London-based singer-songwriter, Katy B released her debut album in 2010, scoring a Mercury Prize nomination and accolades for bridging the gap between dubstep, UK garage, and mainstream pop with tracks like "Katy on a Mission." Growing up in a house with two kitchens, she's also pretty vocal about her interest in food (her record label have staged interventions to stop her buying 4 AM burgers) and harbours an ambition to master the perfect roti. This weekend, Katy performs at the Rinse FM stage at Notting Hill Carnival, West London's yearly celebration of Caribbean culture, music, dance—and food.
Notting Hill Carnival is coming up this weekend and all I can think about is my friend's accidental pineapple crumble.
He ran out of apples so made a crumble out of pineapple and it was delicious. It seems appropriately tropical to mark Carnival, so I think I should bake one.
Accidental food combinations are really how I started cooking. I would play with random things in the cupboard, mixing them all together and making my parents taste whatever was created. My dad would try to divert me to play hairdressers instead of having to taste my soup of grossness. He rarely succeeded.
It's a bizarre miracle that I have grown up to have the relationship with food that I do. My mum is half Jamaican, half Irish and it seems the Irish half won out when it comes to food. She doesn't like any spice—she doesn't even like garlic—so I grew up eating mostly potatoes. I swear I've peeled so many potatoes after school for dinner I could win some kind of world record for fastest potato peeling. We'd have steamed potatoes with some veg and fish, or meat and two veg with a bit of Bisto. My dad, bless him, had his special part of the fridge for very exotic food like olives, salami, and maybe a few pickles. Mum always laughs because she doesn't know where my love of all foods could have come from.
I find cooking therapeutic and once I got through my experimental phase (sounds like some sorority girl), I started following cake recipes. A lot of the time, the cakes turned out really badly—I would do something totally ridiculous like forget to put any sugar in. But there are a lot of fond memories of half terms from school spent baking cakes. I think it's a way for kids to express love and adopt a caregiving role, I still cook my mum a lemon drizzle for her birthday and for Mother's Day.
I have to really think about food. As a performer, I've learned certain things the hard way. A definite, big no-no is fizzy drinks. There have been a few times when I've had to turn my back and pretend to be doing some sort Michael Jackson moves when actually I've been burping. I now stick to just lots of room temperature water before a gig—too hot or too cold and it'll numb your vocal chords.
Really though, I've come to realise that to have a healthy voice, you need to have a healthy life and diet. I've found that musicians have to either go to one extreme or the other—either you're the type to get up after two hours of sleep with a bad hangover and you just have another beer and go on stage, or you're the type sleep and drink water to make sure you're fit.
I don't think it's surprising that a musician should also love food. I have a similar satisfaction in sharing my food as I do my music.
I don't think it's surprising that a musician should also love food. I have a similar satisfaction in sharing my food as I do my music. I live alone so important to me to have a big dining table in my house so I have my friends over to sit around it and eat together. I have people round at least twice a week so I'm so happy that my plan has worked out. If I'm cooking dinner for myself, chances are a few friends who know they can always pop over will come and eat some of what I've made. I'll just do simple things like a chicken and some roast veg in the oven. But a lot of love goes into it, I even grow my own herbs on my windowsill.
There are so many banging places in London. I adore Indian food and will go to Dishoom and because it's small plates, I can basically order everything. The prawns, the daal and—oh dear Lord—the cheesy naan. It just shouldn't be allowed to exist, it's so gorgeous and I cannot deny myself it any time I'm there.
I'm a proper South and East Londoner and I love homely food, not any of that posh tiny food. I never thought I could be a snob but actually I think I am a bit of a coffee snob now. I'm a big perfectionist when it comes to food and drink, I know how I like it—just like I know how I like my music. And you know when you get a really bad coffee? That really, really gets to me sometimes. If it's my nice treat in a day and it's a lukewarm disappointment, it's genuinely upsetting.
D'you know what's not upsetting though? Carnival. I'm getting excited for the jerk chicken, the red pea soups, the stews. I grew up eating all of them at friends' houses and I adore it all. My mum's Trinidadian friend makes "doubles," which are flaky pastry filled with chickpeas in pumpkin sauce and I am totally addicted to them. She also brought me a roti plate back from Trinidad and gave me a lesson. I swear, I will learn to make amazing, proper roti if it's the last thing I do.
As told to Sarah Phillips.
You can catch Rinse FM at this year's Notting Hill Carnival.