`Tis the season of goodwill tidings of comfort, joy and mukbang

The fairy at the top of the tree
"If, during second lockdown, you find yourself looking at empty supermarket shelves where the tealights should be, it’s because Nigella’s runners have bought them all"

Cookery programmes often perpetuate the idea that delicious food must go hand in glove with social gatherings. Sharing food is a way of saying, this is who we are. Sharing food at a table makes us part of a broader picture. This year all that was rewritten. Gone is the Friday night after work thrill of a full-to-the-brim restaurant. Gone is having friends round for dinner on a Saturday night. Home alone is what it has now boiled down to, selecting "large" on the pizza delivery menu or toying with which Uber Eats option one should go for. An even worse scenario; sybaritically gormandizing a packet of chocolate hobnobs, wotsits or some very tasty but unhealthy and fattening form of extruded corn snack, yes it has been known. Nigella Lawson would be the first one to endorse binge eating. We have fond memories of Nigella in a slinky black kimono heading on the hoof in her marabou trimmed mules to the fridge in the middle of the night for a snack of pigs trotter .Fast forward to Cook Eat Repeat. If she´d made a batch of her very own "mine-all-mine" cookies ( as the thespian already pointed out ) she could have gone to the biscuit tin instead. Lawson´s previous series typically centred on her cooking for mates. Each episode ended round the table with a group of friends ooohing and aaahhhing  as they endorsed the slap up meal she had just produced. Her friends and family would gather under swathes of fairy lights, scooping delicious food from dishes she placed before them.

“Food,” she sighed as she passed from drawing room to kitchen,
“is more than just sustenance.”

This time round she explained that due to the pandemic that scenario was no longer possible. Her latest series Cook Eat Repeat hasn´t had any of that indistinct hubbub over a dinner table. The fairy lights are still there, but she is on her own, eating alone, cooking for one. But this is quite joyful. We feel privileged to be invited into Nigellas aspirational TV home to share her lockdown lifestyle with her.I t’s the way she makes you feel as if you too could be friends with her. We are almost like voyeurs as she intimately unpacks her licorice box and talks us through it while sitting on the stairs. There is a certain calm, a tranquility of a woman in her kitchen preparing food for herself, smiling and sensually enjoying every minute of it. This series has been a Monday night emollient, bringing warmth, healing and tidings of comfort and joy to what seems like a never ending winter. All the unmistakeable "Nigella" characteristics and recurring elements still remain, but the entertaining element had to change, a more personalized approach was introduced where she is addressing the viewer, who has perhaps become accustomed to that modern substitute for a dining companion, the mobile phone.
While "brightly shone the moon that night" Nigella extolls the joys of a pie that is deep and crisp and even. This is just what we want to hear. This is all about comfort food for one, be it "Buttergate" (a double buttered slice of toast), or bhorta, a new way to be witty with a fish finger. Eating alone has become for many a defining feature of quarantines and shielding . While “solo dining” might conjure up images of a corner booth at a cafe or a bar stool at a local pub ( do we remember pubs?), the ultimate solo dining experience is eating home alone. It’s when we’re home alone — with no one watching what we’re eating, how or where — that our quirks, eccentricities and guilty pleasures come out.
For many its been hard not to feel lonely this year. Loneliness can come with a certain degree of shame, and food has played an important part in those feelings of shame. Facts have to be faced that you are unable to entertain or that your Zoom calendar is nowhere near as busy as the Dolmio´s next door. The multi-generational family meals of the Dolmio television ads present an ideal, but how many of us eat like that in real life, except for at Christmas? And that has all changed now too. A time too when we should not forget the loneliness of the homeless who perhaps aren´t even able to enjoy a proper meal alone? The default number that cookbook recipes serve is still four or six. At least recipe writers like Nigella are meeting the new demand for meals you can throw together in minutes. Lets not forget when you are cooking for one, or perhaps to be fair, two, you have to do the washing up as well. The glory of solitary eating or eating a deux is that you are free to savour your guilty pleasure without judgement.There is something very mukbang about all this. Usually, the presenters are beautiful young women who webcast themselves eating improbable quantities of food while inanely chatting about how delicious it is. It’s about being kept company in some way we crave. The vicariousness of watching someone else eat a meal makes you feel you too want to eat that very same meal.
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I shall see( Nigella ) dine"

A very happy Christmas to you all!!!


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