FOOD can bring back special memories of a person or a place, or of a happy time in your life.
Whether it’s a family recipe going back through the generations or a favourite meal, particular foods can evoke strong emotions.
So when author Helen Ashwell was putting together a book about people’s recovery from mental and physical illness, she decided to do it through recipes.
The result is Nourishing, a book of 77 recipes which all tell a personal tale.
Helen, 46, who works as a communications assistant for Notts Healthcare, said: “Food can be a catalyst and I saw the value in working with people in this way to open new doors and emotions.”
“I noticed how by bringing people together to share their stories and food, barriers were broken down and people felt a sense of empowerment through the exchange of recipes.”
“I witnessed many warm interactions and this warmth permeates the pages of the book.”
“There’s a bit of a trend for nostalgia at the moment as well, and people really seemed to appreciate other people’s stories.”
Helen’s backgound is as a nutritionist and she is passionate about improving general wellbeing by being well nourished.
“It’s important to take care of yourself by eating three square meals and these recipes celebrate home-cooked food and enjoying everything in moderation,” she said.
The book has been compiled with the primary aim of generating interest about home-cooked food, changing unhealthy eating habits, and breaking down barriers by empathising with a personal journey or memory.
Helen said: “It is hoped that the book will help to raise awareness, reduce stigma and celebrate positive strategies for dealing with mental health problems, physical health conditions and educational needs in a person’s recovery journey.”
“Some of the stories are quite personal, most are uplifting, some are very honest and heartfelt.”
The recipes came from people who use the mental and physical health services of Notts Healthcare, staff and carers.
Nourishing has been endorsed by Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains, of Nottingham, who said the routine of preparing and sharing food brought a sense of balance into life.
One contributor, Rachel Murnaghan, said at the book’s launch that she had enjoyed being part of the project.
“Food and family have helped me through some difficult times,” she said.
Nourishing has over 200 pages and is illustrated beautifully. Alongside each recipe is a brief statement from the contributor about why it is special to them.
Many of the recipes have personal names such as ‘grandma’s stew with Yorkshire puddings’, ‘my mum’s Sunday dinner’ and ‘Dad’s shepherd’s pie’.
There are recipes from all over the world, including Africa, Asia and America.
The front cover features various types of bread, chosen because it is a staple food across all cultures and religions.
Nourishing costs £20 and is available at Waterstones, or from Rampton Hospital near Retford, where Helen is based. Any profits will go to Notts charities.