There is something very fundamental about sharing food; it manifests in all cultures as very important and symbolic.
But it has become complicated in modern life. With kids, I know that it's impossible to find something that they all like — one hates peanut butter and one loves peanut butter, for instance. Then there are all the demands and concerns of the outside world, what's in the news, and what's going on at anyone's work that draw away time and attention. And there has become this sense that food has to be fancy or demanding.
Sharing meals with people isn't about having to act as if you're opening a little restaurant in your own home. The act of sitting down together is more important than what you are putting on the table. The food doesn't have to be anything complicated; it can be a bowl of soup. It's about the act, not about a brand; to have a few minutes where you take a pause from all the madness, and just chat, enjoy a meal, and connect.
Everyone eating their separate meals at separate times is quite fragmenting. The things that make a difference, to me, are decompressing with other people, laughing together, finding out about someone's day. And sometimes it's just easier to do around food.
You definitely shouldn't be persecuting yourself because you haven't got the time to cook a big meal every night. So often these things — cooking, keeping a certain kind of home — are used as another way to make women feel bad about themselves. I don't think that at all; I don't think it's a moral code to cook.
Of course, not everyone can make something from scratch every day. I think that's one reason that the instant pot has become so popular in this country: It's really great when you have no time. I have a slow cooker, and those sorts of things make a big difference when you're trying to find the time to cook for your family.
And, whether it's something simple or not, cooking can be a way to decompress after a day. In a way, to turn around a bit in your kitchen, throw something together and put it into a bowl — all of that can be part of your routine of shaking off the world, giving you that feeling I'm at home now. I think that's what's important about sitting down together and eating food that you make. It's not about impressing other people or feeling that you're a better person for doing this. It's just actually about you claiming some space, in your home and in your life.
As told to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.
Nigella Lawson's most recent cookbook is "At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking" (Flatiron Books).