Gotham Diary:
5 December 2013

Kathleen Moriarty

Schadenfreude isn’t one of my weaknesses, or so I like to think. When bad things happen to other people, my response is usually sympathetic, because merely imagining bad things makes me feel vulnerable. Especially self-inflicted bad things. The older I get, the more astonished I am that I manage to get through the day without being arrested or inadvertently killing myself. And that’s now. When I was young and reckless — but I can’t be thinking about that. No, the possibility of bad things happening is far too vivid for me to derive any satisfaction from the misfortune of others.

And yet, this morning, I found myself sunk up to my neck in a bath of agreeable wickedness, as I read a tittle-tattle story in the Times about Nigella Lawson. I am so bad.

Back in the mid-Aughts, not quite ten years ago, Lawson had a weekly column in the Times, which I think was called “At My Table.” I didn’t know who she was at the time, except that she was obviously British and just as obviously in possession of a well-upholstered wallet. And she could cook. She could cook for a crowd without breaking a sweat. Her recipes, which always sounded both straightforward and interesting, never seemed to have more than four ingredients, and these ingredients seemed to cook themselves immediately upon introduction. She had an enormous kitchen in a townhouse somewhere — Greenwich Village, was it? Every now and then, the existence of not just a cleaner or a nanny but a considerable domestic staff would be hinted at. I hated Nigella Lawson. My envy had nowhere else to go.

Later, I discovered that she was the daughter of a Thatcherite Chancellor of the Exchequer whose name was Nigel Lawson, and I felt very sorry for her. Nigella, indeed. What was he thinking?

Now I find out that she really did have a domestic staff. Not back then, maybe, but more recently, while she was married to Charles Saatchi. (Why?)

When a friend offered her cocaine, she said, she took it, adding that she had smoked marijuana from time to time in the last year of her marriage to Mr. Saatchi. Not knowing how to roll a marijuana cigarette, she asked others in the well-staffed household to do it for her. “This was not behavior I’m proud of,” she said.

It seems that two members of that staff, or two employees of her former husband, were stealing from the couple. The thieves claim that they were given “free rein” to use their bosses’ credit cards, in exchange for keeping mum about Lawson’s drug use. This is why my mother disliked having servants. You just never know.

How is it possible that a “celebrity chef” doesn’t know how to roll a joint? Boggles! Even  I know how… But, really, Grey Lady, “marijuana cigarette” is carrying the “family newspaper” thing a little too far!

A proper teatime is a meal, not a snack, so it’s good to have something savory to hand around. My salmon sandwiches are not exactly traditional — in the old days it would have been fish paste spread between the slices — but rather a new take on an old theme. The star anise in the poaching water for the salmon and the ginger in the mayonnaise (along with the shredded Chinese leaf, or, easier to find, romaine) give a vaguely Asian flavor, but this is still a substantial English offering.

That’s from a column published ten Thanksgivings ago. Isn’t it hateful? I’m going to make the sandwiches this weekend. Ha, you say. How do you know that I’m not going to waltz into my huge kitchen and tell the staffer in the white apron what I want for tea?