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Review: "Nigella Feasts"
Sunday, October 01, 2006 | posted by Mike

Nigella LawsonThe message boards and web sites dedicated to food and food TV are always abuzz with anticipation of the next big show or personality. The object of this anticipation lately has been not a “fresh new face” or undiscovered talent, but rather the return of a favorite personality and a renewed focus on cooking over “food entertainment.”

Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Feasts serves as a tremendous reminder of the fact that food should appeal equally to all of the senses. Lawson has always had her cooking described as “sensuous” and “sumptuous,” and the new show is no different.

The debut episode of Nigella Feasts focuses on “comfort” foods prepared for a party and features crow-pleasing, indulgent dishes including chili, guacamole and a chocolate cherry trifle. The show includes the trademark Nigella close-ups of the ingredients as they’re sautéed, stirred, folded and dished out to eager party goers.

Lawson’s Style Network program was filmed, a feature that added greatly to the sense of warmth and intimacy of the show. Curiously, the new show appear to be recorded on video tape or, possibly, digital video. The result is a colder, less comforting visual presentation.

Nigella Feasts is similar to Barefoot Contessa and Everyday Italian in format, with a set of recipes designed for some sort of event or guest. Just as we do with Ina and Giada, we follow Nigella to the market where she gives us advice on shopping. Another interesting sidebar is when Lawson goes to the pantry to find the ingredients for her chili, only to digress with information and hints about pantry items that she picked up while traveling and which have nothing to do with the recipe. It works well, because it adds to the sense that we just happened to drop in on Nigella while getting ready for her party and she absolutely must show you the new item she picked up on her latest trip.

Just as the format of Nigella Feasts mirrors the format of Contessa and Everyday, the appeal of Nigella is quite similar to the stars of those shows. Like Ina Garten, she invites you to indulge in rich foods, luxuriously serving your guests and being the star of the evening. And, as with Giada De Laurentiis, her sultry demeanor makes the already delicious-looking food all the more appealing. It’s no wonder that Feasts is scheduled to follow those two shows, as it will undoubtedly find a friendly audience in that spot.

The best food shows treat cooking as an artistic and emotional expression and feature a host that is able to communicate the joy of preparing a meal. This is a very good show, and one that is all about the food. For all of the British tabloid coverage and attention that Nigella Lawson receives, her personality never overwhelms what she is there to do. Nigella Feasts effectively portrays the passion of its host and pulls the viewer into the dish being prepared until you want to run out to the kitchen and get started. In fact, I’ve already grabbed that chili recipe.



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