Life Lessons from Nigella

Life lessons I learned from Nigella

I love Nigella Lawson. I love her recipes, I love her books, I love her TV programmes and I love how, like me, she is rather partial to a late night trip to the fridge.

Although these days, I’m embracing my inner minimalist, there is nothing minimal about my cookbook collection, which of course includes almost everything Nigella. However, in the spirit of minimalism, I borrowed her latest book At My Table from the library, and have been cooking up a storm. If I still have a gaping hole in my soul and a rumbling in my belly after I return the book, I’ll splash my cash and make it my own on a permanent basis.

As I haven’t splashed the cash on the book, I decided to splash the cash on a ticket to see Nigella in person instead, in conversation with social psychologist Hugh McKay at the School of Life event entitled ‘Why Food Matters.”

Together Nigella and Hugh explored the relationship between food and our identity, morality, rituals and creativity in the context of a society where busyness prevails, households are becoming smaller, processed and fast food is becoming the norm and anxiety is at almost epidemic levels. Throughout the evening Nigella shared her thoughts on food as both a symbol and as therapy, in terms of cooking, serving and eating. No food was prepared but rest assured there was plenty of food for thought.

The thing I love about life, is that no matter how old or young you are, there are always lessons to be learned, like that one time I learned an important life lesson from a cucumber sandwich. Life lessons are everywhere, even in inanimate food objects. I won’t lie, I’m quite impressionable, and this is not the first time I’ve learned important life lessons from famous idols. Remember that time I learned life lessons from Rob Thomas?!

Think of this as the Tao of Nigella. You’re welcome!

Life lessons from Nigella Lawson

That one time I was in the same room as Nigella!

1. Let’s Consume Less and Produce More

Historically, we humans have never been more removed from the production of our food. These days we’re more focused on consuming the food rather than producing it. Everyone agrees that the measurable outcome of cooking is the end result, but the meaning of cooking, is very much in the process. So much of what we do in life is consuming but when we cook, we’re  producing something real.

“In a sense a recipe is a way of finding order in the mess of life. It’s a guide, something to hold on to.” At My Table

Nigella's Pork with Prunes Olives and Capers

Nigella’s Pork with Prunes, Olives and Capers At My Table

2. Get Mindful in the Kitchen

The process of cooking is mindful – it’s one of the ways we can be in the present. Those simple tasks like chopping veggies or stirring a risotto connect and ground us  for those 5,10 or 20 minutes. Nigella describes it as feeling nature in her kitchen.

For me certainly, the kitchen is my happy place. If I’m anxious, sad, worried or mad, time spent preparing food always makes me feel better. People will often say that they’re too busy to cook, but Nigella asks, “What are you doing? Writing War and Peace?” Cooking is the perfect way to decompress and destress – it’s a multi sensory experience.

 “When I cook, I am absorbed in the simple rituals of chopping, stirring, tasting, losing myself in the world of flavour, sensation and straightforward practicalities.” Simply Nigella

Nigella's Nutella Brownies

Nigella’s Nutella Brownies – Simply Nigella

3. Life is a series of accidents

“Everything that happens in life is an accident,” and some are clearly happier than others. Cooking isn’t a set of rigid rules, a recipe is a guide on which you can make your own mark or put your own stamp. Control the  small things, because you sure as hell can’t control the big things like life and death. Cooking like life is a series of accidents, and very delicious ones at that.

“We cannot control life by controlling what we eat. But how we cook and indeed, how we eat does give us – as much as anything can – mastery over ourselves.” Simply Nigella

Nigella's Double Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Cookies

Nigella’s Double Chocolate and Pumpkin Seed Cookies – At My Table

4. When all else fails, serve soup

Nigella says that a bowl of soup is resorative and I’m inclined to agree. When you’re feeling unwell, physically or emotionally, the very act of chewing food and/or deciding which thing you’re going to eat on the plate can be hard yakka. Maybe it takes us back to the time when we were infants, or maybe it’s because every spoon from the bowl is comfortingly the same, (and comfortingly delicious) but as Nigella says “soup is the answer to so much.” Agreed. I don’t think there’s anything that a bowl of my Auntie Sandra’s Champion Chicken Soup can’t fix!

