Nadiya Hussain: That is what immigration does – it gives us the freedom to fuse

December 1, 2020 1:00:58 PM

Nadiya Hussain: That is what immigration does – it gives us the freedom to fuse

Swapping the confines of the kitchen for the wide-open plains of North America, Nadiya Hussain has set out on an altogether different kind of culinary adventure.

Uncovering the way in which migrants have shaped modern American cuisine, new two-part BBC One documentary series Nadiya’s American Adventure is the latest gourmet offering coming to a screen near you.

It’s been quite the journey for the Great British Bake Off series six champion, whose instantly recognisable smile and can-do attitude elevated her to national treasure status. After making the BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women list and with a host of shows including Nadiya Bakes, Nadiya’s Time To Eat and Nadiya’s British Food Adventure under her belt, the 35-year-old British baker has this time journeyed to the other side of the Atlantic.

Exploring the flavoursome food offerings served up across California and Louisiana, Hussain discovers the tacos worth indulging in, the king cakes to try, and the soul food the American southern state has become famous for. We sit down and discover more about Nadiya’s American Adventure from the Bake Off winner and delve deeper into her cross-country food expedition…

What was it about the people and this adventure that really resonated with you?

“As a British Bangladeshi woman, born and raised in Britain, to immigrant parents, being British wasn’t important to my parents, but understanding our Bengali roots was. From the way we behaved, to the way we ate, to the way we interact to the way we dressed. It was all a part of who we were. As a child I never understood its importance, but now, as a grown-up, I do.”

Did you have a favourite location on the trip?

“If I had to pick one it was the Roots of Music. In an area forgotten after Hurricane Katrina, it was just beautiful to see hope in these children’s eyes as they are freed through the music they play. I have never seen a marching band and to be able to walk with them and hear their music play was out of this world.”

You also visited a Guatemalan night market…

“People, mostly women, were cooking all sorts of delicious food, some off stoves and gas, but mostly makeshift grills, popped on top of shopping trolleys. There was something quite saddening about the situations that these people are in that has forced them to cook in a night market. But they also get to cook the food from their home countries they have fled from and they get to socialise, eat and have a great night and feed many, many people who are on their way home from work, or out just to eat authentic Central American food.”

What were the most memorable dishes you tried?

“The Vietnamese crawfish boil was my absolute favourite, amongst others, but the fact that is their equivalent of a Sunday dinner totally blew my mind. Anyone who goes to San Francisco has to go to Golden Gate Fortune Cookies. Fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco and this family-run factory still makes them the old-fashioned way by hand.”

Were there any surprising moments?

“The rodeo girls really surprised me. The need to use their culture of girls riding to keep in touch with their Mexican heritage was something that really touched me emotionally. Plus I got to ride a horse, which was thrilling.”

Did the stories of any of the individuals really capture your attention?

“Burnell’s story really stood out to me. He is a real beacon of hope for his community, constantly trying to build up and recreate the hub of his community through his grocery store. Whilst the area was very quiet and very few people returned after Hurricane Katrina and the floods, he came back and stayed and has been rebuilding ever since. Total inspiration of a human being and we can all be a little bit more like him.”

What did you take away from filming the documentary?

“Immigration has changed the food landscape in a way we don’t really even realise. When people move and set up home in foreign lands, it becomes their home and with them they bring a wealth of knowledge, culture, and of course, food.

“As a daughter of an immigrant, I hold my recipes from my parents’ homeland dear to my heart, but also appreciate the recipes that being British has taught me. Being a part of two worlds has meant I love nothing better than to fuse the two parts of who I am to create food that represents me. That is what immigration does – it gives us the freedom to fuse.”

Nadiya’s American Adventure starts on BBC One on December 10.

Close