Rukmini Iyer Q&A: “It’s time to crack open the wine”

The author and recipe writer discusses Period Queen by Lucy Peach, Michelle Obama and life after the pandemic. 

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Rukmini Iyer was born in Peterborough in 1985. A former lawyer, she is a food stylist and writer, and the author of the “Roasting Tin” series of cookbooks, which have sold more than half a million copies.

What’s your earliest memory?

A promotional box of cereal that came through the letterbox when I was about three. I don’t remember how it tasted, but I remember it had colourful packaging.

Who are your heroes?

As a child I thought my English teacher Megan Smedley was the most glamorous adult – she had real presence and could silence a room with a look. My adult hero is Niki Segnit, the author of The Flavour Thesaurus and Lateral Cooking. Her writing is laugh-out-loud funny, and she’s incredibly generous with her time and expertise.

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What book last changed your thinking?

Period Queen by Lucy Peach – I’m evangelical about it and have recommended it to all my friends: it’s reframed how I think about my monthly cycle. I only wish I’d read it as a teenager. If I was in charge of the curriculum it’d be a set text.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Michelle Obama is such a legend: her book was inspirational. The world would be a better place with more people like her in it.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

I can bang on about the houses of York, Lancaster and the Tudors for an insane amount of time and with great enthusiasm.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I’d like to spend a day in pre-revolutionary France in a ridiculously large frock with all the champagne and macarons, catch a literary salon, go to a masked ball. Everyday 18th-century stuff.

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What TV show could you not live without?

Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. Keeley Hawes as Alex Drake is my style icon.

Who would paint your portrait?

I love Roeqiya Fris’s work. I might get away with hiding behind a palm tree if she was painting my portrait, as her work is usually plant-heavy.

What’s your theme tune?

“What Ever Happened?” by the Strokes.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My friend Sophia said “Mini, you should write a cookbook!” when we were at university, and bought me a notebook to put recipes in. I got there eventually.

What’s currently bugging you?

Having more seedlings on the go than will currently fit on my windowsills. At the moment neither the dog nor my boyfriend can go near a curtain without me hollering, “Watch out for the plants!”

[See also: Gruff Rhys Q&A: “Chelsea Manning is a Welsh-American icon”]

What single thing would make your life better?

Coronavirus being over. But in the absence of that, a south-facing garden with a well-balanced soil structure.

When were you happiest?

I’m happier now than I ever have been. Border collies are very entertaining to be around, and I love feeling like a little family unit with her and my partner.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

It’d be awesome to be a couturier and create fabulous gowns for the red carpet. That or carpentry.

Are we all doomed?

Yes, it’s time to crack open the wine. 

“The Green Barbecue” is published by Square Peg

This article appears in the 05 May 2021 issue of the New Statesman, If not now, when?

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