I just sailed off an email comment to NPR's Morning Edition, though I usually keep my questions to myself. Just curious, though, after hearing Nigella Lawson yesterday, why the American public radio audience needs a British cookbook writer to explain how to cook.
The rich vein of humor that is British cooking works because of England's unfailing ability to turn wonderful ingredients, sourced nearby and raised more naturally, into a much less appealing result. Summer pudding puts perfect summer berries between soggy layers of white bread. Fluffermuffin's babysitter in England used to boil giant zucchini until they were limp. WTF, x 2?
There's an even richer, and more annoying, irony. Nigella's books succeed with a British public in part because a many of the recipes are American, so they seem new and different. Just from her breakthrough How to Be a Domestic Goddess is this long list of cadged recipes: Rhubarb Crumble, New York Cheesecake, Molten Chocolate cakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, Christmas Morning Muffins, Cranberry Upside Down Cake, Snickers and Peanut Butter Muffins, Blueberry Muffins, American Pancakes, Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Cookies, Carrot Cake, Boston Cream Pie, Grapefruit Marmalade, Key Lime Tarts, Coca-Cola Cake. Like, where are Brits getting these blueberries, cranberries, rhubarb and salted peanuts?
One especially cheeky recipe is Maple Pecan Bread, neither maple nor pecans existing in England. But probably the honor of Cheekiest Recipe should go to Halloween Cupcakes, because even the concepts of "halloween" and "cupcake" are virtually non-existent in English culture.
Maybe a larger issue is the insult to hard-working American food writers. I can rattle off a dozen great American prospects for a radio interview. Molly O'Neill, Sheila Lukins, Bradley Ogden, Colman Andrews, Corby Kummer, Charlie Trotter, Ina Garten, Deborah Madison. That's just the celebrity generalists; there are many other well-known, extremely knowledgeable general food writers, not to mention the regional and ethnic specialists like John T. Edge, Joan Nathan, Darra Goldstein and Jessica Harris.
Maybe none of them is as adorable as Nigella, but "looksism" is the last thing you expect from public radio, or even any radio. And maybe none of them is blessed with a daughter-of-an-chancellor-of-the-exchequer accent that Nigella, not coincidentally, has.
So that's what I asked NPR to explain. But I'm sure they will read between the lines to get the message that there are more energetic, and imaginative way, to cover food. Am I wrong? Is she the best choice ever for American food coverage? Or are opinions like armpits: everyone has one? Do you have an opinion?