Used to developing recipes for cancer-stricken taste buds, the couple behind a nonprofit cooking school hope their new free cookbook will improve the taste of Covid patients.
“Extremely disgusting, like rotten sewage.” As the food reviews go on, it’s scathing. But according to food writer Ryan Riley, this is how meat, garlic, and onions can taste to people affected by prolonged Covid. She hopes her latest cookbook provides ample inspiration for better tasting alternatives.
Co-written with Kimberley Duke, Taste & Flavor is for people who experience changes in taste and smell as a result of the virus, which a study suggests could account for up to 41 percent of all cases.
“Taste & Flavor had to be different because of Covid,” Riley said. “We had to flip what we knew about writing recipes.”
As co-founders of Life Kitchen, a nonprofit cooking school for people whose tastes have been affected by cancer treatment, Riley and Duke have been experimenting with food flavors since 2018.
However, parosmia (a distorted sense of smell) is a symptom of COVID-19 And it can make everyday foods like vegetables and coffee taste unpleasant. So Riley had to rethink the recipes from scratch.
“We had to flip what we knew about writing recipes,” Riley said. Credit: Clare Winfield
“That’s what makes this book so unique,” he said. “We don’t just depend on garlic and onion, and all the typical flavor profiles.”
In search of alternatives, they consulted food scientists, who suggested combining the five elements of taste: aroma, umami, texture, layers, and food sensations of the trigeminal (the tingling sensation of spices) to create their meals.
Results include dishes ranging from fiery tomato soup with sesame seed butter toast, to pineapple tacos with red bell peppers and feta cheese.
Kimberley Duke co-wrote the book to help people with prolonged Covid enjoy food again. Credit: Clare Winfield
Gillian Dixon, who caught Covid-19 in January, was one of the first people to test the book. You have been experiencing anosmia (loss of smell) for almost a year.
“The recipes are absolutely brilliant,” said Dixon, who so far has focused on the cherry and almond tarts, and the canned lemon, feta and za’atar cakes from the book. “They really stimulate your palate.”
Taste & Flavor is free to download here.
Lead Image: Craig Robertson / Life Kitchen