Nigella's gift to me: envy and pity

20:33, Dec 25 2013

What with a model holy family at the centre of the original Christmas story, I'm wondering how many modern families will get through tomorrow without a major row or temper tantrum.

My mother usually managed one of those, wrecking everyone's digestion until she pulled herself together for the main meal of the day, when she knew she'd devour bigger helpings than anyone.

My bet is that many families have at least one relation who does this, another who gets drunk and revives old grudges, a martyr in the kitchen whose voice becomes shriller by the hour, a small child being sick on expensive upholstery, and somebody's new boyfriend turning up with major tattoos and facial hardware. Christmas is all about tolerating the weird and seldom wonderful people we call family, right?

Christmas carols can't wholly drown out the dysfunction, though how we wish they could. But at least we now have proof that even the rich and beautiful are just like the rest of us in their times of darkness in family life.

I didn't cook a Nigella recipe yesterday, though I have half a dozen of her recipe books on the shelf. I fall back on old faithfuls rather than experimenting with exotic, show-off recipes of the vanilla-with-spinach-and goat's-leg variety that cooking magazines are chocker with at this time of year, too.

My thoughts, though, are with a woman I envy and pity in equal measure, and her clearly dysfunctional ultra-rich household, complete with separate room for the silver. It's the [PndStlg]1800 worth of fresh flowers each week that I envy most - I'd have that if I could - and the cashmere jumpers bought in every colour from some smart little place in Knightsbridge.


For all that he was generous with cashmere, it's looking like Charles Saatchi has achieved a revenge against his third wife that drew on all his enormous PR skills, and showed how he managed to make zillions in advertising. The revenge, if what I read between the lines is true, has been of biblical proportions. And if only Nigella had known that being grasped around the neck in throttle position in a public place was eminently reasonable it would never have happened.

I dare say Saatchi will rise from this escapade covered in a tacky kind of glory, as the powerful do, though for my part I think the best thing about him is his buttoned-up white shirts, which manage to look elegant. But what is packaging?

I wonder what Christmas was like at the Nigella household, now that Scotland Yard wants to interrogate her about her drug use? Will there be a general rolling-up of banknotes and a snorting of class A? And why would a woman so profligate with household expenses not throw away the rolled up, powdery banknotes allegedly found in her handbags by her staff? Was life in that plush London home just a variation on the council flat theme, only with better drugs?

Similar accusations could be hurled at most upper middle-class families, in this country and elsewhere. If an unhappy woman with an overbearing husband isn't snorting coke, she's bound to make up for it with gin or tranquillisers, the legal substitutes. Most marriages aren't made in heaven, after all, just as not too many children are born to save the world.

The truly depressing thing about the trial of Nigella's former staff members was how it showed the legal system being used to achieve personal ends. Public relations people ran spin on the trial throughout, which jurors - laughably - were told to ignore. Nigella was right: it was her reputation that was really on trial; this was just a long-winded way of going about it. But who ever thought she was a saint, and what's that go to do with her cooking?

While she faces the aftermath, women around the world will be comparing notes on how their husbands, too, exacted revenge when they left impossible marriages. But it's only the very rich who can commandeer the legal system, a compelling reason not to get hitched to them.

The Dominion Post