Nigella Lawson was the first television cook to make food sexy, said Constance Watson in the Daily Mail. She’s almost as well known for her glamorous image, innuendos and double entendres – “I’m smearing Nigella seeds all over my cheek but I feel I’m entitled”; “I love having an implement in each hand” – as she is for her recipes. But the author of How To Be A Domestic Goddess has come over “all coy” lately.
Last week, she announced she was axing the word “slut” from her recipe for Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly, replacing it with “ruby”. The word, she explained, had “taken on a coarser, more cruel connotation” she wasn’t happy with. It follows her decision earlier this year to rename her Slut’s Spaghetti (a version of spaghetti alla puttanesca, which translates as prostitute’s pasta) as Slattern’s Spaghetti.
If Nigella feels she needs to do this in light of today’s sensitivities, that’s her choice, said Polly Vernon in The Times. It’s a shame though. A word is “only as cruel as the person dispensing it intends”. I’ve always loved the word “slut” as an affectionate term of abuse for those who let standards drop.
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The brilliant journalist Katharine Whitehorn celebrated her own sluttishness in a 1963 column dedicated to “all those who have ever changed their stockings in a taxi, brushed their hair with someone else’s nailbrush or safety-pinned a hem”. I, for one, will continue to make slut’s spaghetti – “or at least I would, if I ever cooked”.
I’m all for “saucy banter” as a rule, said Rowan Pelling in The Daily Telegraph, but in this case Nigella is “right to turn down her smut setting”. Firstly, because the word “slut”, whatever its origins, is today mostly used as “a sexual slur and has scant humour when wielded by a man”. And secondly, because Nigella’s “flirty, spoonlicking” shtick has, like some of her more outrageous recipes, become “a slightly over-rich confection”.
The end of a recent programme in which she raided her own fridge clad only in a robe veered into full-on self-parody. It would be good if she dialled back the arch innuendo and played more “to her other strengths: wit, wisdom and the kind of strength that derives from overcoming adversity”.
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