Free cookbook launches to help those who’ve had Covid taste their food again

2 months ago 19

One of the main symptoms of Covid-19 is a loss of taste and smell, often signalling to people that they have the virus (rather than a common cold or flu).

Many who’ve previously had Covid find that, even if their taste and smell returns, they have a condition called parosmia, which means they find smells they used to enjoy unpleasant.

Particularly strong scents like onion and garlic (often the base for a meal) are off the table completely due to how many people with parosmia can’t stand them post-coronavirus.

This where the new Taste & Flavour book comes in, offering fun recipes tailored to those with parosmia.

Started by Life Kitchen, the book is part of an initiative to promote cooking and eating well for all, giving people the tools to feed themselves tasty and nutritious food.

Each recipe in this book uses alternative flavours and different textures, alongside Life Kitchen’s five principles of taste and flavour – umami, smell, stimulating the trigeminal nerve (responsible for sensation in the face), texture, and layering flavour.

Life Kitchen is a nonprofit started by Ryan Riley, 27, author, cook and food stylist, and Kimberley Duke, 28, recipe developer, trained chef and food stylist.

The childhood friends both lost their mothers to cancer (Kim at 15 and Ryan at 20), and decided to use their expertise to create cookery classes and books for cancer patients who’d lost their taste.

Ryan tells ‘We met when we were two years old. And then we went to nursery together and school together and we lived across the park from each other (600 metres across the grass to go to Kim’s house). I was there when Kim lost her mother and she was there when I lost mine.’

Their first book was a bestseller that Nigella called a ‘life changer’, and the pair started to see similarities between the symptoms their readers experience and those in people with Covid.

They’ve worked with Professor Barry Smith, the founder of the Centre for Study of the Senses to come up with 18 recipes that avoid ingredients that may taste strange and unpleasant for people with parosmia after the virus.

‘When we started the research on the Covid side of things, we realised that there are lots of foods, foods that people who have parosmia find really difficult to eat,’ says Kim.

‘Things like roasted meats, eggs, garlic, onions, all those kind of things. But, across the board are generally “safe” foods; potatoes, rice, pasta. We use those as building blocks for Taste & Flavour.’

Miso potatoes with green herb vinegar is Ryan’s favourite recipe in the book, while Kim says the sambal butter noodles is hers.

Others in the book include veggie pineapple tacos, fiery tomato soup with sesame seed butter toast, and cherry and almond tarts.

They’ve had to find ways to keep things flavourful while avoiding certain ingredients, testing over 100 to get to the ones that made the cut.

The first rule for whether a recipe makes it into any of their books or classes is, as Ryan says: ‘When we’re making a recipe, if we can’t be bothered, it doesn’t make it in.’

Kim adds: ‘If it’s got too many dishes and bowls to wash then, again, we’re not doing it.’

Accessible yet tasty food for all is their mission. Ryan says that the pair have done extensive work to find out the triggers for long Covid sufferers. Some people, for example, think coffee is fine, while others think it tastes like ‘fruity sewage.’

They know it won’t be a catch-all fix, but wanted to do something to help given their years of expertise.

‘The book doesn’t say, look, this is going to completely help you, it’s to say “let’s start a journey, let’s try and start eating again, these are some things that might work”,’ says Kim.

‘Because a lot of people have gone through months and months of this where everything they taste tastes disgusting. So even just the thought of getting back in was really difficult. We just wanted to give a base, where we say “let’s try and do something more”.’

Taste & Flavour is free to download, or you can order a free physical copy and pay just for postage.

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