It might surprise you to learn that not all female cookbook authors want to be Nigella Lawson, despite what the Times writers seem to think, as they described her as “the new Nigella”. “I think we need to just let Nigella be Nigella!” That’s what 21-year-old Izy Hossack reckons to the countless publication who have dubbed her the “new Nigella”. “She’s an amazing person and I really admire her approach to food, but I would never draw any comparisons between myself and her. We both have extremely different cooking styles and I would like to just be ‘me’.”

What is Izy’s cooking style? “Wholesome and well-balanced”, she says. Two words that might be more consistent with a fitness blogger’s Instagram account than hers full of indulgent sweet things and baked goods. Worried I’m about to stumble upon a sweet potato brownie if I scroll any further, I ask Izy if she considers herself to be plant based. “It’s tricky living in a world of labels like ‘plant-based’ and ‘vegetarian’ because people all have different views on what that should mean. So I don’t really describe myself as a vegetarian but if pressed I’d say I’m a ‘flexitarian’. I barely eat meat nowadays, only doing so usually if I’m at a restaurant where I know they’ll be using high-welfare meat and the veggie option is something I don’t want. Sometimes I eat fish when I’m at home with my parents because they buy from the fishmongers. I still regularly use Parmesan cheese, Worcester sauce, fish paste and fish sauce when I’m cooking though – all of which are not vegetarian.”

Izy’s career has blossomed during the digital age of cooking from a blog she started in 2011 called Top With Cinnamon. “I’d been inspired by reading other food blogs to get a bit more creative with my own baking! After lots of experimenting with my own recipe creation, I started my blog as a way to document the things I was baking so I wouldn’t ever lose those recipes.” Fast forward to now and Izy is a published author, her first at just 18. “I never thought it would turn into me getting two book deals! It was pretty amazing and daunting all at the same time.”

Izy is honest when unpicking the reasons for her blog’s popularity. “I started my food blog before the wave of Instagram and food blogging reached the UK. Back then hardly anyone had book deals from their blogs and Pinterest was only just beginning. I also think that because I’m very aesthetically driven, once Pinterest and Instagram became popular, it was easier for me to gain followers because of my food photography.”

Currently, Izy is studying Food Science & Nutrition at the University of Leeds. “I find it fascinating learning about that side of things – the chemistry behind the processes, reactions and foods.” A recent Vice article suggested that many people studying nutrition are prone to developing eating disorders, but for Izy, her studied have been healing. “I did think that studying nutrition might make me feel pressured to stop eating cake etc but in actual fact I’ve become more at peace with food than I ever have been before. The education isn’t about demonising specific aspects of diet, a lot of it is about being able to critically assess pieces of research and come to your own conclusions. I’ve learnt about a sensible approach to nutrition and healthy eating and that yes, it really is all about eating a ‘balanced diet’, not restricting yourself!”

But Izy hasn’t always had a great relationship with food. “I have been through some rough times when it came to my relationship with food. I’ve been restrictive and had disordered views on food in my teenage years, as I think is sadly common for teenagers in the Western world nowadays. I’m grateful that it never progressed to a stage where I was properly unwell and that now I am well on my way to healing my views on food. Of course I still have times where I get those restrictive thoughts popping up but I just have to work through them and think about having a balanced lifestyle.”

Being ‘flexitarian’, I wonder what Izy thinks about cutting things out of your diet, in general. “If it’s not because of a medical issue (e.g. lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, IBS, food allergies…) then I think cutting things out of your diet has to be approached mindfully. If you don’t have a healthy relationship with food, cutting things out of your diet can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. I do think that if you have cut things out of your diet, you really have to consider your true motives and check in with how you feel about food. If you find that you’ve got anxieties about certain foods/food groups which is why you’ve stopped eating them, go speak to a registered nutritionist or dietitian and see if they can help you!”

Izy’s supposed idol Nigella is often scrutinised for how she looks and what she weighs in the Mail Online’s sidebar of shame, so I’m curious to see whether Izy feels pressure to look a certain way being a woman in the food world, especially recognising her previous struggles with eating. “It’s definitely true that looking a certain way will get you a certain amount of success in any industry, just because of societal norms. I don’t really show myself on social media/my blog because that’s not my focus – the food is! Of course there’s always pressure on all people to look a certain way but recently there’s been more of a movement about loving and appreciating your own uniqueness and I really appreciate that! We’re moving in the right direction but it would be naive to think that prejudice for certain aesthetics doesn’t exist.”

An American-Italian upbringing is what Izy says has provided her with great inspiration for her cooking, growing up more used to eating oatmeal cookies and Devil’s food cake than Victoria sponges and shortbread. “When my mum moved to the UK about 30 years ago she brought a bunch of family recipes with her, handwritten in a notebook. Some were traditional Italian recipes from her nonna and some were American ones she’d picked up from magazines and newspapers.” Izy’s American background also explains why most of her recipes are measured in cups.

It’s clear that background has a huge impact on how we eat, and living on a student’s budget, Izy is aware how income can affect what’s on our plates. I ask her, do you think you can be poor and healthy too? “It’s really tough to eat healthily with little money. Fresh produce is expensive and fast-food is disturbingly cheap. On a student budget of course you can manage to buy yourself some canned chickpeas and frozen vegetables but for people living below the poverty line, that is not an option at all. Food poverty is a huge issue in the UK and I think more has to be done to make vegetables/fruits/legumes and a basic education about nutrition accessible to those people.”

Izy’s main focuses right now are to finish her last year of uni and move back to London, alongside keeping her Instagram topped up with beautiful images of her food like she usually does. I stalk her Instagram a little more to feel suitably hungry, wondering which of her posts I’d choose as my last meal if someone held a gun to my head. For Izy, it would be “French toast made with super cinnamony batter with maple syrup and blueberries! Sweet brunch dishes are my FAVE.”

Laura Denno signature


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *