It was Nigel Slater who put me on to Nigella Lawson.
And How to Eat was acquired and it sat on the shelf until one day I turned its pages to see what the author might have to say about mayonnaise.
When I was in my teens, I loved Henry James. I read him with uncorrupted pleasure. Then, when I was eighteen or so, and had just started The Golden Bowl, someone — older, cleverer, whose opinions were offered gravely — asked me whether I didn’t find James very difficult, as she always did. Until then, I had no ideas that I might, and I didn’t. From that moment, I couldn’t read him but self-consciously; from then on, I did find him difficult. I do not wish to insult by the comparison, but I had a similar, Jamesian mayonnaise experience. My mother used to make mayonnaise weekly, twice weekly; we children would help. I had no idea it was meant to be difficult, or that it was thought to be such a nerve-racking ordeal. Then someone asked how I managed to be so breezy about it, how I stopped it from curdling. From then on, I scarcely made a mayonnaise which didn’t split. It’s not surprising: when confidence is undermined or ruptured, it can be difficult to do the simplest things, or to take any enjoyment in trying.
And she goes on to give excellent instructions on how to mend a broken mayonnaise.
I do like the comparison with reading and the implicit analogy between repairing one’s lost confidence and rescuing a split mayonnaise.
I will have no difficulty in plunging into How to Eat and savouring its other parts. I have a hunch it will boost my confidence, culinary and otherwise.
And so for day 2537