19 December, 2006

How Can I Get More Cool, or Why Am I Not More Like Nigella?



















Okay, obviously the first problem is that the only cool thing about me in this photograph is my gorgeous new dress from Vince, which you can't even see properly, but it was my major Christmas present from my mother in law (don't even get me started on how lucky I am to have a mother in law who gives me Vince). My point is that Nigella has me completely flummoxed. Has anyone seen her Christmas series? Where she effortlessly produces six whole roasted poussins with chili oil and a festive rub, while having cocktails OUT with friends, and then there's also two side dishes and a pudding? Here's my objection: unlike Martha Stewart, Nigella makes a fetish of being simple, easily-imitated, "you can do this." Only it's all a horrible, horrible fake. First of all, she's effortlessly English, so I cannot do HER. And it's worse to be told emphatically how easy it is, than to be told, as Martha does, "you should only hope you could be me." With Martha I don't even try.

But wait: my problem is in presentation. Not of the dish per se, although that's lacking at times. No, my problem is in the presentation of ME. I do not exude glamour. I do not exude a sort of sexy apologetic "these three courses are all I could manage, sorry," while being impossibly gorgeous and sophisticated, nor do I even have an adorable incompetent glow about me. No, I'm that awful thing in between: I can do things, fine, no problem, but they don't look COOL.

I need all your help on this! How am I ever going to turn my blog into a cookbook, much less a television programme that makes people like me feel bad, if I just sit here and live, occasionally feeding people and then telling you about it? Obviously something is needed in the way of presentation.

Take this evening, for example. Truly, in all honesty, I did walk in the house from dropping Avery off at her friend's house to play, and within ten minutes produce:

Mussels with White Wine and Fresh Thyme
(serves one hungry husband with a wife who doesn't like mussels)

3 tbsps olive oil
1 lb mussels, cleaned
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 shallots, chopped fine
1 tbsp fresh thyme (chopped without stems)
6 Thai fresh green peppercorns, chopped (from Spice Shop in Notting Hill)
2 cups white wine
½ cup chicken stock
2 tbsps butter

Saute garlic, shallots, thyme and peppercorns in olive oil, then add white wine and stock. Bring to a boil, add mussels, cover and steam for 8 minutes. Discard any that did not open, and lift good mussels into a large bowl with slotted spoon, bring wine sauce to a boil again and whisk in butter. Pour over mussels and serve with warm baguette and goats cheese.

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Now, don't misunderstand me. I think this dish was all to the good, and it follows our long tradition of either cooking mussels or getting them in Belgo, where he eats all the mussels and I soak up all the sauce with French bread, or just drink it straight, as I'm sorry to say we have photographic evidence of my doing, perhaps 15 years ago in this very city.

No, my objection is that I have no... PR. That's right, no one is watching me, styling me, doing my hair, making sure the right number of friends laugh on cue in the background or that my child and her friends unaccountably begin to enjoy crab cakes, or spicy babyback ribs, at my Christmas party, something that would never happen. No, my parties and even just accidental dinners occur without fanfare. Which is why I find Nigella so depressing!

And why, you might ask, am I awake at 1 a.m. being depressed my B-list food celebrities when I should be getting my beauty sleep so as to deserve B-list celebrity status? Because we got in from the final night of the horse show at 11, and it takes me a minimum of two hours to decompress from any event involving hay. And bad sausages. Yawn. Tired. And sad to have said goodbye last night (okay, they left this morning but I was asleep) to John's mom and dad. What an empty spot their guest room is today.

I have lots more to tell you about my busy, if un-glamorous life, but right now I shall sip a Calvados and contemplate sleep. If you have any suggestions on how I can get more glamorous in (ideally two, or three) a couple of steps, let me know. In the meantime, what I am grateful for tonight are a few things: family who let me cook for them, and say they enjoy it, and friends who come by, like darling Twiggy and Eddie for Sunday lunch (vegetarian! I'll tell you all about it), and happily enjoy whatever I cook for them. Surrounded by them, and anticipating more to come, I'm quite satisfied. But a little glamour wouldn't hurt!

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