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THE JOY OF FEEDING FRIENDS AND FAMILY by Lorna Salmon

Self-care begins with what you eat

Lorna Salmon shares how the joys of cooking, baking, foraging and feasting have helped her through the toughest of times. A passionate mental health advocate, since her diagnosis of depression and GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), she has found solace with her love of food. 

Her debut book, The Calm Kitchen is more than just a recipe book. Following the four seasons, it’s a beginner’s guide to reconnecting with nature through food as a form of self-care, from the soothing smell of lavender in summer to the simple magic of baking a loaf of bread on an autumn evening, from shopping (or foraging) for your favourite seasonal ingredients to cooking them to feed yourself or your friends and family.

Lorna shares how mindful cooking, baking, foraging and feasting (the latter being her personal favourite) can lead to better peace of mind, health and well-being. She takes you through a collection of foolproof recipes alongside informative, insightful guides to ingredients and how they can benefit your physical and mental health.

You will also find tips on foraging across the hundreds of miles of countryside, woodland, orchards and kitchen gardens in the United Kingdom. With more than 30 delicious recipes, all of them vegetarian, The Calm Kitchen is the perfect companion to help you quieten your mind and nourish your body – more timely than ever as we all learn to cope with the stresses of this global Coronavirus pandemic.

Extract from The Calm Kitchen: THE JOY OF FEEDING FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Cooking for people is one of my favourite things to do. It taps into a central pleasure I get from my relationship with food: sharing that love with others. I’ll quietly squirrel away at a recipe behind the scenes, fine-tuning, testing and tasting before I decide my culinary creation is ready to be unveiled around the makeshift table in our flat’s kitchen. It’s a warm, comforting, safe space.

As someone who’s been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and depression, I can often find myself feeling low for no reason. At times I also struggle to put myself in social situations because they can be incredibly draining. But in recent years, I’ve noticed that food and friendship can have exactly the opposite effect. Especially when the two are combined: I feel restored.

The nature of my diagnosis means I have an inherently busy brain, and this is why the mindful act of cooking has been so beneficial for my health. I am, often for the first time during the entire day, forced to be present and focused on what I’m doing right here, right now. Distractions burn food. I am in my kitchen and this is my time. Not only for me, but for the loved ones I’m feeding that evening.

The self-care benefits of feeding friends and family are undeniable, and with that comes the pleasure of nourishing and sustaining others; all of which are amplified by the shared joy of eating and enjoying a meal together. Cooking for others has genuine psychological benefits.

In the most primal sense, our brain will reward us because we’ve successfully kept ourselves alive by eating. You’re also reaffirming a powerful sense of community with your nearest and dearest. No wonder you feel so good after feeding not only yourself, but a room full of others! You are the provider, the caregiver, the nourishment-maker.

It was a revelation that something I’d been doing for so long was so beneficial for my mental well-being: the act of slowing down, going about my usual mindful meal prepping, chopping vegetables, stirring sauces and creating something delicious with my favourite music setting the pace for proceedings. That food then puts a smile on the face of the people you love most. I feel needed and loved in those moments – because I need and love them, too.

This is the joy of feeding friends and family – an age-old ritual designed to bring us all closer together, cementing relationships, laughing, reminiscing, celebrating. This happens around tables of different shapes and sizes across the world every day.

Now isn’t that a lovely thought?

Extracted from The Calm Kitchen: Mindful recipes to feed body and soul by Lorna Salmon. Illustrations by Naomi Elliott.