Why taste is key to nourishment

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Why taste is key to nourishment

By Jane Clarke

September 06, 2022

Cancer, chemotherapy, gut health, Sore mouth, Swallowing difficulties

‘My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best.’
Winston S. Churchill

This quote resonates so much with me, although it’s worth saying that when it comes to taste and flavour, ‘the best’ can be as simple as a juicy ripe tomato, some sips of Vanilla Nourish from your favourite glass, or the perfect slice of coffee and walnut cake (which was always my dad’s favourite).

Taste was the key driver for me when I started my Nourish business. It all goes back to a wonderful patient of mine, named Patrick, who was living with Aids and had a Kaposi's Sarcoma tumour in his mouth, which greatly affected his ability to chew and swallow. This impacted his enjoyment of food in the last few weeks of his life, although he used to love me sitting with him and talking about the meals I’d been creating at home and enjoying in restaurants. I thought it must be torture for him, but instead it kept him connected to what had always been a big passion in his life – his love of good food and cooking.

One day Patrick asked if I could bring him in some strawberries to eat. He could manage only one but the joy on his face when he tasted the explosion of sweet flavour in his mouth was wonderful to see – until I was reprimanded by the ward sister for giving him food that hadn’t come through the hospital kitchen.

I knew then, 30 years ago, that I would never be a traditional dietitian, because it wouldn’t allow me the scope to look after my patients in the way I felt they deserved. Instead, I wanted to craft a practice built on the belief that taste is one of the most important qualities to strive for in our food. Of course, the way food is produced and its nutritional value is right up there too. But unless food tastes good, no one – especially someone who is unwell or has eating challenges, like Patrick – will eat and enjoy it.

I’m proud to say, I’ve succeeded. Not only have I supported hundreds of patients through nutritional and eating challenges in a way that sees food as a force for joy and pleasure, not a strict equation of carbs and calories. I’ve also produced Nourish Drinks to provide nourishment and pleasure with all-natural and organic ingredients. The fact that our Vanilla drink has just been awarded a Simply Delicious star rating in the 2022 Great Taste Awards is a cause for huge celebration at Nourish HQ!

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons as it’s when I start to cook again after a summing of living on salads and all things cool and easy – especially this year, with the summer having been at times so extraordinarily hot. I’m finally feeling brave enough to stand next to the Aga, and I’ve already been stewing big pots of chopped-up apples, which have been grown in our garden and next door. Our neighbour is a keen planter of apple trees, but never seems to get around to eating the fruit, so I’m told to help myself. Bliss!

If you’re cooking apples, the traditional flavourings of cinnamon or nutmeg might be your first place to start. But I also love stewing apples with a few cardamon pods cracked open in the pan, as this reminds me of blissful summers in Sweden as a child. Cardamon is slightly perfumed but also sweet, so it hits the taste buds in a new way. I’ve been giving the puree to a friend of mine who is undergoing cancer treatment – she’s found that a small bowl of chilled apple puree with cardamon has been the perfect antidote to the sickness she often experiences after her chemotherapy.

Why not rediscover your own favourite flavours and explore new tastes this autumn? A shake of chilli in your scrambled eggs, a shot of espresso in your Vanilla Nourish Drink, or some snips of fresh dill in a fish pie cost pennies but impart a world of pleasure to food. Pure satisfaction.

If you love apples, take a look at our recipe for Stewed Apples, or try soft and fluffy Baked Apples.

Did you know? Apples contain stomach-soothing pectin. Find out more in my blog, Stewed Apples to Settle the Gut.


Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

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