an open letter to nigella lawson.

thoughts for nigella.

Dear Ms. Nigella Lawson:

I’m making one of your always-stunning cakes today – the old-fashioned chocolate one from Feast, which is my all-time favorite – and I can’t help but think about you while I do it.

No one, I imagine, likes their personal life to become fodder for public consumption. Well, I suppose some people revel in it, but those aren’t the kind of people I enjoy. You don’t seem to be one of those people at all, and thank goodness for that. It must make your current situation that much more intolerable, egregious, and overwhelming than it already is, if that is even possible. You remain silent about it; I can only assume you’re doing that out of respect for your own privacy and that if your children, and I commend you for that. The only opinions which matters right now, and the only hearts you should be concerned with protecting are those.

But I want you to know something. I want you to know – as many people who read this blog already know – that I adore you. I am not the only one. You helped me find the courage to begin cooking and baking, and your books helped me realize that cooking is a joy and a privilege rather than a chore. You make it seem equal parts simple and mystical. You inspire me in a way which no other celebrity chef has been able to; you transfer my kitchen into something more than it normally is when I make your recipes.

I hope you know how much good you’ve put into the world. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes and the eyes of so many others – women and men alike – who think you’re brilliant. I wish you could have been with me on line at your Nigella Kitchen book signing a few years ago, from the beginning when all you could hear were intermittent gasps of “oh my! she’s gorgeous!” to the end, when everyone was beaming with joy at having met and shared a few words with you. Breathing the same air as you that day seemed to be, for many of us, a monumental event.

All of this rambling is to say one thing: you are Nigella Lawson. Mother of two, inspiration to many, possessor of gifts and ability far greater than I could ever hope to have, achiever of success beyond my wildest dreams, writer of breathtaking cookbooks, maker of days, and  – I am sure of this – owner of a huge and lovely heart.

Deserver of much better than this.

You have been through quite enough by now, I would think. Too much, if you ask me. This news about this incident with your husband breaks my heart, and I don’t even know you, but I do know that you don’t deserve anything that’s going on presently. Not the media scrutiny, not your private life being forced out in the open, not the comments about whether or not it was just a “playful tiff,” not the gawkers who didn’t think to intervene on your behalf, not the photographers who were too busy capturing every last painful moment on film to make sure you had somewhere safe to go. You deserve none of this.

Except the love. The love, and the support; the encouragement, and the outpouring of sympathy; the quiet understanding, and the solidarity. The multitude of women and men who are standing here, not giving a crap about what clout your husband possesses, but collectively confident in the knowledge that he is a dirtbag for what he did, and even more of a dirtbag for playing it off as anything other than what it was. You have so many people standing behind you as you go through this, who know it was wrong, and that you deserve so, so much more.

They say 1 in 4 women is abused at the hands of another at some point in their lives. I suspect the number is much higher, since at times it’s so difficult to call abuse out for what it is. It can take so many forms, and it’s not always easy to recognize. I have seen abuse; I have borne witness to it, and at close range. What strikes me is that 100% of the time, the abuser is massively insecure,   damaged, and pathetic. A loser, regardless of outward appearance, financial status, or standing in the community. What also strikes me is how quickly people want to dismiss it, so long as no one ends up with scars or a black eye; it’s like denial of the worst kind, and a betrayal to everyone who has ever been a victim of something like this.

I hope you are doing what’s best for you and your children. I hope you never go through this again. I hope I meet you someday so I can hug you and tell you this in person. You deserve all sorts of hugs right now.

I forgot to mention how much you deserve hugs.

I’m going to keep making this cake now, and I’m going to put it together, and I’m going to think good thoughts of you the entire time. I’m not even going to adjust it, because it is perfect, and I love it just the way it is. Just like how you are perfect just the way you are.



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  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats June 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Aw, this is so sweet, Shannon. I only wish that Nigella herself will read it. I heard about what happened to her, and I just feel so badly for her, and her family. But if this wasn’t the first time that something like this has happened to her (and i suspect it wasn’t, tho this was the first spat in public), hopefully it will give her what it takes to walk away from the relationship. I’ve been in emotionally/verbally abusive relationships, and one that I feared would turn physical, and I know how hard it is to walk away, as stupid as that would seem.

