Nigella Lawson opens up on tragedy that inspired her love of food after mum died of cancer

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TV chef Nigella Lawson, 60, has opened up about how her mum, Vanessa, would swear by never eating anything sweet in the kitchen until she discovered her liver cancer diagnosis was terminal. The author explained she has never let herself feel guilty about enjoying food again since her mum died.

How unbearably sad

Nigella Lawson

Nigella, 60, lost her mum, Vanessa, to cancer aged 48 in 1985, when she was just 25.

The cook began by recalling how she was brought up by her mum, revealing she would often make delicious treats but never ate them.

“I was brought up by a mother – the cook I have learned most from – whose grimly exuberant output in the kitchen was set in painfully sharp relief, and indeed fostered, by an expanding pattern of self-denial and self-punishment; not an uncommon syndrome, incidentally,” she admitted in her new book Cook, Eat, Repeat.

“Diagnosed with terminal cancer two weeks before her death, she started eating – for the first time, she said giddily – without worry or guilt.”

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Nigella went on to say it was “sad” to see her mum only enjoy the food during such a devastating time of her life.

“How unbearably sad to allow yourself unmitigated pleasure in food only when you receive a terminal diagnosis,” she continued.

Since her mum’s death, the chef now makes the most of eating chocolate because she wants to treat herself.

“I want to maximise my enjoyment, not just eat for the sake of it.”

She added: “When I eat chocolate I linger over each square, deciding which I will let melt slowly in my mouth.”

Nigella recently addressed how she never thought she’d reach the milestone age of 60 following the deaths of her mother, sister and husband who all died before they were 50-years-old.

Touching on how lucky she feels to have hit 60, she shared: “I’m not a planner – apart from when it comes to food!

“But to be completely honest, I’ve never been able to take for granted that I’d be alive by this age. My mother died at 48 and my sister at 32, and then John at 47.

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“So, even if I were the sort of person who planned ahead, I don’t think I would have seen myself here.”

Nigella went on to reveal how her outlook on ageing has completely changed, adding: “I kind of think you can’t do anything about it [ageing] so why complain?

“I also know what the alternative is, so it feels wrong when you’ve been surrounded by people who have died young to say, ‘My hair’s awful, I’ve got to get my roots done’ or ‘My hands look like lizards.'”

She continued to tell Good Housekeeping: “I don’t dwell on it.

“As long as you’re healthy, that really is the most important thing.”

Nigella’s sister Thomasina died from breast cancer eight years after her mother.

She shares two children Cosima, 26, and Bruno, 24, with her late husband, John.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997 and died in March in 2001.

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