Nigella Lawson, not one to do things in half measures, sought out a beautiful holiday setting at one of Byron Bay’s most hide-away beaches in November 2018. I am a Nigella fan, and she is a fan of Australian beaches (in Bondi she made the Birkini famous – protecting her beautiful, pale skin). What I love about Nigella’s cooking is her ability to describe its therapeutic benefits, through its process, combining/chopping/tasting, the aroma and look of ingredients, the comfort of a well-stocked pantry and the happiness a delicious meal brings. I have, of course, followed Nigella’s recent trip to Australia, in particular to the neck of the woods, Brisbane and nearby Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads (both beach towns) on Instagram (I’m not a fan of social media; but there are some people whose pages I look at now and again). In November 2018, Nigella shares perfectly with #nofilter capturing not only a few of the gorgeous plates she ate while in Australia but the beautiful surroundings. She didn’t show the interior and ceiling of @_donnachang Chinese restaurant – but I’ve been and fyi it’s worth a sneak peak on that Insta, too. On November 24, Nigella writes “I ate about two tablefuls of food… [including] dumplings, followed by southern rock lobster with ginger and spring onion in fine noodles”.
On the same day, Nigella posts a beautiful video of Wategos Beach, just south of the Queensland border (less than two hours drive south of Brisbane city). The posts include visits to Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay. Nigella visits Fleet Restaurant and describes the food as “magical, wholly enchanting” picturing “whipped smoked mullet with crisp skin and dill, porcupined with home made crisps”. I love the fourth photo from Fleet Restaurant, it’s so pretty, capturing the whole “only eat what you would photograph” to a T with its edible purple flowers (notably called “society garlic”). Nigella, the lady who Anthony Bourdain told American audiences and contestants of popular TV program ‘The Taste’: “underestimate her at your peril” is travelling back to Australia in February to hold book signings and chats in most Australian and New Zealand capital cities – tickets at Nigella.com ♥️
Having met Nigella briefly and had my ancient copies of How to be a Domestic Goddess and How To Eat books signed by her in 2017 after she was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman in the Bodleian Library, at the University of Oxford, I don’t think I will go back for seconds as my experience could not be upstaged. Nigella graduated from Oxford with a degree in Medieval and Modern Languages (the crush deepens).
Nigella and her comfort food (or bowl food in her latest cook book and TV series, Simply Nigella) has had me spellbound since I first heard her sumptuous English voice beaming out from her kitchen into my living room. It is a voice both authoritative and fun-loving at the same time, with a highly creative and flamboyant use of vocabulary, e.g. “tawny tangle of noodles”. Nigella places emphasis on words and puts pauses exactly where they’re needed. Nigella’s books demonstrate she is a literary critic and writer first, and a seriously glamorous foodie second, and she’s open about her long family history with cooking and her faves (high on the list is a roast chicken). She speaks a lot about simple, quick dishes and comfort. I think that it is a confusing thing for people, especially men perhaps, to get their head around the fact that Nigella is at once seriously beautiful and practical and an intellectual power-house. She writes and speaks about a down-to-earth subject, in a modest way, and yet her mannerisms are intoxicating, and I love watching her speak in interviews. Whether it is her cooking or her personal insights into life, she shares just enough about her journey and its plentiful sorrows and joys. All Nigella-ism offerings are heartfelt and meant to provide bliss in the way they’re delivered, and so she’s one of my favourite people. I also loved the descriptive writing and travels of Anthony Bourdain, RIP.
Speaking of alluring people and food, I went to dinner with a guy in Sydney last month who is now back in Santa Monica. Today, he sent me a photo of his grocery store purchase, and that was incredible because we were discussing the contents of the product, and about how you have to read labels, and note what percentage of the actual product is in the jar. So, he sent me a photograph of apple sauce and it is made in Santa Cruz and is made of 100 per cent organic apples. I had just seen one with 95 per cent apple, 5 per cent sugar (why, when apple is so sweet?) in an Australian store. I said “Do you put it on turkey? He replied “No I just eat it”. Got to add that he started the text exchange with “Man I must have been craving apples – I came home with a bottle of apple Gatorade, four apples and four jars of apple sauce. There’s one brand that’s the best and it’s usually sold out. So if I ever see it I buy all the jars.”
