Sunday, October 28, 2007

Express Happiness

When I first started to watch Nigella Express, I wasn't that amused. The idea of "express" food didn't really appeal to me, seeing that I'm one to carefully plan my meals and I try to be very conscious of what I eat. Not that I'm the poster girl for healthy eating, as you've probably noticed from some of my previous posts. Yes, I know Nigella's recipes aren't meant to be health food, but I was under the impression that the whole series and book were going to be nothing more than artery- clogging, calorific, fast foods. Anyhow, I've seen all the shows so far and must now confess that there were quite a few recipes which really wooed me- the Caramel Croissant Pudding and the Breakfast Bruschetta come to mind. I couldn't resist. The book arrived Friday and since then I have totally and truly fallen in love with it, and with Nigella. I love her now even more than I did before. And perhaps this is the time for me to say how big a role she's played in my passion for food and in seeing it as something to be relished. Since becoming a Nigella fan, I no longer look at food in terms of "calories", and I think that's a good thing.

Nigella seems to enjoy her life. She's passionate (something which tends to annoy people) and she doesn't give a flying hoot about fitting into what society prescribes as acceptable. It's so refreshing to see a woman comfortable in her own skin. That's what makes her beautiful, and that's the reason why so many people have something to say about her. In a world where many have forgotten to really take pleasure in life, Nigella tells us it's OK to enjoy. Life is so short, sounds like a cliché perhaps, but something she knows all too well.

After reading the whole book, I can happily report that not all of the recipes are rich or fattening. There are quite a few lovely salads, lots of things with avocados, berries, pomegranates, salmon, beans and all those other things we consider "good" foods. So in fact, I feel there's been a lot of fuss over nothing. I can't say I'm completely clean here. Like I said, I wasn't really amused with Express in the beginning. It was only after reading the book, and trying to catch what she was trying to say between the lines (enjoy things!), that I changed my mind. Let me just clarify one thing- Nigella hasn't given me a reason to pig out now. She never did. I still plan careful menus, eat organic, hate convenience food and avoid fast- food like the plague, but there's always room in my life to bake a cake or eat a whole bar of chocolate all by my lonesome without feeling guilty. I woke up Sunday morning and the first thing I reached for was my book. In the recipe for Sweetcorn Chowder with Toasted Tortillas, she writes: "[...] I know that "guilty pleasures" exist, but I have never understood the point of feeling guilty about pleasure. Rather, I see plenty of reasons for feeling guilty about failing to take pleasure in things." These words are poetry to me. I live by them and I think there would be a lot more smiling in the world if others did as well.

So what have I cooked so far? Well, I started off our weekend by making the Home- Made Instant Pancakes, served with caramelized apples and a good swoosh of rum (yes, rum at breakfast). Kirstie loves pancakes so the fact that I have two jars full of this stuff makes her a very happy girl. I'm happy as well. Like Nigella, I love a well- stocked pantry. Keeping this mix stored away in old- fashioned jars just feels so darn good! Lunch was the fabulous Chef's Salad. To add a little pizazz I served it with some cream cheese stuffed peppadews and some chilled white wine. And dinner- amazing! Ever since giving up our vegetarianism (for a host of reasons), we have been experimenting with fantastic cuts of meat. The really good kind and only from animals who had a happy life. The times we do eat meat, we make them count. We went and bought a fresher than fresh chicken, one which I even had to finish plucking myself (haha! I bet you're shocked!). I fixed us a dinner which made us laugh and giggle as though we'd walked out of a coffee shop- and no, we don't go to coffee shops, the Dutch kind. Candles were lit, Kirstie helped me set the table and I even put out little bowls with rosewater and rose petals so that we could de- grease our fingers with ease. We feasted on Brandied- Bacony Chicken served with the Potato and Mushroom Gratin and a simple watercress salad. Dessert was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Sundae. It was a feast to remember. When we blissfully plopped ourselves on the couch Hans asked, "Was this Thanksgiving?" It certainly felt like it! Sunday morning's breakfast was the Go Get 'em Smoothie (slightly modified with soy milk and cocoa powder) and meanwhile I had the Lazy Loaf going in the oven. Super healthy stuff!! We enjoyed it this morning with jam and a little butter. I also made the Jumbleberry Crumble yesterday with whole wheat flour instead of white. It was gorgeous served warm from the oven with ice cream and just like with the pancakes, it feels good to know I have the contents of a fantastic dessert sitting safely in my freezer ready to go in just minutes.

I have one word- balance. The rest of the week includes plenty of tofu, steamed veggies, beans and brown rice. Nigella Express isn't a license to kill yourself with cholesterol. It's a wake- up call to not kill yourself worrying about whether or not you should give into something gorgeous. And that shouldn't only apply to food.

For some photos of this weekend's feasts, click here: Nigella's Treats


Ilana said...

That is a very interesting point of view, Paola, of Nigella's new book. I'm so glad you are enjoying it and re-falling in love with Nigella. I feel the same way. I think Nigella's message of enjoying life and food comes through so clearly in this book.


p.s. and beautiful pictures!

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this; and you (and Nigella of course!) are SO right!
Lovely pictures too, keep up the good work!

Maria xx

Paola said...

Thanks Ilana and Maria,

I really got so fed up with all the negativity towards Nigella. Sometimes I wonder though why people just don't turn off the tv if her show is that disappointing. Like I said, I didn't really think the book would be for me in the beginning, but I still love her show. How can I possibly not???


ps: Maria, hope all is well in that tummy of yours! ;)