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23rd September 2012

Nigella the cunning linguist

A journey into the wonderful territory of lip-smackingly delectable food writing

In honour of the Domestic Goddess’ new book, Nigellissima, I have taken it upon myself to delve into the rich and glorious world of Nigella Lawson’s luscious lingo, where no edible thing can be described simply or through normal means, but instead must be subjected to innuendo, metaphor and wondrous  verbiage. In her world, scones have cellulite and cheesecakes should be voluptuously tenderbellied. Quite frankly, this is a world I want to live in.

There is a long history of exorbitant food writing, with Nigel Slater springing most immediately to mind after Lawson. Some liken it to a form of pomposity – especially within the realm of the restaurant menu, where you will find a ‘black olive crumb’ and an ‘assiette of vegetables.’ I must admit, however, that it doesn’t offend me quite as much as it perhaps should. On cold, sleepless nights, I can curl up in bed and read through the beautiful narrative that is Nigella’s description of her salubrious Sambuca Kisses, small doughnut bites that apparently ‘caress the mouth flutteringly as you eat them’.

Nigellissima features recipes from and inspired by her adoptive homeland, Italy, and it is just as sultry and passionate as you have come to expect. As with all of her literature, the words seem to subliminally speak to you with a subtle air of eyebrow raising and spoon licking, and the ingredients of each recipe seem to somehow do the same. You’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t make heavy use of butter, garlic, chilli or anchovies – all of which are sinful for their ability to plump one’s rear or to corrupt the breath with a wicked stench.

The first recipe I flicked to, a threesome of panna cottas, sums up everything I adore about Nigella: she explains that ‘a panna cotta must have a voluptuous and quivering softness … the trick is to add just enough gelatine to keep the unmoulded cream from collapsing, but it should still have just enough wibble about it to hint that it could break its borders and spill free.’ Ooh, Matron.

Move over, Fifty Shades of Whatever. Nigella gets my vote.

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