Here is the latest in our Why I Love Food series. This week, the wonderful Romany Meehan tells us how illness has shaped her love for food and how it means she spends more time with the people closest to her.
I don’t just love food, I adore food. I think it’s fair to say that I’m rather fond of the wrong kinds of food given that over the past decade I’ve slimmed down and beefed up more times than Claire from Steps. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to brainwash myself, a stick of celery is never going to taste as nice as a slice of cake and anyone that claims otherwise is a liar.
In all seriousness though, I love food because it helped save my life. Apart from the obvious nutritional side of things, food gave my life purpose when everything else went belly up, (no pun intended). Last year, soon after my 25th birthday, I went into renal failure. I’d known it was coming since I was 19 so being ill wasn’t a surprise but how everything else changed was shocking. When my boyfriend Richard and I finally made things official after several years of friendship, I was the main earner in the relationship. All of a sudden I had to give up work and become completely reliant on him. I have always been fiercely independent and it was devastating to have to adapt to a new way of life.
I started to see myself as a bit of a burden but then I found my way into the kitchen. It started with cupcakes and has culminated in all sorts of things poached, pickled, roasted and en croute. Back when I was working I didn’t have the time to do everything from scratch and most things came out of packets or jars but now I had all the time in the world to experiment.
It wasn’t just finding something to occupy my time, I was able to live vicariously through other people. So many foods are banned whilst a person is on dialysis and for over a year I lived on very basic foods such as bread and pasta. By cooking fabulous meals for Richard and the rest of my family I not only felt like I was contributing something back to those people supporting me but I was able to get enjoyment by watching them revel in things they had never tried before.
My love affair with the contents of the kitchen started to influence other changes in my family. Until now the only time we would all sit down together to eat would be when my mother cooked a roast dinner but suddenly we were together every weekend to consume my latest concoction and it has helped bring us all closer together. My dad is a stern man with very little time or patience for anyone on the planet other than my mother but he will drive over 100 miles to be at home if he knows I’m cooking my chicken pie. Even the dog lives a more blissful existence as he happily devours any bones or scraps that get thrown his way.
Thankfully I had a kidney transplant in July this year and I’ve been able to welcome many old friends back into my life. I cannot tell you how glorious it is to be able to have soup, fruit, potatoes, chocolate and cheese again even if it does mean my figure currently lies beaten and bloodied at the side of the road having been set upon and attacked by a slice of pizza.