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As a nutritionist, dietitian and trained chef, I can show you how to make delicious, appetizing meals that ensure you get the most from the foods you eat.
For the past few years I've spent a couple of dark, rainy March evenings creating a moodboard to set the scene and vibe for the 12 months I'd love to have (why March? Because hopeful spring is on its way and New Year is loaded with too much pressure). I've always been a visual person, loving colour, textures, the patina of old against minimal new, and I find that looking at my collage of magazine pictures, words, photos, and even a piece of fabric which means something to me, can lift my spirits and give me the inspiration to keep moving forward. I did this before I set up Nourish by Jane Clarke and I love looking back at it when I need some inspiration about the types of foods I want to be creating in the following month's recipe batch.
You might wonder what a moodboard - or vision board - like this has to do with living with cancer? It's a technique I often recommend to my patients when they're finding eating difficult due to their illness or the side effects of treatment. A moodboard helps you to visualise the foods and flavours you love, and how they connect to your memories and emotions.
My Aunty May was the big inspiration in my cooking life. As children, my sister and I would love sitting down to her meals because they looked as wonderful as they tasted. She always went the extra mile to find the best plate to serve dinner or pudding on. She always provided paper napkins and put doilies below the Victoria sponge cake. And when I was unwell as a teenager, both she and my mum would try their best to tempt me to eat by setting a pretty tea tray or bringing food into the hospital packed in a gorgeous tin. When I look at photos of those days, I can almost taste my Aunty May's famous cinnamon buns!
The ceremony and visual element of eating can be such an important part of tempting someone's appetite. So this month, I suggest going the extra mile and creating a food moodboard for either yourself or someone you care about. Take a piece of card (I use an A2 sheet so I have enough space to fill it) and build a collage of pictures of favourite foods; photos of memorable meals, or picnics, or that special birthday cake, and words that trigger mouthwatering memories. It could be a picture of rosy English strawberries, a glass of cloudy apple juice, your mum's Yorkshire puddings, or the lunch of bread and cheese you ate on holiday and never forgot. When you're feeling rotten, it's much easier to tempt your appetite when you have a mirage of gorgeous images in front of you.
Of course, a moodboard can help to inspire you and empower you in all sorts of ways, not just with food and appetite. However you use one, bring out your creative side, get cutting and sticking, and see where it takes you.
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