When a sudden cerebral attack left 22-year-old Payal Kapoor permanently blind, she went overnight from being a happy young girl to a physically and emotionally disabled person. Her desire to be a chef now seemed like a pipe dream. Her practical mother thought otherwise. After all, who needed to be able to see to string beans or grate carrots? Soon Payal was back in the kitchen, and slowly, with the help of recipes in Braille and even Braille measuring cups and a talking weighing scale, she began to cook again. Now, being her family’s resident chef and mentor to others similarly afflicted, gives her unparalleled satisfaction and a growing sense of being bigger than her disability.
Cooking changed the life of both Jaya Vaishya and her son Mihir, born with athetoid cerebral palsy. Thanks to the Veruschka Foundation, a space that trains children with special needs to become independent chefs, Mihir now cooks aloo chat, dosa and Chinese fried rice—and the pride and joy he feels is a balm for both mother and son.
For warzone photographer Giles Duley, the depression that engulfed him when he witnessed the human tragedy in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017, when countless thousands were killed, seemed like an abyss he would never escape. Until he began to cook. Today, despite having lost both legs and an arm in a landmine explosion, this ‘one-armed chef’ continues to find solace in cooking for, as he says, ‘Food is life.’
From bipolar disorder, clinical depression, an abusive marriage or childhood traumas to simply finding one’s feet in a foreign land, each person in this collection of personal narratives, poetry and fiction, finds comfort in the kitchen—cooking to give their lives a focus and stability. Heartwarming and immensely moving, their stories are an inspiration for each one of us to get up and smell the coffee.