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“Not to everyone’s taste,” as one foodie sniffed at the time. When Michael Jackson, then head of Channel 4, decided to give Nigella a cooking show, he was warned that she was too posh, too bluestocking, too distant.The sceptics had not noticed that Charles Saatchi, who had transformed a grocer’s daughter into a Prime Minister, lurked behind the scenes.When Saatchi met Nigella, she had just come out with a best-selling cookery book, How to Eat.
They diced, chopped and fried food as if it were a means to an end. In the world according to Saatchi, the kitchen was not only the hearth but the backdrop to lusty appetites and titillating innuendo.
Saatchi’s genius lay in persuading Nigella to caress, squeeze, lick the food as if it were an object of lust. Men who couldn’t boil an egg tuned in to savour Nigella in her tight-fitting outfits and scarlet lipstick. His status and millions ensured that no matter how popular his wife became, he was still the greater of the two.
Like the Greek shipping tycoon, Saatchi was immensely controlling: a perfect Svengali for a beautiful and vulnerable trophy wife. On Sunday, Charles Saatchi told a newspaper he was filing for divorce.
Nigella learnt that her 10-year marriage was over from the pages of a tabloid.
The golden youths included gorgeous nobodies like Hugh Grant, but most, like Lawson (whose father was then energy secretary under Margaret Thatcher), were the scion of important dynasties – titled, landed, or just high-profile. Her luscious looks turned heads, but she was a scholar, too, a bluestocking who could recite cantos from Dante’s Inferno.