Ella Risbridger On Using Cooking As A Tool For Tackling Anxiety
The debut cookery book writer discusses her novelistic recipe collection and making the kitchen more accessible.
20 January 2019
All Credits: PA
Midnight Chicken is not your usual cookbook. For starters, glossy food photography has been sacked off for bright, wobbly illustrations by Elisa Cunningham. The pages are strewn with drawings of creamy garlic cloves in their pink paper skins; knobbly, zingy green gherkins; and even a pheasant hopping away from Risbridger’s Danny The Champion Of The Pie recipe.
The recipes themselves are less instructions for dinner, and more stories and moments, captured in a perfect “high and light and solid” cheese scone, or a blackberry pizza that is “a little bit sexier than nearly every pizza in the world”. There are musings on fog and the necessity for pea soup, what to make if your anxiety has had you stuck in a bookshop for 40 minutes (salmon with sticky rice), and how to chill homemade hummus (“For as long as you can bear it”).
It’s also a book of love. Risbridger’s partner, journalist John Underwood, and the ‘Tall Man’ found in her writings, who she credits with teaching her how to cook, died in 2018.
And while Midnight Chicken revels in food, it also shifts with, and navigates the demands of Risbridger’s anxiety disorder. Cooking became a lifeline and a way to manage, she explains in the book, and that eponymous roast chicken recipe (ginger, she reckons, is its secret elixir) was the beginning. Writing it all down, first in her blog, Eating With My Fingers, and then in book form was simply “natural”.