Ryan Rileys Book - Life Kitchen
There are some people who can rattle off a book in a few weeks. For most of us, it takes months, often years to write a cookbook and in some cases the end result is the culmination of a lifetime’s experience and experimentation. There’s a delicious phew moment, when you send the manuscript in to your publisher and then there is the anticipation of the publishing date, the subsequent launch, media coverage and book signings... But what if the important launch date coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lock-down. Well, that’s been the experience of several well-known food writers plus others who have written their very first tome.
I’m particularly thinking of Ryan Riley, whose first book Life Kitchen was published on the 5th March 2020 and is dedicated to the memory of his mother Krista who died in 2013 from lung cancer. Ryan was just 18 years old, his life changed immeasurably as he watched her ravely battle through the final months of her illness. Among the many heart-breaking challenges his mother had to cope with, he noticed that the ongoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy adversely affected her sense of taste. Many foods tasted different, Krista lost her ability to enjoy food which she had always loved at a time when she most needed the nourishment and comfort.
Ryan’s subsequent story is a fascinating journey from winning £28,000 from an initial £20 in a ‘once off’ foray into a casino with a friend, to setting up a Food Stall in Camden, a spell in publishing and eventually cookery writing and food styling. He was determined to honour his mother’s memory in some way and became fascinated by the foods that appealed to cancer patient’s tastebuds.
He joined up with Professor Barry Smith, founder of the Centre for Study of the Senses at the University of London. He was also greatly encouraged by Nigella Lawson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who encouraged him to do his first ever class at River Cottage. Several years and several hundred free pop-up classes later, Ryan has established his own cooking school in Mowbray Lodge in Sunderland, his home city.
Life Kitchen is full of recipes, layered with umami flavours that have appealed to the many cancer survivors with whom he works.