“…any recipe ever written , any meal ever eaten, is a story, the story of home cooking which in turn is about who we are , where we’re from and the lives that we’ve lived , and what we say to each other – all those assertions of love, friendship, hospitality, hope – when we invite people to sit at our table and eat the food we’ve made for them.” At My Table

Auntie Sandra's Champion Chicken Soup

Auntie Sandra’s Champion Chicken Soup

5. How to Cook If You’re Not a Good Cook

Nigella advises you to try a recipe so many times that you know it so well and can cook it so confidently so that one day, you’ll be able to and want to, make it your own. But her best piece of advice was her response to the question, “what do you do if you don’t like cooking?” Her answer was simple. “If you don’t like cooking, don’t do it. Why make yourself miserable?”

“Life is complicated; cooking doesn’t have to be.”  At My Table

Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake

Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake –  Feast

6. You matter.

With 1 in 3 Australian households are single occupancy, more Australians than ever are living alone. There’s a general opinion that it’s not worth cooking, or getting busy for one. However, Nigella sees cooking like self care and explains that cooking for oneself is truly taking care of oneself. She says “treat yourself like someone who matters.”

“I have always believed that food you cook yourself is essentially good for you. This is not just because real foods are better for you than fake foods, but because the act of cooking for yourself is in itself a supremely positive act, an act of kindness.” Simply Nigella

Ginger beer bundt cake 3

Ginger Beer Bundt Cake inspired by Nigella’s Apple Cider Bundt – Simply Nigella

7. On Recipe Books

Ironically as a society, we are cooking less but watching more cooking programmes and buying more cookbooks than ever before – we’re cooking vicariously. And those cookbooks I’ve collected? (Or hoarded, depending on your point of view,) Nigella says recipe books are a bit Pick n Mix, not every recipe will be to your taste, but if one great recipe comes from a book, then it’s totally worth it. And I’m inclined to agree.

” … how we cook can make our lives easier, make us feel better and more alive, and connect ourselves, to others and the world.” Simply Nigella

Life lessons from Nigella - Banana, White Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes

Banana, White Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes – How To Be A Domestic Goddess

Are you a Nigella fan too? Do you have a favourite recipe? Do you collect cookbooks too?

Linking up with Kylie for IBOT

  • I’m a huge fan of Nigella. Hoping to meet her at an event here in WA this year.

    All I can think of is soup right now after reading this and bone broth. Can’t get enough of bone broth. Do you think my sound asleep family might cause a fuss if I start making soup at 3am? Probably best to wait.

    • Bone broth is so good for you – I love a bit of late night, mid night baking – if only my kitchen was sound proofed! If you get to meet Nigella, you’re in for a treat!

  • Luce

    Oh what a very interesting article Sammie. As you know I love Nigella and over the years I have collected many cookbooks and one of the most favourite things I do is read them at night in bed.
    Over the last few years I have given many of my cookbooks away as you know I too am a minimalist but I have kept my Nigella.

  • LydiaCLee

    I love that ‘treat yourself like someone who matters’. That’s fantastic. And not limited to single households. You know I’m going to have to write about that one!

  • I adore Nigella- she’s a very smart woman as well as a cracking cook and her recipes seem designed to share with a family or crowd of mates

  • Ingrid – fabulous and fun life

    These are great life lessons. I especially like the one about cooking for yourself being an act of kindness.

    I do have a large collection of cookbooks which I have rationalised and culled a bit over the last few months. But knowing me I will continue buying new cookbooks that appeal to me as they are released!


