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/ Inside Food science
/ Inside Food science

How to enjoy food again when illness affects your senses

Eating food is one of the most multisensory, emotional experiences we can have.   

It is not something we are always that conscious of, but the smell of food cooking in the lead up to mealtime can take you back to your childhood, and the taste of a certain meal can transport you halfway around the world to a holiday that lives somewhere in the depths of your memory.

Even on a day-to-day basis, tasting food is one of life’s pleasures. A bit of joy on an otherwise dull day, it can be the focus of your evening, even a comfort at times.

So for people whose senses have been altered by illness, cooking and eating can become joyless, even isolating.

It is something lots of people have experienced with Covid. But it can be true too for people suffering other illnesses or going through invasive treatments, and the effect can be profound for people’s wider health and wellbeing.

So in this episode of the Food Matters Live podcast, we are exploring sensory cooking techniques which can help people to start enjoying their food again.

Ryan Riley, Co-Founder, Life Kitchen

Ryan Riley opened a cookery school for people with Cancer in 2019.

Life Kitchen is a not-for-profit cookery school for people whose taste has been affected by cancer or cancer treatment. It also teaches anyone who is experiencing an altered sense of taste due to Covid. Life Kitchen’s focus is on taste and flavour and helping people enjoy food again.

During cancer treatment and Covid, a lot of patients lose or experience changes to their sense of taste or smell. This is a really difficult side effect that can make mealtimes difficult and isolating. 

Life Kitchen is run by co-founders Ryan Riley, author, cook and food stylist, and Kimberley Duke, recipe developer, trained chef and food stylist.

Both Ryan and Kim were inspired to launch Life Kitchen after losing parents to cancer.

Throughout Ryan’s mum Krista’s two-year battle with cancer, Ryan saw how chemotherapy was affecting her ability to taste and experience food. After her death, he wanted to honour his mother’s memory and use his cooking skills to help cancer patients find flavour and pleasure in food again. And so, Life Kitchen was born.

Life Kitchen is backed by science and they are advised by Professor Barry Smith, the founder of the Centre for Study of the Senses.

Professor Smith guides the Life Kitchen team on recipes and ingredients so that people living with an altered sense of taste get enjoyment out of food.

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