I have an Air BnB in Santa Monica located a short walk to the beach and to a healing, yoga and meditation space, White Rose Studio. Below her White Rose Studio, owner Emma, supports (mainly LA based) artists curating contemporary exhibitions within the art gallery space, Five Car Garage. Located high on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it’s a great spot for these two endeavours. Inner peace and health is serious and LA residents tend to be aware of, and tend to, their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. White Rose Studio offers a continual stream of classes where you get to slow down, deepen the senses and be as zen as possible, embrace loving-kindness towards ourselves and others. Emma offers up regular quartz crystal singing bowl healing sound baths, Pranayama breath work and meditation sessions, Reiki, knowledge sessions on herbalism, dreamatology, aura readings and other mystical wisdom in shared groups and private classes. Reiki Master, Amanda Jane, and one of my dearest friends and ultimate Yogi, Uma, are nearby in Venice Beach. California I can’t wait to see you!
This is one of my favourite Nigella interviews, where the interviewer, Gabrielle Hamilton, reads from Nigella’s book (and demonstrates Nigella’s inner literary critic and ability to hide an extraordinary intellect within a prologue to, and/or within the body of, a recipe, elevating the cooking genre in a way that glorifies it to what it should be – in Nigella’s opinion. Cooking does have the ability to encapsulate and provide so much goodness in our families lives. So much of how to embrace that exists within a page of Nigella’s writing, even within a paragraph. She even has the ability to create new adjectives, verbs and nouns and the interviewer above was clever enough to ask her what she meant because she couldn’t locate the word in the dictionary). Nigella talks about how she can use the food medium to talk about her truths about the world in a more general sense. Also, Nigella isn’t afraid of peppering in what might seem like the trivial to some – the absolute need or love of using a water kettle in hotel rooms (lacking in America!) for cups of tea. Yes, a device for boiling water in a jug that plugs into a wall. Excellent point to drop into an American interview – please tell all hoteliers across America! Especially essential for the Aussies and English who often travel with their favourite tea bags and find themselves desperate to boil some water (not in a sauce pan, guys) in a hotel room in NYC or an air bnb in Santa Monica.
I have located online stockists for the one hundred per cent organic applesauce made in California (however I could only find the one with added cinnamon available) in the Santa Cruz organics brand.
P.S. A note on how to make your visit Australia better than average. Wear a good suncream and a broad hat. You may be one of the lucky ones to have experienced Brisbane – not just Sydney or Melbourne – when you made the journey to the land down under. The sub-tropical city Brisbane has beaches on both sides of it. Beach life in Australia is serious, friends talk of their therapeutic daily swim in the salt water and the ‘next ten’ new beaches to visit on the bucket list for this year. Aussies are surrounded from top to bottom with beaches, and the small population is 95 per cent located on the edges of the country, poised to enjoy the blue. To paint the picture, Sydney’s Bondi Beach gets a lot of attention but it is for the novice, if you’ve seen Mooloolaba in Queensland then you will agree that Bondi Beach is a bit half-baked. It’s probably because it is on the doorstep of the largest Australian city, Sydney. So it is a great starter beach, but if I was visiting Sydney I would go to Palm Beach or Coogee Beach. So for people who are able to organise themselves a trip to a proper surf beach, you’re in for a game changer experience. You can listen to surfers who devote their whole lives to the beach, and see loads of paintings and photographs, however you need to actually go and walk along, and even if it is in the shallows, swim, to know the feeling and what I mean when I say the beach has the most free and luxurious feeling, and enhances wellness.
may your days be merry and bright