Written by Tess Capper, researcher in public health nutrition at Queen’s University Belfast and Meal Makers volunteer.
2020 will mark two years since I did my first meal share as part of Meal Makers. This time two years ago, I was finishing off a PhD investigating diet and nutrition in older adults and was finding the changes in the effects of some nutrients as we age a fascinating topic. I’ve also always been a keen cook, so combining my interests in nutrition and cooking as a volunteer for Food Train’s Meal Makers project seemed a good fit.
I think myself incredibly fortunate to have been paired up with my diner, Gordon. He loves all foods, happily being a guinea pig for some new recipes, is kind and generous, and has been patient while I’ve moved in and out of Edinburgh for work. Gordon was put forward as a Meal Makers diner by one of the clubs he was a member of, as he had been living on his own for some time and was beginning to struggle a little with cooking for himself every day.
Sharing my meals with Gordon has been really easy, and he has enjoyed (or at least he says he has) everything from soup and homemade bread to fish pies and frittatas. Sometimes I fill Tupperware with a portion of the meal I’ve cooked for that night or the one before, but often he gets his own dish to pop straight in the oven when I arrive at his house. He always has the oven on and a plate warming in it when I get there.
Being a nutritionist does mean that I try to add lots of extra veggies to my (and Gordon’s) meals but I’m also aware that Gordon’s appetite has reduced, so I do try to add some extra calories to his as well. Although I give him a meal for that evening, he’ll often save half for the next day if he feels it’s a bit much for him to eat. This doesn’t tend to happen if I stay while he eats, or even better when I eat with him, so I try to do this as much as I can. I think he enjoys the company more than anything, especially when my boyfriend comes along and talks to him about golf.
Cooking a meal for Gordon is just habit now, and it’s a pleasure seeing him and chatting about his week. It’s also nice to know that I take a bit of pressure off his day to day cooking for himself, especially giving him a break from all the chicken Kievs.
Tess Capper is a researcher in public health nutrition at Queen’s University Belfast but is currently living back home in Edinburgh. She has been a volunteer cook for Meal Makers for 2 years.
For more information on Meal Makers and to sign up as a volunteer please visit: www.mealmakers.org.uk