Cheers and clapping greet what has now become Nadiya Hussain’s iconic smile, as she walks onto the stage, with Barney Desmazery (Senior Food editor, BBC Good Food).
Promoting her latest book Nadiya’s British Food Adventure, Nadiya finds herself at the Oxford Playhouse. The conversation naturally begins with discussion surrounding the BBC’s The Great British Bake Off. Nadiya explains that primarily she was a stay at home Mum and she would not change the time she spent brining up her three children, this to her was the best job ever. However, her husband had started to notice that Nadiya was beginning to lose herself and was not the same person she once was. He encouraged her to do something for herself and ended up putting her application in for GBBO.
Nadiya clarified that there are many stages to the process of initially getting onto the bake off and that on the day she got the call confirming that she was through, she was straight on the phone to her husband Abdal saying ‘now what do I do?
She did the only thing she could, which was to keep calm and start baking!
People would not realise that for Nadiya every week on the show was a struggle, as she battled continuously with self-doubt and low confidence. She was baking until the early hours of the morning and still doing the school run. It appears that The Great British Bake Off was not just a physical journey for Nadiya, but also one of emotional development, where she was able to confront her fears and push herself forward in times of great mental adversity.
Nadiya openly discussed her struggles with anxiety and panic disorder, she describes it as a monster. 'Sometimes it can be up in your face and that’s all you can see and you can’t see past it.’ Other times it is still in the background but manageable. In an interview on BBC Radio 4 Nadiya had previously mentioned that she wears an elastic band on her wrist, which works as shock therapy to keep her in the moment. At this interview, she did not have any bands on her wrist that were visibly present, illustrating how far she has come.
When asked by a member of the audience what advice she would give to others suffering from similar barriers. She says: ‘Do something that scares you’, because it is better to be on the other side of when it is accomplished, rather than on the side where you are still debilitated by the fear of having yet started.'
Nadiya certainly has been doing something that scares her since the bake off, throwing herself into her new series and book, which will see her explore different parts of the country and use the produce she finds there to inspire her to make new recipes. Nadiya is often asked what she calls the ‘British question’:
Does she feel British? Of course she does, she is British and proud of it!
Nadiya described British food as a melting pot of all the influences that have come into Britain, making the great wealth that we all know to be the modern British cuisine of today.
From my perspective, food to Nadiya is an expression of giving, togetherness, family and more significantly, in light of her new book and series, is her British identity, of course with that special added hint of Bangladeshi spice.