“The world is now my oyster” – How cooking classes have helped recovering addicts transform outlook

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Bags of Taste participants (credit: Alicia Weston)

Alicia Weston set up the Bags of Taste cooking courses in 2014 to combat obesity by teaching people how to make quick and nutritious meals for less than £1 per head. The programme has since helped thousands of people change their diets but this was just the beginning of the journey for some.

Bags of Taste has been vital in helping Jerry Akrigg, 53, and Ken Edwards, 54, recover from alcohol addiction. After seeking support from the Hackney Recovery Service, both Akrigg and Edwards were introduced to Bags of Taste – the beginning of a journey which would see them go from participants to volunteers.

Edwards currently helps the organisation prepare ingredient bags, which can make up to four meals, and are sold to participants for just £3. In the future, Akrigg will be helping the Bags of Taste team teach participants how to make delicious meals such as Chicken à la King and Tarka Daal. 

“Initially it was just something to fill part of the day, to help keep me away from alcohol. I imagined the chef was going to be like Gordon Ramsey but I was made to feel welcome by Alicia, the volunteers and participants,” said Edwards.

“I enjoyed the lesson and working with the people. I left the lesson with my bag of goodies and I felt joyful because I felt like I actually cooked a meal that I hear people talk about on TV,” Edwards continued.

Before joining the course, Akrigg and Edwards actively did takeaways and were not interested in cooking, but the course transformed their outlook of the kitchen and their life.

“You get that feeling that you can achieve anything once you stop drinking and you get on a course like this, and you realise that you can cook. You start to think about what else you can do. To me, the world is my oyster now,” said Edwards.

“It gives me a feeling of euphoria to volunteer and help with the bags, and when I make the bags tonight, tomorrow someone is going to go on the same journey as me – cooking instead of buying a takeaway. I feel like I am giving back and spreading the joy of cooking and the feeling of elation,” said Edwards.

Bags of Taste will be running a cooking class in St Paul’s Church Hall, Stoke Newington, on Fridays 11am-1:30pm from 16 November to 7 December. For more info, visit www.bagsoftaste.org.