Nigella Lawson; as divisive as Marmite on a good day, but at the moment her once revered culinary abilities and the poetic descriptions of her creations are the last things on anybody’s lips.
So where did it all go wrong? How could our love affair with the twinkly-lit muted scenes of conviviality turn sour overnight?
Was it because we discovered to our horror that Nigella is only as human as the rest of us? Can we not forgive somebody who we have put so high upon a pedestal? Not even at Christmas? Not even when we have all – and frankly, we’d be lying through clenched teeth if we said otherwise – stolen some of her whimsically festive ideas?
Nigella hasn’t changed. We have changed. We’ve changed our minds. We’re no longer willing to love her unconditionally. She’s not this glossy, flawless creature after all. It was all just a show for the cameras, an illusion.
We are the fools to have ever thought otherwise.
But I have an affinity with Nigella. No, it’s not just because I happen to have her cookbook open on my wanabee kitchen island – sadly it’ll never rival hers – musing at the Baked Alaska, wondering where I can get myself one of those kitsch skier models that she has snowploughing down her meringue. It’s because Nigella’s current debacle is actually a hammed up version of my past. And I suspect a highly-dramatised version of many a person’s past, present, and sadly, future to come.
I used to live two lives, became quite a master of it. We all have an actor inside as it turns out.
Nigella’s pristinely applied cosmetics; the pillar box red lippy and doe-eyes; that was me glammed up for a business trip. Nigella’s flirtation at the camera to every male viewer in the country was my cry for salvation from the horrors that lay waiting for me at home. I scoured the cities of Frankfurt, Bologna, Paris and Hong Kong for a Knight in Shining Armour instead. Nigella’s – alleged – substance abuse? That’s the metaphor for my cake addiction to numb the pain. Not just cake. Biscuits, chocolate, 500ml tubs of Haagen Daz, I wasn’t fussy. Bolstering came in all shapes and sizes. Okay, drugs might be the most harmful of those – if indeed Charles Saatchi’s allegations are founded – let us not forget the gas-lighting ways and the manipulative workings of a perpetrator’s mind. The cocaine, the chocolate, the wine; ultimately they’re all a symbol for the same thing: the outlet. When you are alone in that dark place, in the dark days and nights of the soul, you will turn to anything for some bolstering. It’s just a shame Nigella didn’t lean toward her delectable snow-flecked brownies.
Yet there’s a silver lining to be found in the cloud that hangs over Nigella: she has finally, publicly, broken the taboo. Domestic violence – and the ways we resort to dealing with it – goes on in every walk of life, every culture and every circle. Now we have it in writing.
We’re a nation of celebrity junkies. No not all of us, but those of us who are, are many. We wouldn’t even abandon our favourite football team with the disdain we dish out freely to the likes of Nigella. Does the underdog rule not apply to our kitchen heroines as well? Is it – dare I say it – because she’s a woman?
‘She’s a toff. She should know better.’
Since when did upper class status and money buy happiness?
‘She’s a celebrity. She has to accept the intrusion of the paparazzi into her life, it goes with the territory. She’s asked for it.’
Has she? Is that why she frequently chose a seemingly discreet corner of a trusted restaurant to dine out as inconspicuously as possible? Do we often see her splashed all over the front pages of The Sun with all the panache of a Z-lister wearing a belt and a see-through bra whilst snorting a line? The last time I recall her being snapped up in private prior to her downfall, she was wearing a hideously unflattering all-in-one UV suit paddling on the Australian Gold Coast. Hardly a contender for the me-me-me syndrome that plagues some of our ‘stars’.
What we give out we get boomeranged right back at us. This is Newton’s Law.
The greatest gift we can give to ourselves then; is to quit deflecting from our own inadequacies. Nigella’s situation is but a mirror of our own. We have all had our Nigella moment. It’s the very reason we act so strongly, so bitterly towards her. Nigella is the icon of the shameful skeletons lurking in our own cupboards; the juicy stories we know would be aired if only we had our five minutes in the limelight, too.
And the greatest gift we can give to Nigella is the opportunity to dust herself down, pick herself up and get back to what she does best; giving us permission to indulge In glorious cake hot out the oven… and buying fairy lights.