    I’ve decided I’m going to go out today and buy a Nigella cook book, to support her, and because you speak so highly of her (and because Faygie’s post today made me really want a cookbook). Nigella has so many titles, I wasn’t sure what to choose, but now I think it should be Feast 🙂 I’ll let you know what I cook up first!

    • Reply shannon June 22, 2013 at 5:52 am

      you know, sometimes news stories strike me, and then i can’t stop thinking about them. This one did, and i’m not sure if it was about the fact that i admire her so much, or just that those photos of the whole thing just show so much fear on her part. to be terrified of someone you love must just be beyond horrible, and i haven’t been able to put it to rest in my head. i suspect that it wasn’t the first time, especially since her husband was so brazen to do it in front of dozens of people; amazing the arrogance there. unbelievable.

      i feel so sorry you had to go through that; you of all people, who are so caring and sweet and loving; that makes me sad, and i’m happy you have nate now, who may be the sweetest dude ever, i bet. i don’t think it seems stupid at all to have a hard time walking away; it’s the person you love, at least at that time, and that doesn’t probably just go away even when things get nasty. a hard situation – like, impossible – for sure. I’m happy you’re past that.

      i do love her; i think you’ll be happy with whatever one you pick up, truly (and it’s sweet of you to support her in that way; i’m buying Nigellissima this weekend i think, because i have yet to do so and i need to). Feast is just gorgeous; as i was making this cake yesterday, the inside pages popped out of the binding: that’s how much it’s been “loved” around here. 🙂 I think an alternative for you (if you can’t find Feast) would be Kitchen: i think you would really like that one too, based on your cooking style. Give that one a look also, if you see it.

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Eating Local in the Lou June 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Another amazing and thoughtful post. So well said, inciteful, thoughtful.

    • Reply shannon June 22, 2013 at 5:53 am

      Thank you, Elizabeth. Sometimes (and maybe this is bad) i get fixated on topics like this, and it really helps having the blog, because i can vent a little bit about it and clear my head. It’s a wee bit indulgent, so i appreciate all of you letting me do it from time to time. 🙂

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats June 21, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Gasp! I missed this bit of foodie-news, and I forgot to tell you that I discovered a few weeks ago that Nigella’s own blog has a “cook along” club! Of course, at the time it was May and I was totally convinced I would do the June recipe, but then it was quickly erased from my mind until today. Luckily, THERE IS STILL ONE WEEK OF JUNE LEFT!


    • Reply shannon June 22, 2013 at 5:56 am

      I think the whole Nigella story hasn’t been covered nearly as much in the US as it has been in the UK; it’s strange because she’s so popular here now, at least in the past few years, but it’s mostly British press covering it. I guess if it doesn’t happen to Kimye, it doesn’t happen. (eye roll)
      i know! her cookalong is one i always mean to start doing and then, alas, poor planning/time management/far too many things on my plate. i need to make a note to participate too; you know the Wee starts preschool in september, so there’s LOTS of things i plan to catch up on then. between vacation, a food blogging conference, and her birthday, i’m pretty sure summer is going to be pointless in terms of work. 🙂

  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina June 22, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I feel like I’ve been in a vacation bubble. I’m just…speechless. I’m so glad you wrote this. For many reasons.

    • Reply shannon June 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      i get really emotional about…just stuff. i’m just thankful you all indulge me when i get this way. *hugs*

  • Reply Monica June 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Shannon, you said it much more eloquently and concisely than I ever could. I was really shocked, sad, and mad when I came across the news and then saw the pictures. I wouldn’t begin to presume I know anything about her real life but I can only say that Nigella has enriched my life. I admire her intelligence and her passion and honesty when it comes to food. She’s entertained and educated me for years. I owe her a lot just for that. And I thank her. And I wish her nothing but the best.

