THE POLITICS OF STUFFING 


Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
By Nigella Lawson
(Hyperion, 472 pages)

Is everyone sick of Nigella Lawson? Has she worked the voluptuous gourmandise persona to death and become a parody of herself, appreciated only by tail-end-of-the-trend-hoppers? No answers here. Feast will not change anyone's mind – it will only serve to intensify already-formed opinions about her smarty-pants/hot-pants fusion.

A compendium of menus for every conceivable special occasion, Feast dishes up what we've come to expect from Lawson: a glorious mess of deeply indulgent recipes. Actually, "recipes" isn't really the word. They're more suggestions than directions, full of "if you like" and "or not," meandering into anthropomorphic descriptions of ingredients ("ludicrously soft," "viciously lemony"), dotted casually with English-schoolgirl slang (some randomly selected verbs: squoosh, squoggle, plonk).

Thanksgiving and Christmas are covered, of course, but there are some unexpected celebrations as well: Eid and Passover are nice additions, as are the inclusion of non-holiday milestones like weddings and funerals. The dishes fall along her usual Anglo-Italian-Eastern axis; her solutions to the "problem" of leftover turkey include "Vietnamese Turkey and Glass-Noodle Salad," "Insalata di Tacchino" and "Christmas Bubble and Squeak."

Lawson's strength, or weakness, depending on where you stand, is that very tendency to meander – by her own admission, she is "never so happy as when cooking off-piste" – and her fervent belief in self-indulgence. Her cookbooks (and TV shows) have never really been about cooking, exactly; they're more meditations on food, on eating, on enjoyment. So many of us express emotional issues in eating habits, it's not so far-fetched for Lawson to expound a philosophy of living under cover of cooking instructions, and not surprising how strong public reaction has been.

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