How a love of good food helped me recover from a heart transplant

Clare on the Bluebird Bakery stall on Shambles Market

Food writer Claire Davies is joining YorkMix, and begins by revealing where her love of good grub comes from

As a York based food and history blogger I have recently been invited to contribute my work here at YorkMix. The team have asked me to introduce myself and share how I developed such a strong passion for how, why and what we eat.

I wasn’t an enthusiastic cook until my early twenties when, at the age of 19, I happened into employment as a dishwasher assistant at a local café.

The chef made many of the menu items from scratch and, as I observed him season, taste and adjust I became hooked.

Soups, pies, batters and pasta dishes were now part of my repertoire and as I took my developing interest home I discovered the joy of cooking for family and friends.

In the same moment I was struggling to cope with an ongoing heart condition, diagnosed in my early teens and gradually deteriorating.

Eventually I returned to university and trained as an occupational therapist, hoping to assist others in engaging with those activities which gave their lives meaning and purpose.

A new heart, a new start

By 2003, I was forced to admit defeat and stop working completely due to chronic heart failure. My own quest for meaning led me to food and cookery.

If I wasn’t in the kitchen doing, I could be found listening to, watching or reading about food. We employed a care assistant and as the illness progressed, the last vestment of independence available to me was the gift of a cake or a cooked meal.

Of course, my understanding also allowed me to plan balanced meals for the household on a budget and stay as healthy as possible.

In 2009, after a number of months on the waiting list, I finally received a new heart.

As I inhabit my life as a transplant recipient, food and cookery play a stronger role than ever in maintaining my physical and emotional health.

Knowledge of inexpensive, locally sourced ingredients allows me to continue the good work I started pre transplant. I now combine my passion for eating and social history to give me a greater insight into the way diets develop and how our predecessors ate, both in times of celebration and adversity.

In writing for YorkMix I hope to encourage a passion for eating, introducing you to local producers, cafés and exciting food based projects along the way.