Nigella Lawson has a complicated relationship with birthdays.
While she naturally shies away from celebrating turning another year older – and really, isn't the same true for most of us? – the celebrity cook's attitude is rather complicated by the fact she watched her mother Vanessa and husband John Diamond pass away in their 40s and one of her sisters, Thomasina, at just 32, all from cancer.
But on her 60th birthday, the domestic goddess says her milestone has made her realise and appreciate the best things about ageing.
"I now see the rest of my life as a great, unfurling mystery," she says.
"For the past three decades, as I grew up, established a career, had children and so on, I pretty much knew what the shape of my life would be, day to day. Now I feel that anything could happen.
"I'm happy with my life as it is, happier than I thought I would be from the anxious vantage point of my twenties, but now I feel so much more open to anything and everything. And that's a wonderful way to walk into the future."
In a candid essay to mark her 60th, Nigella has admitted she's had to fight against feeling ashamed of her age and guilty about surpassing her mother Vanessa's ultimate age of 48, adding that turning 49 was the "hardest birthday" she ever had.
"When you have seen people you love die young, the idea of complaining about getting older is just revolting.
"Turning 50 was a doddle… I was rather relieved to no longer be 49, the year that made me a traitor to my mother."
Despite her aversion to birthdays – for the last few years she has been in Australia filming MasterChef on the big day, and got away without mentioning it – the beloved foodie conceded a bit of a celebration, and was spotted heading to a late celebratory lunch with her daughter Cosima (25) in London.
For the last few years, family time has been front and centre – she also has a son, Bruno (23).
Though she's filmed guest spots on MasterChef, launched a food photography app and regularly posts to social media – she acknowledged her birthday by posting a cake recipe – she's taken time away from her own shows and books.
"As far as her career goes, Nigella's view is that she's done it all, really," says a friend.
"She doesn't feel the need to reinvent the wheel. The fact that the last two books were essentially a rerun of her previous books kind of says it all."
She has allowed some lucrative endorsement deals to dry up, and though she's told pals she's writing more recipes, there's no word yet of a follow-up to 2017's At My Table.
In fact, she has even hinted that a dramatic career change might be on the cards, saying in 2018 that she's "interested" in the idea of abandoning her foodie career to work with people who are terminally ill.
"It really interests me, that sort of work," she mused.
"In many ways, I feel I didn't choose this life. But I guess that's what happens if you go on TV."
Nigella has often commented on her inherent shyness – which is perhaps at odds with her sexpot public persona.
But it's because of her natural nervousness that she turns on the Nigella charm, she reveals.
These days she embraces her introversion.
She no longer drinks and she indulges in a bit of reformer Pilates, and if she doesn't get at least six hours of reading in on a weekend, she deems it "a waste".
"My greatest delight is being tucked up with a pile of books by 7.30pm. If I'm not suitably banked by books, I start twitching. I'm a binge reader. Now my children are grown up, I regard the weekends as reading days."
She also says she's found immense joy in solitude.
"I found it hard to enjoy my own company when young, but now I relish it. Put like that, it sounds remarkably self-satisfied, but I don't care how it sounds. I just feel so happy it's the case.
"Solitude is as important to me now as food."
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