The tea menu: little sandwiches with cucumbers and such; stollen and regular scones with clotted cream and lemon curd; cookies, trifles, and fudge; and the yummiest cocktail weenies

British cookbook author Nigella Lawson at the Ritz Carlton

Brit cookbook author Nigella Lawson dropped by the Ritz-Carlton yesterday for a spot of tea and conversation. (She was in town promoting her new cookbook, Nigella Express.) She’s an incredibly well-spoken and compelling person to meet in person; in fact, when it’s all said and done, it may be Nigella who’s responsible for getting me out of my pre-winter funk.

The thrust of her remarks: intellect and cooking utensils can go hand in hand. “It doesn’t lower my I.Q. when I bake a cake,” said Lawson, whose first husband died of cancer of the throat/mouth. “I’ve gone through almost every form of loss. I know that it’s hard to accept that life continues. But when you feed others, you feed yourself.”

I wish I could say that when I went home I baked a nice, warm apple loaf and gave it to a pal. I didn’t. I went and drank a mojito at the Tory Burch opening, then chased it with a beer at a Project Runway party in a gay bar in Uptown. But I like what Nigella is saying: that home cooking should occupy just as important place in our cultural sphere as fine dining, and that the hearth is, literally, where the heart can—and should—be.

She also made an excellent point about downtime; it’s boring. Finally, a person simpatico with me on this point: “The contemporary world puts too much emphasis on relaxation,” she said. “I wish I could relax, but I can’t. If you do a simple thing like stirring, or chopping, that’s a way to release—not sitting in the sun lounger. If I was going to sit all day in the sun lounger, they’d have to put me in a clinic.”

Photography: Cassie Walker