The megastar discusses her work on The Open Mic Project, and what she learned growing up in a pub.

Food, after all, is up there with music in terms of cross-cultural communication. After leaving Kosovo at just 1-year-old with her Albanian parents, Ora grew up in London, where her father owned a pub. Pub food like fish and chips and sausage and mash were always around, she told Food & Wine, but her cultural experience with food growing up went deeper than any specific dish.

“I was always relating to food as a gesture of kindness,” she says, “In Albania, it’s all very family-based, people always put something on the table when you go over to their house, there’s always something to snack on and drink and all that.” For the uninitiated, she describes the Albanian cuisine that made up much of that sharing as, “kind of Greek-y, but more heavy,” featuring pastry elements like pite, strong flavors and spices, and yogurt. But she also remembers her grandma would make mac and cheese, only with “the smallest macaronis I have ever seen,” which she’d dip in cheese. (Though her on-tour comfort food, it turns out, is Falafel).

Similarly, her well-documented love of Tabasco has a long-running family connection. “My father loves hot food,” she says, “We used to do pickled chiles and things like that, and my dad used to just eat them raw.”

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