Kitchen Therapy

Why We Love Nigella – Madeleines and Mirror Neurons

6 Comments

 

Have you ever wondered why some people leave you cold while others leave you wanting (or in the case of Nigella Lawson), begging for more?!

Backtrack to Italy in the early 1990’s where Italian researchers made an unexpected discovery (don’t you just love the way most of our greatest discoveries were made by accident?) Anyway…

One day, sitting in the lab, surrounded by macaque monkeys with electrodes implanted in their brains, one of the researchers noticed something interesting as they reached for their own food. The monkeys watching him began to show neural activity in the same area of the brain that fired when they themselves made similar hand movements! The discovery of mirror neurons was made!

These brain cells fire not only when we do something, but also, when we watch someone else do the same thing.

Scientists used to think our brains used logical thought processes to understand and predict other people’s actions.

Now they believe we understand other people by feeling, not by thinking.

These little neurons help us to not only mirror other people’s actions but also the intentions and feelings behind those actions.

For example, when you see someone smile, your own smiling neurons fire up, creating a sensation in your own mind of the feelings that go with smiling.
Or you watch an athlete on television and feel your own heart racing and the exhiliaration of winning.
Or you watch Nigella taking almost erotic pleasure and delight in her cooking, you can feel her rapture and joy in what she is doing (no wonder we can’t get enough of her!).
In all of the above examples, our mirror neurons fire away, creating in us, the same experience and emotion being observed, so in a sense we enter another person’s reality for a moment.

Now this is all fantastic when we are around people who make us feel as fabulous as Nigella does, but consider the effects of those who aren’t so positive in their take on life. People who are anxious, nasty, fearful, depressed, manipulative or just plain whiny! We all have them in our lives (and if we are really honest we’ve all been one of them at some point in our lives!) People who we walk away from feeling drained, empty, anxious and depressed. If we understand how mirror neurons work, we can identify who these people are and prepare ourselves or even choose to avoid them.

And just as importantly, we can ask ourselves, “how do we want others to experience us?”

So… what in the world does this have to do with Madeleine’s???

All this started with a decision to catch up with some really great women one Friday afternoon. Intelligent and supportive women that approach life with a sense of humour, so there’s always a lot of laughter. And there are no hidden agendas or power plays, so there’s a wonderful lightness and a simplicity in being with them. As I flicked through Nigella’s “How To Be a Domestic Goddess” book, I took one look at the simple yet elegant madeleine’s and they seemed to embody the essence of what these women are about and how they make others feel!

Rosebud Madeleines

(Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess” book)

50g unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon for greasing tin)

1 large egg

40g caster sugar

pinch of salt

45g plain flour

1 tbsp rosewater

icing sugar for dusting


Steps (abbreviated by me)

1. Melt butter then leave to cool.

2. Beat egg, sugar and salt with electric mixer for 5 mins, until “thick as mayonnaise.”

3. Sieve flour over egg and sugar mixture, then fold with a wooden spoon.

4. Fold in butter (minus one tablespoon for greasing tin).

5. Fold in rosewater.

6. Mix gently, then leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

7. Take out of fridge and rest a further 30 mins.

8. Preheat oven to 22o degrees Celsius.

9. Brush insides of tin with melted butter and fill with mixture.

10. Bake for about 5 minutes, turn out and cool on a rack before dusting with icing sugar.

(Nigella says her recipe will fill two x 24 bun mini-madeleine tin. I used 1 x12 bun tin and only filled 10 of the holes).

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6 thoughts on “Why We Love Nigella – Madeleines and Mirror Neurons

  1. Nigella was one of the first people who taught me to love food, besides my grandma. I watched her first series many years ago on Canadian television (we had several British shows rebroadcasted) and loved it as much as I do today. There’s nobody like Nigella 🙂 I have her book “How To Eat”, how do you like Domestic Goddess?

  2. Wow these look amazing! I did not know that the brain worked that way either, firing the same if we watch someone or do the action ourselves.

  3. Yet another reason to buy a Madeleine pan! And, I absolutely love Nigella’s shows!

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