Long before the creamy décolletage and the seductive spoon swirling, the licking, tasting and winking cookery shows, and long before the squalid horror of her then-husband Charles Saatchi throttling her in a restaurant, Nigella Lawson wrote one of the greatest cookery books ever. How To Eat was published 20 years ago, and in a sea of glycerine -sprayed, sumptuously photographed, coming-off-Nouvelle Cuisine food, it was an unusual book.
At 500 pages, and without illustrations, it was a risk for the publishers but Lawson had built a following as a food columnist for Vogue. It wasn’t so much the recipes that arrested, it was her prose - seemingly tossed-off but wise and inviting, and most of all, reassuring.
“I don’t believe you can ever really cook unless you love eating,” she said.
She was greedy and gorgeous. The book took off and she has rightfully become a goddess. The irony, though, was at the time her first husband, the brilliant journalist and columnist John Diamond, couldn’t eat her food because he was dying of throat cancer.
This month, as she celebrated the 20-year anniversary, she shared a photo of herself and Diamond at the launch party, saying: “Looking at this photo makes me happy but also very sad. I wish I could be in John’s arms now.”
To mark the anniversary, Vintage Classics has republished How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food.