Fruit and VegI know how important food can be for some of our clients – a reflection of family life as well as their wellbeing (or otherwise). I was listening to Paul McCartney on radio 4 on Sunday, talking about what kind of food his mother served up when he was a kid. I was preparing dinner when his unmistakable off-kilter voice came loudly over the pots and pans. It put me in mind of my own childhood. We would have exactly the same meal on our table, in just the same humble circumstances as he described. Roast chicken, followed by Yorkshire pudding and golden syrup.

I got to thinking about my parents, who compromised their day off together and went to pick up our grandparents from their homes to eat with us on Sundays almost every week. It was the only rule of the weekend – I had to be home for 1pm to eat with them. (This must have been around 1975 and I was a shamefaced 15 year old with a bad attitude, bad friends and a bad conscience.)

What I remember with more clarity was a sickening allergy I had developed to the thick congealed chicken gravy served on the table in a gravy boat. As a child I ate it. Later I learnt how it had been made with the fat poured off the chicken. (Even in those days a chicken could have been injected with pork fat and other animal fluids to fatten it up and make it seem plump during its short life.)

Eating the gravy would always result in an almighty tummy ache for the rest of Sunday afternoon and possibly all evening too, when I would be required by my friends to be at the local pub. There would follow a night of unresolved sleep back at home and a lot of feeling sick and bang – an anxiety problem with food and allergies led to a quite few years of struggling with food.

At this stage my choices were limited to what my parents decided was healthy.  In 1975 your weekly diet had degenerated from freshly cooked meat and veg or soups and stews to Anglicised variations of Italian bolognaise, doner kebabs, Chinese pork balls with sweet and sour, Indian curry with sultanas and pieces of apple. And for dessert: supermarket staples such as frozen chocolate mousse. No one in our household counted our nutrition as being important any more. There were more choices in our supermarkets than ever before.

Back to the current day, on the radio, Paul McCartney was already moving into his trip to India with the other Beatles. He described the experience of a strict Hindu vegetarian diet on the group. It didn’t really have any influence on him at the time …. and then suddenly I was lost in the moment when I realised I had no stock for my lamb and would have to use a beef Oxo instead.

Improvising with a recipe and listening to the radio at the same time is fine when you have the experience of cooking and you know about flavours and how they will be affected. You can make a few compromises with ingredients but it’s best to have the meat and vegetables as fresh as possible. You don’t have to keep looking at the recipe and worrying about what the end result will be.

It struck me then when I put it all into a casserole dish and then into the oven that Paul McCartney was right about the vegetarianism that didn’t have any meaning to him then at the time, other than being part of the trip. Early impressions form only a backdrop to events and times. It can take years before we realise that we do know about something as important and influential to our health such as buying fresh vegetables, meat and fish.