Ian Taverner has created a new type of cookbook specifically for people experiencing challenges with pain and mental health.

The term ‘cookfulness’ is at the heart of the book…
Cooking fills a lot of people with terror, particularly when you’ve got a mental health condition or chronic pain condition. Getting over that first hurdle of actually wanting to cook rather than either being forced to, is really the whole point of the book.

‘Cookfulness’ is almost like saying, there is a way you can actually turn that anxiety and fear into enjoyment and pleasure.

What does cooking give to you?
It’s given me a role. For many, many years, I lost my role within the family. My wife was my carer and she was mum to our three daughters. I was in so much pain. 

Being able to cook something and put it on the table, and sit there with my family and say, “I just made that!” is the best feeling. 

Do you feel less pain when you’re whisking or stirring and so on? 
Yeah, 100%. Mindfulness is about trying to focus on the here and now. Cooking gives me that absolute focus that means that my mind is on positive things, and my body reacts accordingly. 

You’ve re-engineered what a cookbook should be. 
I didn’t put pictures of final dishes in it. When I was looking at other cookbooks to try to get back into cooking, I’d look at the dish and go, “Oh, that sounds good,” but I’d look at the picture and think: “Oh, gosh, there’s no way I can make that.” 

It’s gone down amazingly well. People have come back saying that it’s such a relief because it means that whatever you make, and whatever you end up with, it’s right. 

Another was a list of utensils. At the start of every recipe, it sets out exactly what you’ll need, perhaps one tablespoon or two teaspoons, etc. Everything is all set out at the beginning. You can get organised, you can get it all out ahead of time, so you haven’t got any surprises coming along.

In specific parts of the recipes it says, ‘Key’ for an important instruction, like ‘turn your oven on’. I’ve been halfway through a recipe and it says you should have had your oven on half an hour ago! It’s just helping you get to the point of enjoying it rather than worrying about it. 

Part of that is what you’ve labelled ‘give yourself time’…
In cookbooks, everyone has a preparation and cooking time but they only really work if you’re on top form. ‘Give yourself time’ gives you an extra buffer. It’s the time that you’ll need if you’re really not feeling too great. It’s almost to say, ‘just stop and take a breath’ and ‘just give yourself a chance’.