Like many of you, my interest in cooking and baking started long before I had a blog. When I moved into my very first apartment, I fell in love with The Food Network. I was excited to try so many recipes, but law school put that desire on hold. As my sister describes it, I ate like a bachelor for three years, with my freezer full of microwaveable dishes and my fridge consisting mainly of snacks and sodas instead of components for dishes.
Fast forward to 2007. My affinity for The Food Network had waned but my interest in cooking didn’t. I received an email that Nigella Lawson would be hosting an afternoon tea and booksigning at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago. I immediately bought a ticket and found out the tea would feature foods from her cookbook Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast. Plus, all the patrons would receive an autographed copy of the book!
The tea service was really delicious, and Nigella even did a roving Q&A session while we were eating. She is such a pleasant person. When you hear her speak, she is full of life and you can hear the passion she has for cooking in her descriptions. Knowing that Nigella would probably hear rather boring and mundane questions like “Where do you buy your sweaters?” and “What is your favorite type of food to make?”, I made sure to do a little research on her beforehand so I could ask a meaningful and thoughtful question. In my research, I discovered that Nigella has faced several tragedies in losing loved ones to cancer. Knowing that I was also bringing an extra copy of her cookbook for my friend, (Codename: Candelabra), who was in the infancy of her surgical oncology residency at the time, I knew I had found my question.
When the microphone came near my section, I asked, “You’ve mentioned that cooking with your family members always induces fond memories of that person. When you lost loved ones around you, how did you start cooking again, knowing that basic necessity would evoke such painful memories?” Nigella smiled, thought for a bit, and said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I think it goes back to my passion for food and what it can do to help coax you out of whatever troubled state you’re in. I know that when I lost loved ones, the idea behind cooking changed for me. Before it was for enjoyment, but now I had a purpose in finding and preparing foods that were not only healthy for those around me, but nourishing as well. Making dishes that would not only provide nutrients but sustenance for those who are weak. It only made my passion for cooking deeper, and it was that passion and a new outlook on cooking that got me back in the kitchen.” My question was so good that all the ladies at my table of 12 complimented me and said, “Now I don’t want to ask a silly question!”
After the Q&A session, everyone lined up to get their autographed copy of her cookbook and to say hello. I wanted my exchange with her to be meaningful and not fluff, mainly because I was asking her to sign two cookbooks. So, I told her about my friend (Codename: Candelabra), how she was a surgical oncology resident, and how she was missing the tea because of her cancer research. After hearing this, Nigella wrote a special dedication in the extra cookbook I had purchased just for Candelabra. In my cookbook (and in most others), we received a “For (Name Here), Love, Nigella”. Candelabra’s cookbook received a “Am full of admiration for you! Love, Nigella” Isn’t that thoughtful?
Anyway, ever since that experience, I’ve been a huge fan of Nigella Lawson. I’ve made several recipes from her Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast. But, one of my favorites is her Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon and White Wine.This is so easy to make. Just take a teaspoon of garlic-infused oil (I used olive oil), fry up 4 slices of bacon till crispy and then remove to a piece of foil. Using the bacony juice in the pan, cook 4 4-ounce chicken breasts till all the pinkness is gone. Take the chicken out of the pan, crumble the bacon into pan, and add 1/3 cup white wine (I used dry vermouth) till it bubbles. Then, just pour over your chicken. Nourishing and delicious!