Mental illness has a sneaky habit of finding its way into all of the little nooks and crannies of life and what we eat is no exception. Here are some of the ways my mental health has impacted my ability to cook and my relationship with food.
Long periods of being unable to work have led to financial instability and difficulty keeping my kitchen consistently well stocked with fresh food
Poor mental health has led to both overeating and under-eating for considerable periods of time
There have been times when I’ve been unable to focus on cooking - even my favourite recipes have been a problem.
And times when my energy and mood have been too low to face anything more complex than the kettle.
Battles with anorexia as a young adult meant that sometimes I couldn’t face the food shop.
I love food. I love recipe books. I love pouring over pages of fun colourful meals and I love sharing good food with friends and family. When I’m well, I actively enjoy cooking. My boyfriend is basically a wizard in the kitchen, forever indulging my cravings and putting love into everything he whips up, but we’ve both had hard times and neither of us is a stranger to the struggles of being able to face a day. We’ve spoken many times about how tough it can be to feed yourself in those low periods.
Tin Can Cook by Jack Monroe is the first recipe book that I’ve ever read cover to cover. I’ve been following @BootstrapCook for a while over on Twitter, so I already had an idea that she was thoughtful and passionate about making cooking as accessible as possible. Although I expected great things from Tin Can Cook, I don’t think I expected it to tick all the boxes and be the answer I was looking for - but it did and it is.
In a nutshell, Tin Can Cook is a collection of 75 recipes that can be made of common store cupboard ingredients (many of which are cans). The ingredients are affordable, the recipes are easy to follow and simplified wherever possible. Monroe is generous with her knowledge and the book is full of tips, anecdotes and includes a really useful guide on the various different canned foods and their nutritional benefits. It has clearly been lovingly put together with the reader in mind throughout and this made it all the more joyful to read.
When I finished the book I took some time to reflect on what it could have meant to me if I had owned it when times were truly hard. A lot, I imagine. What I really love about the book is that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that many of us don’t have the means to buy, prepare and cook fresh ingredients every single day - life really can get in the way of that.
It is important to eat well though and it is especially important to eat well when we’re going through mentally hard times. The brain is a greedy organ and it consumes around 20% of the body’s energy, keep it well fed and set yourself up for a successful recovery! You have enough to worry about, without adding hunger to the list.
I don’t usually write about books, but I couldn’t not write about this one. If you’re struggling to cook, to afford to buy fresh or to feed yourself, I think it could really help you get back on the cookery horse. It’s modestly priced at £6.99 on Amazon and it’s more than worth it. If you don’t need this book yourself, buy a copy and gift it to someone who is struggling.
Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, meaning that (at no additional cost to you or the author) I will earn a small commission if you click through and purchase. I was not approached by Jack Monroe, the publisher or Amazon to review this book.