Nadiya Hussain shot to fame by winning the British television institution that is The Great British Bake Off in 2015, breaking down stereotypes of Muslim women in the process. She has gone on to carve a successful career in the culinary world with a host of TV appearances and a number of successful recipe books. But she is not here at The Queen’s Hall to talk about her culinary journey, instead she explores her own personal journey which has seen her battle anxiety and panic disorder since childhood.
Hussain has spoken openly on the painful subject in order to show people that it is okay not to be okay and even allowed cameras to follow her journey on the BBC One documentary, Nadiya: Anxiety and Me, which aired earlier this year. Now, she has written a memoir on her experiences – Finding My Voice – in which she dissects each of her roles as a woman in turn. Tonight she discusses each of these roles further with friend and fellow cook, Marcus Bean.
Exuding warmth the audience learn of her experiences growing up as a British-Bangladeshi in Luton and how being a daughter, granddaughter, sister, wife and daughter-in-law are not necessarily easy roles to fill in such an environment. She touches on cultural differences which may shock the largely white audience in Edinburgh but explains that although she herself promotes gender equality and has, in her own words, “P45’d” many “silly” aspects of her Bangladeshi culture she accepts it is part of who she is and growing up in those surroundings has shaped who she is today.
Perhaps most shocking of all, however, is her admission that she hates cake! Despite her success on the Bake Off it is the process of baking which she discovered helped her anxiety and not the end product – give her a samosa over a sponge any day! Hussain speaks candidly about how she uses baking as a means of encouraging community, neighbours welcome to come in for a cup of tea and a slice of cake to get warm. It is a touching sentiment and one sorely lacking in the year 2019. Maybe if we were all a little bit more ‘Nadiya’ we could start to bring back some of that community spirit.
Listening to Hussain talk it is impossible not to be inspired by her determination to succeed, her willingness to change that which is outdated and her desire to imbue kindness in all around her. Finding My Voice promises to be a rousing read which might just teach us something.