Salt & Spine is a more imaginative take on the cookery podcast

The first episode features a fascinating discussion with Nigella Lawson

This first episode of the podcast is an in-depth interview with culinary icon Nigella Lawson.  Photograph: Charles Birchmore

This first episode of the podcast is an in-depth interview with culinary icon Nigella Lawson. Photograph: Charles Birchmore

 

Salt & Spine

Episode 1: Nigella Lawson’s At My Table

Food podcasts are an interesting form in themselves – there’s something removed from the traditional cooking TV show presentation in them, because we can’t see the food that is being discussed. There are no long shots of sizzling garlic in a pan, no demonstrations. We eat with our eyes, not necessarily with our ears – so in some regards, the form shouldn’t work. However, Salt & Spine is an elevated conversation about cookery books, and the philosophy of what the function of the cookbook is. This first episode of the podcast is an in-depth interview with culinary icon Nigella Lawson. 

She talks specifically about home cooking, and not only the pleasure of it but also the snobbery that can exist around people who cook at home. Lawson is passionate about deconstructing expectations of restaurant-level presentation in cooking at home, taking the pressure off people. The host of the podcast, Brian Stewart, asks insightful questions and makes a compelling interviewer – he’s well versed in her work, and leads her into fantastic anecdotes without appearing too over-familiar.

Untrained

Lawson demystifies notions of expertise around her own experience: she’s insistent that she’s just a home cook who is passionate and cares not only about food, but also about feeding the people she loves. It’s an affirming listen for anybody who cooks at home, or tries to. There is no snobbery here. Lawson’s inspirations all come from within her family: there’s a strong sense of being taught to cook as some rite of passage.

She is determined that being untrained does one no harm, at all – and this is a reassuring thing to hear such a culinary giant say. Lawson explains details of recipes as she answers Stewart’s questions, effortlessly. She makes the seemingly impossible task of poaching eggs seem far less complicated than it can in the kitchen. The ease of the conversation and Lawson’s descriptions make this a delightful listen. 

Narrative

The discussion moves to the importance of good writing in cookery books, and touches on some excellent points: a classic or important cookery book isn’t just a list of recipes; it slightly paints a picture of a life, a time, a mood. During the interview, Lawson says that “human beings have a hunger for food, but a hunger for narrative as well,” and that in some ways encapsulates exactly why Salt & Spine is an excellent take on the food podcast.

It’s not enough to just rattle out audiobook style recipes that the listener is expected to find delicious: rather, Stewart engages in a deep conversation with the writers of these books that widens the listener’s view of what food can be, what cooking can be. This podcast feels like an invitation to love food, to love the process of cooking – to know more about it than we did before. This is the kind of listen that could make you want to get into the kitchen and not just make good food, but make good stories, too. 

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