All it took was a flick of her whisk and we were hooked, remembers writer Stuart Heritage.
I can tell you with pinpoint accuracy where I was when Nigella Bites debuted on Channel 4. This is because I was a skinny, homesick, slightly hormone-addled student in my first year of university.
Leaving home for the first time can be utterly discombobulating but in Nigella Lawson I found a stabilising force. Nobody in our dingy slug-infested house knew how to cook.
We lived off sandwiches, rice and endless jars of Chicken Tonight, hoping against hope that one of us would discover a latent culinary flair before scurvy kicked in.
The only tools at our disposal, pre-wifi, were expensive cookbooks and TV chefs. And what a sorry bunch they were then. Delia was too starched. Antony Worrall Thompson was a muppet. Gary Rhodes was, well, Gary Rhodes. Then along came Nigella Bites. Nigella wasn’t a finicky, ‘cheffy’ chef. There she was, cooking at home for her friends, and she actually made it appear achievable. She cooked with frozen vegetables. She made a mess. She didn’t just cook either; sometimes she’d drag you away to her larder for a bit of a natter.
Nigella didn’t show off at all but she made you want to cook. And, of course, it helped that she is beautiful. So I made sure I watched Nigella Bites for two reasons: to ward off starvation and because I had developed a genuinely debilitating crush on the host. I met Nigella many years later, during a press day where she had to taste and judge some food I’d cooked for her.
I can tell you where I was then, too, because I vividly remember hovering ten feet above my body, watching myself blush, mumble and sweat because she was looking in my general direction. Student crushes never ever go away.
Also that month…
- Prince William passed three A-levels and secured a place at the University of St Andrews.
- The Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine, sank in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 seamen on board.
- Robbie Williams had a number one hit with ‘Rock DJ’.
- X-Men, the first film in the multi-billion-dollar series, was released in cinemas.
- The Weakest Link, hosted by Anne Robinson, first aired on the BBC.