What was the inspiration for this book?
The inspiration for Happy Cooking was essentially my journey with mental health, how I have coped, and the methods I use for dealing with my mental health.
Food and cooking is something I’ve always gravitated towards when my brain is not being my friend. The kitchen is my safe place, my happy, sad, angry place.
Even when no one knew what was going on, when I was ashamed and hid my mental health battles it was my place to be me. During the last year, people seemed to start seeing the kitchen as a place they could release worries and use it as a place of therapy almost.
Something I’d always done seemed to be something other people were now doing too and I knew I wanted to stop hiding and being ashamed.
Who do you think is your typical reader, if such a person exists? Who would you love to read your book?
There is no typical reader I don’t think and I like that. I hope the book in some way shape or form can relate to everyone. If it’s a favourite recipe or someone with ADHD who uses baking as a way of keeping their hands busy too, or someone who has felt or seen those dark days, it’s for everyone. At least I hope so!
That’s one thing, mental health doesn’t discriminate and neither does food.
Do you have a favourite genre or author? What books or authors would you say were significant influences on you?
I read and listen to audio books a lot. All the time. My ADHD and anxiety presents itself in some funny ways sometimes and one of those is that fact I struggle to listen to repetitive music.
Don’t get me wrong I love music at times but I need noise, and audio books are such a comfort for me. I read at night too when I can’t sleep.
I read lots of different things from Jane Fallon to Jojo Moyes to Matt Haig and I’ve just finished The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary. I adored Normal People and Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. It was triggering, loving and all-consuming and stayed with me a long while after.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine I adored too and The Half-Blood Prince has a very special place in my heart.
Virtual socialising in lockdown has been invaluable. Once we’re allowed to meet up in person again, who would be on your fantasy dinner party list and why? And of course, what would you feed them?
Oh wow anyone? Ok, Adele - just because I LOVE her, like actually head over heels love her, David Jason, because well he’s Del Boy isn’t he, Audrey Hepburn as she is my idol, Alan Rickman - he’s the half-blood Prince and my all-time favourite person in a film, Mel B - she’s a spice girl but also a survivor, and Prince!
We would have pints and pints of shell on prawns with fresh soda bread and salted butter, garlic drenched scallops, sweet oysters with pickled shallots and big fat king prawns hot with more garlic - basically a big seafood free for all to start, then pie and mash with all the gravy for main, and then I would wow them with my sticky toffee pudding, filthy chocolate brownie and retro trifle to finish, because you can NEVER have just one pudding!
The COVID-19 situation has affected us all in different ways, and the pub trade in particular has been profoundly impacted. How have you been managing in the lockdowns?
Completely and utterly the worst year of my life for many reasons. Tough doesn’t come close and I know this is the same for so many but you know what we keep going. It’s been seemingly impossible at times but we are here and we are still going.
The first month in we couldn’t pay our staff’s wages and that was heart-breaking but they were just amazing and understanding!
But just before Christmas was the first time I wondered what the hell we were going to do! £417 in our account, an extension being built, and lockdown 4 happening.
That was the worst! But we are one of the lucky ones for our pub being able to reopen. We listened and did what we were told and hoped for the best.
You were an absolute star on GBBO. Would you consider taking part in any other cookery shows? Would you prefer to be a competitor or a judge?
Thank you! I was so terrified but I loved every second! Ohhhh let me at it!! I love a challenge but I’d be terrified! I still don’t know how I won Bake Off!!
As for a judge you know I think I’d be a great judge if someone wanted help or I’d just cuddle everyone- but I am probably the least qualified to do that!
Do you have a book topic you’d love to write about next? Or a style of cookery you’d love to develop?
I would love to go to France and learn the art of French patisserie. Go to an old fashioned Boulangerie and learn how to make French bread and pastries their way! Perfection!
Book topic wise I love learning and trying things out - the things other people are maybe worried to, so maybe I could do a book of silly questions (though there is no such thing as a silly question in my eyes!).
What would your perfect day look like, and what’s the first place you want to visit after lockdown?
A bakery for breakfast, then the zoo, then a market for lunch eating my way round trying all sorts of lovely bits, then a nice walk with the dogs, and on to the pub for more food, red wine and board games! That or a football match with a hot dog and beer!!!
What are you reading at the moment?
I have just started listening to the Worst Idea Ever by Jane Fallon and I’m reading Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane, I also want to start Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights as recommended by Matt Willis so will sneak that in too! ADHD reading by CB!
What was your favourite book as a child?
Do you remember Pongwiffy by Kaye Umansky? I loved them and read them over and over!
Thank you very much for speaking to us, we wish you every success with the book.
Order your copy of Happy Cooking here