    • Reply shannon June 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      it’s so many emotions when you see something like this happen, i completely understand. it’s awful, and without any of us knowing anything about her personal life, it’s true that she has affected ours, and in a positive way. very well said, monica; i wish her nothing but the best also, and i hope she wishes the best for herself, too.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog June 24, 2013 at 6:48 am

    What a lovely letter, Shannon. I hope it makes its way to Nigella.

    • Reply shannon June 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      me too. i mean, there’s a snowball’s chance, really, but maybe. if it doesn’t, i hope someone close to her says something very similar to her.

  • Reply Ashley June 25, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I also hope Nigella is able to read your sweet letter. A letter to which I must say a heartfelt ditto.

    • Reply shannon June 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      it would be really great if she saw it, or just something similar in sentiment, to know she’s not alone. i imagine that i guess even if you’re really famous and loved that you can feel pretty isolated in times like that. so, i hope she knows people still love her.

  • Reply movita beaucoup June 28, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Here, here! A charming letter to a woman who has made us all feel like we should be okay with ourselves. That loving food – consuming it in your pyjamas in front of an open refrigerator door – is gorgeous. That food is sumptuous, sexy, and meant to be enjoyed in any way you please, be it alone, with someone you love, or with a group of your bestest friends and family. She IS an inspiration, and I’m sure she will handle all that has been served her in recent weeks with her usual grace and poise…

    • Reply shannon June 30, 2013 at 5:15 am

      and that’s what always strikes me with her: if i’m ever feeling like an idiot, or fat, or just generally wondering if i’ve consumed too much frosting or what have you in an evening, i think of exactly that scene which you just played out. It makes me feel better; it resets me back into a way less superficial mode of “hey; i enjoy this.” she makes me less hard on myself, which is more difficult than it sounds (as i live my life pretty hard on myself, if i’m honest). 🙂 as always, it seems as though she is handling things exactly that way, and i wouldn’t expect anything less from her.

  • Reply Dana Staves June 28, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Wow. I got a little misty with this. A heartfelt, sweet letter, Shannon. And such a wonderful tribute to a cook who has meant so much to us. I always feel, when I turn on Nigella’s show, that I fall down a rabbit hole into a world where lunch is an event, dessert is a given, and everything becomes quiet and spicy and rich. Lovely.

    • Reply shannon June 30, 2013 at 5:11 am

      Dana, i got a little misty writing it. it just stuck with me, and a lot of it is because of her, and her magical way of just being herself, and how much she sort of taught me how to cook with her books and her confidence and her grace. I just hope she’s okay. weird because i see like, eighty stories like this a day, and they all bother me because of what they are, but this one really like, stuck with me. helps to get it out via writing, and i think i always appreciate this space even more for allowing me that.

  • Reply Willow (Will Cook For Friends) June 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Wow… I hadn’t heard about any of this. The letter you’ve written is absolutely beautiful, and just so well said. I think this is something anyone in that position should hear. I know it’s a small chance, but I actually tweeted this link to her in the hopes that she reads it. Either way, you’ve done an incredible thing writing it. So thoughtful!

    • Reply shannon June 30, 2013 at 4:50 am

      aw, thank you, willow! you know, she was off twitter for a good while there after it all happened, and i saw her first twitter message post-hiatus. it was a really simple photo of a cake i’m assuming she made for one of her children’s birthdays, but what was really awesome to see the outpouring of emotion from people responding to it. I think everyone was just really concerned, and a twitter message doesn’t indicate that everything’s fine, but it gives people maybe a little sign that she’s doing better.

      • Reply Willow (Will Cook For Friends) June 30, 2013 at 11:58 am

        Shannon, I just got a DM from Nigella on Twitter, in response to sending her your link. All she said was “Thank you”, but I wanted to let you know! I hope she read your post, but either way I know she feels her fans supporting her. 🙂

        • Reply shannon June 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm

          WILLOW: i am going to pass out from the thought of her actually reading it (in a good way; like excited/thrilled). How incredibly kind of you, for honestly just being you, but for sending her that link and also taking the time to let me know that she DM’ed you back. That’s special; like you are a very special, kind-hearted person. Thank you; so, so nice. 🙂

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