Thinking & Eating by The School of Life

Recipes to Nourish & Inspire

“Typically, however much we enjoy eating, we don't normally think that what we put on our plates is particularly meaningful.”


I'm a big fan of The School of Life and have been wanting to work on my culinary skills, so I was very excited about this book. 

On the opening pages, they state “we are interested in the way in which what we eat and what we cook interacts with our psychological needs. A dish can serve the same kind of purpose as a work of art, an item of clothing, or as a building: it too can 'materialise' - and hence render more permanent - an outlook we need in order to flourish.”

The book was written by a team of philosophers, chefs, and psychologists from The School of Life, and teaches us how to administer various ingredients to regulate and soothe our spirits. 

Thinking & Eating is a book about what we should eat in order to feel like our best selves, an inspired marriage of psychology and cooking. This isn’t a traditional cookbook in that there’s a lot of fascinating and useful psychology information spread throughout.

The book is packed full of dishes that can be prepared at any time of day, from stews to soups, and curries to cakes.

I took a liking to how the sections are split up, especially at the beginning, which talks about key ingredients and what they symbolize. Foods such as the lemon, which is a symbol of hope, or the fig, a symbol of maturity. 

Of course, I loved the avocado section. Avocados are a symbol of reassurance. The book states, “A capacity for reassurance is the fruit of a proper sense that we are now adults, and have the strength, freedom and intelligence to plot a way through our difficulties.”

I made the avocado pasta and it was divine. The recipe itself was easy to follow, despite the book not having many pictures, and the entire dish was ready in under fifteen minutes. The longest process was the boiling of the pasta. Making the deliciously creamy avocado sauce was as easy as chopping up all the ingredients and throwing them into the food processor. 

Avocado pasta

My partner Charlie and I also got into the kitchen together and made the orange polenta cake. The recipe required very little ingredients, so this wasn't only an easy cake to make, but it was also relatively cheap. Charlie has celiac disease, and this cake is naturally gluten-free which was wonderful. 

There's a section in the book dedicated to relationships, with recipes like grilled lobster, tiramisu, and polenta with poached eggs. The School of Life states, “Food matters in relationships because it is a vehicle by which we can make psychological adjustments: we can foreground certain feelings; we can promote particular attitudes.”

I loved this part of the book, which poses questions such as, 'What is true love?' and 'How can I reintroduce good will into my relationship?' Each question is answered in depth, for example, for the latter question, The School of Life suggests that we “regularly prepare something soothing - and, as we eat together, go over some of the things we most regret doing in our relationship.”

Recipes then follow each one, with seemingly perfect dishes to ponder these questions.

Taste testing the orange polenta cake

Other sections include looking after ourselves, eating with friends, and foods for thinking. 

Looking after ourselves is a section of the book we can all benefit from. Recipes in this section include things like tomato soup for when you're under the weather, lemonade for when you wish it was still summer, and brown soda bread for times you wish to feel more grounded. 

The School of Life states in this section, “We'll bring ourselves down from panic and despair with the help of certain dishes. We'll simmer just the right kind of soup for a break-up. In the midst of self-hatred, we'll steer ourselves towards some new-season vegetables.”

To conclude, I adored this book. It was a mix of everything I love: The School of Life, food and cooking, and psychology. I've only cooked two dishes so far, but have many more bookmarked including honey madeleines, flourless chocolate cake, beetroot brownies, and tarka dahl. 

About The School of Life

The School of Life is an organization built to help us find calm, self-understanding, resilience and connection - especially during troubled times. They place an emphasis on the need to understand ourselves better, so that we can secure serenity and make optimally reliable decisions, particularly around love and work. 

Thinking & Eating is available for purchase in hardcover from The School of Life or Indigo and in e-book format from Kobo

Thank you to The School of Life for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.