The Calm Kitchen by Lorna Salmon

left: original artwork, right: the tea towel itself (creased, stained and used)
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The Calm Kitchen is a beautifully illustrated guide to caring for your mental health when cooking and eating. Moving though the seasons, the book contains over thirty vegetarian recipes to suit the weather, with mindful tips for every moment in the kitchen. Lorna Salmon points out what to forage and when, how to store your findings to make best use of them; every part of this book is intended to bring calm to eating and cooking, inspired by the author's experience of generalized social anxiety and depression.

The Calm Kitchen is more than a recipe book, providing tips for all aspects of eating and cooking. The suitably tactile, brightly illustrated pocket-sized hardback book leads with a guide to store cupboard essentials. Through lockdowns and food stockpiling last year, we were forced to decide upon essentials and how to cook the ingredients we’d had at the back of the cupboard for too long. Lorna’s guide advises us on the dried & tinned ingredients and which spices to keep topped up for balance in the kitchen. There are also recipes for cordials and freezer-friendly creations to make excess fresh food last.

Each chapter leads us through a season, pointing out which fresh produce to seek out and forage before introducing simple, vegetarian meals. We are reminded to appreciate food from growth to plate, slowing down to learn how to use ingredients efficiently and effectively. There are meals for one, and meals to feed friends – for the moments we’re seeking solitude or company. Reading through each recipe feels meditative: Lorna allows us to enjoy the snap and bend of an asparagus spear, to recognise the change when kneading dough, to pick a favourite kitchen utensil – hers is the mezzaluna. 

We’re reminded that food is not only a taste or a process, it’s memory, belonging, comfort and something to share. Lorna encourages us to think of a moment of joy or comfort, and recreate the food or drink from that moment. She acknowledges that social gatherings can be draining when dealing with anxiety and depression, but has found that when combined with food - particularly lovingly home-cooked food - can be restoring: “That food then puts a smile on the face of the people you love most. I feel needed and loved in those moments – because I need and love them, too.”. We can’t wait to return to sharing comforting food with friends, a feeling we’ve missed so much this year. We’ll be trying out Lorna’s Baked Gnocchi Vegetarian Bolognese with a side of Rosemary and Sea Salt Foccacia, followed by a Chocolate Brioche Pudding...

The Calm Kitchen (published by National Trust Books, an imprint of Pavilion Books) is available to purchase from all good bookstores. We’d recommend purchasing from Hive, who support independent book shops. Illustrations are by Naomi Elliot.