel better about the world.

What do you think the current high level cuisine?
I am very much a home cook, and do not claim to be a haute-cuisine chef. But I am happy about this, not apologetic. I think the work of great chefs can be breathtaking and a form of edible art, and yet I do think for the ordinary home cook, their approach can be intimidating more than inspiring. Still, I love restaurants and I like the company of chefs, and their passion and feel privileged to eat the food of the great chefs. I am never going to try and emulate it in my own kitchen, however.

What’s your favorite Italian ingredient? What makes Italian food so inimitable, according to you?
Oh -so difficult to choose just one ingredient - how to choose the best extra virgin olive oil over Amalfi lemons or prosciutto di San Daniele for example? And then of course, there's pecorino and gorgonzola, and all the other Italian cheeses I wouldn't want to live without. For me, what makes Italian food so compelling is that it reflects the people, the regions, the structures of family and the commitment to treating food with respect and extracting maximum pleasure from it.

Your sexy-approach to food has betwitched English people, why do we think that is?
I don't see myself as espousing a sexy approach to food, but I certainly feel that the sensual pleasure that food engenders is one of the great joys of life; something that excites and soothes and makes all one's senses come alive.

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