In the The Midlife Kitchen
Sam Rice is a freelance food and health writer and co-author of the Sunday Times best-selling The Midlife Kitchen, which she wrote with fellow food writer and journalist Mimi Spencer. We were delighted to sit down with Sam over a virtual coffee to find out what’s happening in The Midlife Kitchen.
Tell us about The Midlife Kitchen, how did it start and what did you want to achieve with it?
My original plan was actually to be a wine writer! I’d just finished a 3 year wine course at Plumpton College near Brighton, and had relocated with my family to Bali. Sadly, there wasn’t much of a wine scene in Bali but what there was a really vibrant health food scene. So when my good friend Mimi Spencer (journalist and co-author of The Fast Diet) came out to visit, we had the idea to create a cookbook together full of the fresh, healthy food we were eating all over Bali.
At that time we were both in our late 40s, and we’d started to see changes in our bodies and our appetites. The kind of food we wanted to eat wasn’t represented in the ‘clean-eating’ cookbooks that were around at the time. The recipes weren’t realistic when you had to think about cooking not only for yourself, but for a family too. We wanted to create a cookbook where the recipes were delicious, do-able and accessible, and also backed up by research into midlife health.
The first few people we told about the idea said that no-one would buy a book with the word ‘midlife’ in the title, because no one would want to self-identify as being middle-aged. But culturally we were witnessing a shift – the term ‘middle-aged’ was being replaced by ‘midlife’ – a change of emphasis from negative to something more positive.
We really had to work hard to convince publishers that ‘midlife’ was something to be embraced, not feared. The publisher we finally chose was really on board with that idea and could see that midlife was being reclaimed in that way.
We’ve continued to see that shift evolve, now, 3-4 years after the book was published people in their 40s and 50s are much more comfortable referring to themselves as ‘midlifers’. It was really exciting to be at the beginning of this midlife positivity surge.
What do you love about what you do?
I absolutely love the process of recipe creation. And whilst I am happy working on my own and enjoy sitting down with my thoughts and ideas, what I loved with The Midlife Kitchen particularly was collaborating with Mimi. I just thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of creating and writing with her. And having published the book, what’s exciting is people saying “I love the recipes, I cook from it 3 times a week”, and then see them posting photos on social media.
Helping people to be healthier and have a healthier attitude to food is really rewarding. I think my generation grew up culturally in quite a negative, diet-obsessed atmosphere – trying to be thinner all the time – the message was constant and pervasive. Now, it’s not just about being thin, it’s about feeling good at a weight that is comfortable for you.
What’s your biggest challenge?
The hardest thing for me about being in the field of food and health is that so many people are mis-informed, or are convinced by things they’ve seen on social media. Often ‘healthy lifestyle‘ marketing preys on people’s insecurities – it’s only human to look for that silver bullet that will turn back the clock or make you live forever!
There are influencers and celebrities normalising quite extreme health fads or products (and being paid to do it). At best this is irresponsible and at worst it’s dangerous – not to mention that people are wasting their hard-earned money doing or buying stuff there is no evidence for. I always tell people to do their own research, use their own judgement and common sense. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is! I always try to give a balanced view and evidence-based advice.
What do you wish you’d known in your 20s that you know now?
I’d tell myself not to spend so much time trying to control things. I spent a lot of my 20s and 30s trying to control my destiny – and that sucked up a lot of energy. Listen, it’s good to have a plan and action it, but remember that things rarely turn out exactly how you think they are going to. And that’s ok. You just need to be more flexible and focus on what you can do today. I had to learn that as I got older.
What’s the mantra you live by?
Something my grandmother used to say to me, and always comes back to me is that “it all comes out in the wash”. Basically, worrying and speculating is just wasted energy, so try and keep some perspective, be more philosophical I guess, and things usually work out OK in the end.
What’s your midlife secret?
Balance. Society tells us to maximise and optimise all the time but I think we should be aiming for balance in everything. I do some exercise, but not so much that it becomes a chore. I eat well but nothing is off-limits and I love a glass of wine with my mates. I like to have interesting work on the go but not so that I’m constantly stressed out by deadlines. Essentially, I aim for balance in all areas of my life. Enough but not too much is, for me, a calmer way to live.
What’s next for you?
My next book, The Midlife Method: how to lose weight and feel great after 40, is out at the end of December, so I’m gearing up for that. After writing The Midlife Kitchen which focuses on good nutrition in midlife I had lots of people say that they were trying to eat well but their waistlines weren’t responding! Also, as we get older we don’t just want to lose weight, we want to feel great too, so I’ve created more than 80 delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch and family-friendly dinners, along with an easy 4-week meal plan. I look at how we can exercise in a balanced way, get better sleep, manage stress and enjoy alcohol as part of a healthier lifestyle. If you are stuck in a midlife weight rut then this is the book for you!
The Midlife Method: how to lose weight and feel great after 40, is out on 31st December 2020. You can pre-oder your copy HERE