AWARD-winning cook and food writer Lady Claire Macdonald is an ambassador for the traditions of Highland hospitality and cooking at the renowned Kinloch Lodge Hotel on the Isle of Skye.
As well as supporting Scottish Food Fortnight and the Association of Scottish Farmers’ Markets, Macdonald is a patron of Marie Curie, which runs the Edinburgh hospice at Fairmilehead. Marie Curie nurses care for anybody at the end of life with any illness.
Its staff and volunteers work night and day in people’s homes providing hands-on care and vital emotional support.
Last year, the charity visited 418 people living with a terminal illness in the Lothians at home through its community nursing team, which is equal to 4,152 visits and more than 16,500 community nursing hours across the region.
It also cared for 480 people as inpatients at the Marie Curie Hospice and carried out more than 2,200 clinical nurse specialist visits to patients in Edinburgh.
Famed for her skills as a dinner party hostess, Macdonald is well qualified to advise when it comes to hosting a Dinner Down Memory Lane in aid of Marie Curie.
“It’s a wonderful idea and a brilliant concept,” she says.
“It’s so much fun and captures the imagination of everybody I tell about it because we all love to go back in time and food has changed so dramatically in the last few decades.”
Macdonald’s involvement with the charity goes back a number of years to when she and her husband Godfrey were caring for his parents towards the end of their lives.
“If you are looking after somebody who is dying at home, in our case Godfrey’s father because of throat cancer, it can be very frightening indeed,” says Macdonald.
“The care and the work done by the Marie Curie nurses is humbling. It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or in the most rural part of the country, where you don’t have the services of the hospice. We are so lucky we have five excellent Marie Curie nurses locally but it still doesn’t mean that each death is as one would wish it should be and could be.
“Where Marie Curie is involved [because it involves a terminal illness] it can never be anything but a dreadful experience but it’s filled with love and strength and support if Marie Curie is there.”
Macdonald’s message to anyone considering hosting their own Dinner Down Memory Lane is that although the main month of the campaign is November, dates are flexible.
In terms of food, vol-au-vents and cheese cubes with pineapple on sticks may seem like the obvious choices but with period dramas all the rage, Macdonald suggests hosts dig a little deeper for their retro recipe inspiration.
“For Dinner Down Memory Lane we needn’t restrict ourselves to post-war food,” says Macdonald.
“If people feel inclined, they could go back further to Edwardian times for food. It was created then with none of the labour-saving gadgets we are so lucky to have now.
“If you think back to Downton Abbey and Mrs Patmore, they created food where each course was a masterpiece in itself. I’m lucky to have an old Constance Spry cookery book that belonged to my mother and she’s scribbled notes in it. All the food she’s cooked, I will cook. Perhaps something like egg mousse, which I still make to this day. But the obvious one is prawn cocktail or prawn and melon.”
Prawn cocktail, served authentically in paprika-rimmed wine glasses, and melon balls were top of the menu at the Marie Curie hospice’s own Dinner Down Memory Lane last month.
Day services patients enjoyed a three course lunch with a 1960s and 1970s theme.
Staff and volunteers paid attention to every last detail from psychedelic rainbow napkins to glasses of vivid green Creamola Foam and intricately carved vegetables decorating the dishes.
While Macdonald is planning Gateau Diane for pudding, patients at the Marie Curie dinner were in for a real retro treat as Bryan Thom, chef at the Fairmilehead hospice, served up generous helpings of banana split and Black Forest Gateau with lashings of squirty cream.
TO sign up and get your free fundraising pack visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/retronight or call 0800 716 146.
Marie Curie is the UK’s leading charity for people with any terminal illness.
The charity helps people living with a terminal illness and their families make the most of the time they have together by delivering expert hands-on care, emotional support, research and guidance.
TAKE A TRIP DONW MEMORY LANE
MARIE Curie is calling on food fans to hold a retro-inspired dinner party in aid of the charity this November.
Inspired by the surge of interest in retro food, Dinner Down Memory Lane, is about holding a dinner party and recreating your favourite nostalgic food.
By inviting friends to make a donation in return for dinner, fundraisers will be helping Marie Curie nurses provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness and their families.