2020 will be remembered for many, many, things, but if there is one food that sums up this mad bonkers, dare we say unprecedented year, it’s home-made banana bread. And of course, the ubiquitous sourdough.
We wanted to know what it was about baking that really captured the nation’s hearts in 2020, so we asked the country’s most beloved baker Nadiya Hussain - whose latest food show, Nadiya’s American Adventure, starts this week - to explain.
And she has plenty of theories, as well as some brilliant thoughts on the power of walking, and what to do with the Quality Street that no-one wants to eat…
Why do you think baking has been such a popular pursuit in this most tumultuous of years?
Nadiya: Baking has soothing properties. That moment when I put my apron on, I feel like I can take on the world. I feel like I can do anything. My apron is like my cape. I think baking gives us comfort and in the fast pace of life, we’d forgotten that. In 2020 baking has given us a moment to centre ourselves. A moment to say: this is my time. This is what I’m doing. We’re also constantly being fed what we can and can’t eat, and during lockdown we allowed ourselves to not feel guilty about eating things like cake. Which is a healthy process to go through.
Do you think it also provides a moment of celebration which is important when there hasn’t felt like there’s been that much to celebrate?
Absolutely. You don’t have to have a reason to have cake. But when you spend half a day baking something you get that ta-da moment where you’re like: Look at what I did. It celebrates your hard work. But the celebration is also in the eating and the sharing of what you’ve spent your time on.
In Nadiya’s American Adventure you talk about how when you don’t follow the rules in the kitchen is when you have the most fun and create the best food. How easy is that for you?
It’s hard for me to have loads of fun in the kitchen because I’m like, it’s a mess. I hate that, it really stresses me out. It’s in those moments when I let my kids go free flow and do whatever they like. A couple of weeks ago, we made loads of edible cookie dough that we ate out the jar. It was wonderful. Then we felt sick because it was too sweet so we ate crisps to stop feeling sick. And then we needed something sweet so went back to the cookie dough. Then we went out for a walk and had a bag of chips.
You’re someone that has always been on the go since winning Bake Off. How have you adapted to staying home more and spending more time with your family and husband?
It’s still go, go go. But I’m taking it a little bit slower. I think the fact we found a new way of working is good; I think we’ll save the environment, we’ll save people’s time. It’s given me a bit more balance in my life. I feel like these last few weeks I’ve been able to balance things in my head that I haven’t done for years which is so good for me. And, of course, really good for my mental health.
You’ve often talked about how good walking is for your mental health, has that been a salve in 2020?
I think if I hadn’t walked this year, I’d have really struggled. I’ve been walking loads and it’s really helped me with my confidence more than anything else. I only walk because it helps me to feel grounded. To be in nature reminds you that you’re alive, and that’s really important. You have this wonderful body that keeps you here and keeps you alive: we have to look after it and nurture it and not just with the food we eat, but things that we put into our mind. Changing the purpose of my walking has made it more important. I do 10K every day, which takes the longest time, but I still try and manage that.
You’re a keen reader, have you been getting through many books this year?
I’ve just finished reading Girl, Woman, Other [by Bernadine Evaristo] which is great. I’ve just read I Am Not Your Baby Mother, Candice Brathwaite’s book and have been reading The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson. I’ve been going between different books.
Reading is something I stopped doing for a bit. I go through phases, of reading loads and then I’ll stop. Right now I want to read lots. Next I want to read The Book You Wish Your Parents had Read by Philipa Perry
Final question and it’s an important one: what is the best Quality Street?
The green triangle. I hate the strawberry one. That’s just fondant! They’re the ones that are always leftover in our house, so I’ll bake them into cupcakes.
Nadiya’s American Adventure is on Thursday 10 December, 8pm, BBC One