East Anglian funeral director launches Cooking For One book
- Credit: John Bultitude
Those who work with the bereaved are a tower of strength, helping grieving friends and family through some of the toughest hours, day, and weeks they’ll ever face. For Simon Beckett-Allen and his wife Anne (who run Rosedale Funeral Home across south Norfolk and north Suffolk) once they’ve helped a family organise a funeral or celebration of a loved one’s life, their support extends to helping the bereaved learn to live with their loss.
It is this aftercare that’s led to the creation of the couple’s new book Cooking For One, a concept which Simon came up with after the death of his sister Sarah Beckett-Reid. He explains: “Sarah was a professional chef and we built a kitchen in our garden using lots of the equipment from her own catering kitchen that she ran her business from. We called it Sarah’s Kitchen, and I always think about her when I cook there.
“After years of running bereavement support groups and listening to people’s stories about how much they struggle to cook after a bereavement, I thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice to put a book together for those on their own who are struggling to cook?’ and we came up with the idea of Cooking For One.
“Sometimes the person who has died was the one that did everything in the kitchen, and the surviving partner doesn’t know where to start. Not only may they have never really cooked, but sometimes they also find tasks like shopping and meal planning overwhelming and just don’t know where to begin.
“Other people may have been trying to cook good meals to keep their loved one going or maybe help them heal. Once they are bereaved, they can lack motivation and often don’t have the energy to go to the trouble to cook for just themselves.”
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Cooking For One aims to help as many of these people as possible, and Simon has assembled a wide range of recipes that serve just one person, including plenty of dishes that are simple and easy to prepare.
Additionally, contributors have shared their stories of grief, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
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Many had attended Rosedale’s bereavement support groups. Simon says: “People often don’t need counselling. They need opportunities to share their experiences and talk very freely. You often find if you're bereaved, people can cross the street to avoid you because they don’t know what to say, or you talk about almost everything apart from the loved one who has died. It is almost as if you should not be talking about them anymore.”
Other contributors are well-known, including John Timpson of national retailer Timpson, renowned chef Richard Hughes, and actor Liza Goddard, who submitted a recipe in memory of family and friends she lost, including her late husband.
Simon says: “Liza was just fantastic, and we were delighted she was able to support the book. John’s support also meant a lot because I really respect his ethics and a lot of our Rosedale values mirror those of Timpson’s.”
While developing the book, Richard and Liza met Simon in the grounds of his South Norfolk home. He recalls: “We would adapt their recipes together so they could be prepared for just one person. Doubling up a recipe from two to four is relatively easy but making them smaller doesn’t necessarily follow the same pattern and it can be quite complicated and involved lots of trial and error.
“While we were testing out their recipes there were often a lot of tears, but everyone said it was lovely to be talking about their loved ones and contributing to such a positive project rather than being on their own thinking about them.”
This ongoing support for the community is a crucial part of Simon and Anne’s business ethos. Making sure they are there for people before, during and after a funeral is very important. Simon explains: “I think funeral directors have a responsibility to support people when they are at their lowest. It is so important to support those who live and work in the communities around us.”
And this includes local food and drink producers - with many from around the region featured in the book, in a bid to help them bounce back from the trading difficulties caused by Covid-19.
“While local producers were literally throwing their produce away as the pandemic closed down the supply chains, we felt really desperate for them and tried to think of something positive that we could do to support them through the book,” says Simon.
Additionally, profits from the sale of the book are being donated to Cruse Bereavement Care.
Cooking For One launches at The Assembly House in Norwich today with a cooking demonstration from Richard Hughes.
Poignantly though, there will be one person missing from the event. “I wish I’d had the chance to spend a lot more time in the kitchen with my sister and I would have loved to show her the book and get her opinions and, of course, that won’t be possible. However, I have to look forward and I think that she would be proud that we have been able to turn a seed of an idea into this beautiful book that I know is going to help so many people,” Simon reflects.
Cooking For One will be on sale in independent book stores from this week, as well as from producers featured and online at rosedalefuneralhome.co.uk. Simon will be taking part in live cook-alongs at Norwich Theatre Royal’s Prelude restaurant as part of its Creative Matters season on loss and grief too. Buy tickets at norwichtheatre.org/take-part/creative-matters/#loss-and-grief-season