In Sickness and in Health: What do you order for the foodie who's had nothing?

Earlier this year, Rebecca's husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

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The Independent Online

I remember when I used to be the foodie in this marriage. I did the cooking, I knew about - in theory, if not in regular practice - bain maries and piping bags. I read the labels, ate the spicy stuff and ripped out recipes from magazines. I coveted a serious spice rack that had receptacles for celery salt, smoked paprika and saffron, as well as bog-standard basil and bay leaves. Nick? Not so much. He knew where to get the best ready meals - Tesco - and was happy to eat whatever I served, with mince being a favourite. (Or, as I prefer to call it, bolognaise or chilli con carne.)

He has aways been a bon viveur, mind. Nick introduced me to the joys of the cheese plate and lure of the fancy restaurant. Oysters on a bed of snow on a ski trip; oceans of aioli, fresh bread and rosado in Ibiza; asian fusion and sushi suppers; roast chicken sandwiches with wasabi mayonnaise and pickled ginger in a hotel that I never wanted to leave. When we were high on the hog, we ate out like pigs. Pub lunches, cheeky Cambodian mid-week meals and prix-fixe steak frites all went down the hatch. Dining out was a luxury, but one to which we became very accustomed. Each menu was a treasure map, each meal an adventure.  

At home, though, things started to change. My hours at work increased and what I cooked was served later and with worse grace. Then, the days and weeks of TV cooking shows that had served as electric wallpaper started to work their strange alchemy on Nick. A terrine here, a chocolate mousse there. Pies, pastries, hams, soups, stews - even tagines became part of his repertoire. He even bested me at spaghetti carbonara, one of my greatest hits. When I started the 5:2 diet, he’d email me with low-calorie meal suggestions at lunch time. Lucky doesn’t cover how I felt to have married a man who turned out to be a whizz in the kitchen.

I can’t remember the last meal that we ate together before the accident. Nick was on his way back from the shops with eggs that night, but I’m not sure if we were due to have an omelette. What I do know is that for the last few months, the only thing that Nick’s been “eating” is beige-coloured liquid piped in directly through a tube in his stomach. Mmmmm! A nurse let me sniff a bottle of it once. It smelled OK, a bit like a protein shake, which, I suppose, is exactly what it is, give or take a few extra nutrients. As the nurse pointed out, it wasn’t like Nick was actually going to taste it, anyway.

You hear a lot about last meals - the ones that death-row prisoners pick, what chefs would choose as theirs, what fellow dinner-party goers would go for. But first tastes? It’s not a well-ploughed furrow. I’m not sure that Nick would have chosen a strawberry Muller yoghurt to break his five-month fast, but that’s what he had. Bright pink, sweet and fed to him with a plastic spoon. You can keep your snow-dusted oysters and steak frites. No meal will ever beat, for me, the strawberry yoghurt that we just shared.