One year on from starting a mother-and-daughter cooking series, broadcaster Miquita Oliver reflects on kitchens, community and the importance of coming together in times of need…
Whether it’s accepting that it’s fine to have unproductive days, or realising that there’s a surprising underground market for self-raising flour when the whole nation is mad for banana bread, it’s fair to say that the last year has taught us a lot.
What’s For Dinner Mummy? originally started as the pair having a laugh and a cook-up in the family kitchen to get through lockdown and has since evolved into its own runaway hit.
Here, she talks about how music, dancing and lots of good food evolved into something even bigger, as well as deepening her relationship with her mum.
Moving back home
I moved back home for lockdown.
It was just me, my mum, dad and my dog and from that point we went deep into the kitchen.
We said, “This is the place that feels safest, let’s not leave here.”
We started with all the dinners from my childhood that made me feel safe, like shepherd’s pie, and then Mum started baking a bit more.
Everyone got a bit of a sweet tooth after about a week, and then we just started filming it, out of complete and utter boredom.
Then it became a real way to get through the week, and people started really loving it.
So it was quite weird because everything was so locked down but we were doing this thing that so many people were seeing, so it was a rescue from the darkness. It felt like we were kind of open again.
In lockdown it became a bigger question: everyone was asking, “What are we having for dinner?”
The fact that I was with my mum was quite a big deal because suddenly everyone wasn’t.
Usually, I call her Mum but she very much became Mummy in that period, so it was a reflection of what was happening in our house every day: What’s For Dinner, Mummy?
Finding joy through baking
I enjoy baking with my cousin Phoebe, who is a baker, because she helps me realise my baking dreams.
On my own, I’m a lot more simplified. I like the idea that you’ve got to have patience, and I also like that it’s quite scientific.
That’s what my cousin always says – it’s not “Throw in a bit of this.” It’s science, and I think that’s quite an interesting part of baking. Details are very important, which I quite like.
I’m actually more traditional when it comes to baking. My mum gets too jazzy for my liking. I love Midsomer Murders and Poirot – cosy English things that remind me of me and my Nanny.
So when it comes to baking, I like cream cakes and things that are just really old-school, like a good old Victoria sponge.
I’m also quite neat. I’m not good at decorating but I do get annoyed if it doesn’t look symmetrical – I might get a ruler! I like it to look like a picture – not Instagram, more like a Janet and Allan Ahlberg book.
When we started doing WFDM, it was great to have this thing and have people respond to it, and I knew it was something I suddenly wanted to put a lot of focus on.
But also, there was suddenly this pressure that I put on myself at a time when everyone was really closed-off. I felt like we had to be giving a lot of love and light, and actually we don’t all feel like that in lockdown all the time.
Around the time of George Floyd’s death and Black Lives Matter, we were meant to be doing a recording. The minute we all sat down and read the tone of the world, we really thought about what we could make in response to something this horrendous.
And actually, that day, or the day after, was when my mum and I drove up the road and she saw that the pub was reopening and decided to do the pop-up. So I think there was a part of us that thought we have to make WFDM live in the world, not just on Instagram.
We went to everyone’s house and just gave them food and love. And then my mum’s pop-up was in the heart of the community, and everyone had somewhere to go to hear tunes and take something home. So I think eventually it became a way to really respond to what was going on.
My relationship with my mum
Me and Mum have always been so close but oddly last year we became even closer because we suddenly became real brothers-in-arms about creating real autonomy for ourselves.
We worked really hard on our separate projects, and then worked really hard on the things we were doing together, so that brought us closer together.
During lockdown Mum and I were doing WFDM from the place we always do everything, which is: Why can’t there be tunes? Why can’t we turn them up? Why can’t we dance? Why can’t I be barefoot?
Doing what we do only as we do it, because everyone has something in their family they only do the way they do it, so I think that’s one of the special parts about it.
We’ve never been so busy at the same time. When I was very young my career was skyrocketing and Mum wasn’t working.
And then seven years ago Mum’s career skyrocketed and I wasn’t working. So the last few years have been this incredible alignment.
We’re like Captain Planet: when we’re together, we can do anything! So our relationship is ever-evolving.
I thought we were just where we were at, and actually, we’re somewhere very different.
I’m also getting older, and I think she respects me as a woman more now, less as her little baby girl. And I really respect the woman that she has become who runs all these incredible things and makes great teams and just looks after everyone in a really special way.
She’s basically grown into a bloody brilliant businesswoman and I just find that so admirable because that’s not where we started in our life at all.
So to watch her flourish in this place has really made me feel like I can do anything, which is great
Baking shouldn’t be a competitor sport. After all, the true joy of making a cake is the fun of the process and presenting your creation to share with your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. Discover the joy of baking with Dr. Oetker’s easy-peasy and simple-to-follow recipes with no need to fret about not having enough time, equipment or skill.
Watch Miquita Oliver try her hand at a classic coconut cake with Stylist here as we discuss what makes baking so fun, especially in the context of the nation reconnecting with their mixing bowls over the last year. Give it a go yourself using the ingredients below - no equipment, expert skills, or time required.