In Penny's own words: Chemo Cookery Club is not about making special food. It’s aboutmaking food special. Turning lemons into lemonade.
Following a fund-raising charity book I published, Polo Picnic, in aid of the Helen Reinking Trust for Alzheimer’s Society, a friend suggested I do something similar for cancer patients and carers. I assumed there would be plenty of cookbooks out therealready. I then considered the particular expertise required todo the job and decided I wasn’t qualified. I’m not a doctor or adietician. I’m not even a chef! I crumpled up the notion and filed it in the ‘too difficult’ bin.
Then I met a guy in my local pub who made me think again.About a lot of things actually. He was midway through a course of chemotherapy following the removal of a malignant tumour the size of a grapefruit from his colon six months earlier. We got talking. His positive attitude was contagious. But it was clear he had been given little in the way of dietary information to help him through his treatment and recovery.
This got me thinking. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been touched by chronic and debilitating illnesses such as cancer, Crohn’s or diabetes in some way. I’ve experienced all three in my life, as patient, daughter, friend and now wife to that guy in the pub.
So I decided that being a published and skilled cook and carer was enough qualification. I could get professional advice from the experts. I started by searching for books with a joyful view of food and an appreciation of the special circumstances of patients who experience things like ‘rubber mouth’ and ‘metal mouth’. Books that didn’t look and feel like the inside of a clinic. I couldn’t find any. They just weren’t there.
It was a steep learning curve. You don’t think of chemo suites as being especially foodie but I was soon to realise that food was foremost in people’s minds, especially those plonked into the role of carer for the first time. All too often I heard stories from people who had little experience of preparing family meals or managing the weekly shopping. Chopping an onion could be far more intimidating than executing mega-deals in the boardroom.
Listening to so many stories of how the enjoyment of food could be turned upside down or, discovered anew, from so many gave me great inspiration. Wellness isn’t just about diet. It’s also about how we feel and satisfy our desires. We eat with our eyes.
I hope Chemo Cookery Club inspires those surviving illness and their loved ones to treat the experience of preparing and enjoying food as a part of wellness. We all need to eat, even when we don’t feel our best. I hope these recipes bring comfort and happiness.