Here is another in our series of reviews of cookbooks by veteran food and wine writer MYRNA ROBINS.
THE MIDLIFE KITCHEN by Mimi Spencer and Sam Rice (Mitchell Beazley)
I approached this book with some scepticism partly because the two authors, featured on the front cover, look far too young to know what those from 50 to 70-plus want from the kitchen.
But I’m happy to admit that this is an intriguing collection of recipes for senior readers ready to change culinary direction and eat fare that helps meet the changing needs of ageing bodies. I learnt a new word from the introduction: “nutri-epigenetics” which has become a major focus of scientific inquiry, as certain vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals have been found to be powerful potentials for reducing the risk of age-related disease.
Many older people are cutting their meat intake, lowering consumption of processed food, eating consciously to protect their bodies and the environment. This book, say the authors, capitalises on this process, often inspired by the culinary traditions of Bali, Japan, Peru, India and the Mediterranean, all of which have long acknowledged the symbiosis between health and nutrition. We apparently need a lean protein, moderate amount of slow-burn carbohydrates, plenty of gut-friendly probiotics, green leafy veg and legumes. The book aims to make these as tasty as possible.
An unusual rating is the use of a star anise logo where each petal is a different colour, and each colour represents a health factor such as digestive health, energy boosting, bone and joint health, heart health, mind, memory and mood etc. Recipes are rated accordingly. The recommended ingredients in the midlife larder include a wide choice of fruit, vegetables, fresh herbs, grains, nuts and seeds. Only yoghurt and eggs in the dairy slot, only olive oil in the cupboard, and dark chocolate makes the list.
The recipes open with recommended mixes of spices, raw seeds, granola, dukkah, salad dressing, curry paste, a sugar-free sweetener and more. These are frequently used ingredients in the recipes that follow. Some recipes will take readers aback, others are familiar enough. Take the breakfast section – a yoghurt topped with citrus segments and pistachios, sweetened with a little honey and spiced with a few saffron threads, will tempt western palates. An oriental option suggests a dish of sweet and salty Balinese black rice, cooked in coconut milk, sweetened with date syrup and finished with the addition of seasonal fruit.
You will find seafood and chicken in the main course section but red meat is very scarce. Sugar makes a rare appearance.
This hardback is well illustrated and is as appetising as it is informative.