Before Instagram, before Pinterest or any of that, there was Nigella. How many painstaking hours must have gone into making every dish she prepared across her various cooking shows look so effortless and perfect, each episode such an exquisite fantasy of home life. Nigella Lawson didn't invent any of this, of course, but she did just about perfect it.
There's no deception or trickery about it really. We all know the deal, and buy into it more than willingly. There is always something relaxing, deeply soothing about watching someone who knows how to cook - and Nigella, as her latest series reaffirms, is an expert at maximising that pleasure. "Food porn" is a gross way of describing it, but you get why that term exists.
Based on the book of the same name, Nigella: At My Table lets us inside Nigella's kitchen for a half hour at a time to watch as she "potters around". If there is one thing that distinguishes this from previous Nigella series, it's the amount of pottering. Before cooking anything we first get a tour of "the hot spot", her pantry shelf of exotic spices; later we are treated to a rummage through the cupboard under her stairs in search of a spiraliser.
There's also a very loose theme to this series, in the form of the titular table. Tables are brilliant, Nigella argues. "More than just a piece of furniture." A table was the first thing she bought for her first home, "not just to eat at, but to live around."
But, the food. We're here for the food. "I remember visiting my late mother-in-law in hospital one day," Nigella recounts while sitting on the stairs in a posh dressing gown, "and the woman in the bed next to her suddenly shouted out, "Help! I need a sandwich!" I so understood. I regularly have the same feeling of urgent need for chocolate brownie."
Emergency chocolate brownie, cooked in the middle of the night in a kitchen adorned with fairy lights and those little candles. Later, another late-night feast of weird spiralised potato fries. Nigella must go through buckets of antacids if this is really how she eats, but we never see that side of things.
Fancy but a little bit relatable - that's the key. Frozen peas in the chicken tray-bake, but also "a splosh of dry white vermouth"; "a flourish of dill". And let's take a closer look at that kitchen. There must be at least 20 types of sieve hanging above the counter, and is that a glass-sided toaster? This is the kind of beautiful dream we are talking about here - one with a glass toaster. One where every kind of food drainage device ever invented is within arms reach, and where somehow there's never a pile of dishes at the end. It's some of the purest escapism on TV.
Nigella: At My Table, Food TV, 8:30pm Monday