  • Cate Brickell

    I haven’t bought any cookbooks for years! terrible, I know, but I prefer baking, not cooking (and I do believe there is a difference)… maybe it’s time I hunted down a new cookbook for inspiration, though

  • “If you don’t like cooking, don’t do it. Why make yourself miserable?” I think I just might be in love with Nigella 🤪

    Seriously, so many take aways from the post. Thank you so much for sharing. Xx

  • Get mindful in the kitchen – that is what I need to do. I hate cooking. I look at it as a chore but if I actually slowed down, took in the veggies and chopped and breathed and talked to family – I might start to say to myself – it’s a gift of time given to you, not taken away.

  • I love Nigella – and it would have been fantastic to see her in person. Speaking of seeing people in person, I would love to catch up with you soon xox

    • It was so awesome seeing her live. And yes, I’d love to see you in person too – I can’t believe it’s been so long. Where does the time go?!

  • I love her- ever since I saw one of her cooking shows in the old days and she was so real and funny rather than trying to be perfect. I love how her comments here all tie in perfectly to self care and mindfulness and connection. Some people see food simply as energy and others have the full experience on every level. Thanks for this and I will have to check out her new cookbook at the library as well. We have too many cookbooks so I have put a ban on them for now (I definitely buy them to enjoy vicariously and hope my husband or daughter will cook for me from them as I am one of those who don’t like to cook)

    • It was fascinating to hear her speak – I love her to bits. I definitely fall into the category of experiencing food at every level. LOL! I find celebrity chefs are to cookbooks as bands are to albums – their style evolves with every new book/album. The new book is much healthier and more wholesome than her previous books but it’s honest to goodness delicious. Everything we’ve made, we’ve loved!

  • I don’t collect cookbooks because I don’t cook to recipes. Can’t do it (also can’t sew using a pattern but can make it from scratch). Just how my brain works 🙂 But I do like cooking. I find it easier to cook three meals at once rather than one.

    • Well if you can sew, you have one up on me! I must say, I like cooking in bulk too. I think I have your share of the cookbooks 🙂

  • What an awesome event! These are such great tips too so it sounds like it was totally worth it!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Great advice! I love soup too especially when I’m unwell or actually at all times.

  • Wow, I’m really impressed by Nigella! I love to cook and do find it rather therapeutic. #teamIBOT

  • merilyn

    thank you sammir! … I love nigella!
    i’m captivated by her!… and her writing is superior too!
    I have the same feelings when I paint! I loose myself and find myself at the same time!
    much love mxx

    • She’s a dead set legend, isn’t she?! I can see how you would lose yourself when you paint – aren’t we lucky to have a creative outlet? xx

  • To be honest, I haven’t watched, read or cooked much from Nigella although I love the way she makes food such a sensual art. Your post on Life Lessons From a Cucumber Sandwich made me giggle and your words about presence, meaning and love through food have me inspired. Such a great post Sammie! Xx

    • Yay! My cucumber sandwich continues to inspire – just goes to show inspiration is everywhere. I love Nigella unconditionally but even I was really inspired by the conversation between herself and Hugh. So many take aways 🙂

  • I have a huge amount of cook books but tend to stick to a couple of my favourites most of the time. I adore cooking for company but often feel bogged down in the every day make the kids happy cooking. I must take more time to enjoy it x

    • One thing about having so many recipes on the blog is that we’re always trying something new which definitely keeps things fresh and exciting in the kitchen… But I only have 2 to cook for. Hats off to you, lady!

  • I don’t mind cooking per se, what I REALLY mind though is cleaning up after cooking. If I didn’t have to clean up at all, if I could just cook and things would magically clean themselves then I would cook all day every day because I do enjoy the end result and the odd alchemy of taking whole, separate things that you wouldn’t enjoy eating on their own but when put together are delicious. That cleaning thing is one of the reasons I don’t mind cooking so much in the thermomix, because there is such minimal cleaning afterwards.

    • I hear ya! That’s a big reason why I love the Thermomix too – it saves time not just in the cooking process but the cleaning up is minimal too. I must admit, I am the world’s messiest cook, the kitchen looks like something after the apocalypse when I am done!