Could the secret of longevity lie in good food? An exclusive dining club in the North East of Scotland may argue that it does.
The negative stereotype of food for the elderly can be pretty brutal, ranging from poor purées to sloppy care-home cooking, but age is no limitation on fine dining.
And good food is a foolproof way to bring people together, celebrate and socialise.
A special group of eighteen Aberdeenshire Home Owners, aged 55 plus, gather every two months to plan a menu for a distinctive dining club, plotting a meal for their head chef to conjure up. And it’s more than date in the diary to look forward to. Whilst good food is the star attraction, the club naturally brings out the Home Owners’ social side, organisational skills, collaborative partnerships, heated negotiations and even sparks a historical curiosity. The Club Host, David Owen, recently attended the club in a naval captain’s uniform complete with gold braiding, because the club had hit upon the menu of the naval officers aboard the Titanic; a feast celebrating six hours of successful sea trials in Belfast Lough in April 1912.
“After research and planning, we dined on an extensive meal as served on the famous, ill-fated liner’, says David. ‘After Hors D’Oeuvres, the starters onboard featured the soups Consommé Mirrette or Cream of Chicken, then Salmon and Sweetbreads were served. The mains included a trio of Roast Chicken, Spring Lamb or Braised Ham, and curiosities such as Bovin Potatoes and Golden Plover on Toast. The puddings featured Pudding Sans Souci and Peaches Imperial. It was quite a meal!”
Discovering what some of these dishes actually were was a learning curve in its own right, from Bovin Potatoes (which are potatoes prepared in a beef stock/dripping) to Golden Plover (which is small bird). Such a fantastical meal was made possible, because the Dining Club members enjoy independent living at the renowned Inchmarlo Retirement Village in Royal Deeside. Inchmarlo, as well as including 200 privately owned flats and houses, also features a Care Home set within a listed Georgian mansion house complete with a head chef and kitchen staff, who freshly prepare meals for residents and Home Owners alike. The Dining Club Members take it in turn to host the dinner and select the menu and wines, in conjunction with Inchmarlo’s Head Chef, Colin Davidson.
The unique Dining Club started because, whilst many residents and Home Owners cannot cook and host dinner parties in the way they once could, it hasn’t suppressed their appetite for excellent food and good conversation. Food is a core part of conversations at Inchmarlo. As well as the Dining Club, there are monthly Home Owners’ Lunches, as well as Food Tasting Dinners, to decide which dishes will feature on the menu over the coming months. The old saying “If it’s mince it must be Tuesday” does not apply to Inchmarlo!
Julie Mackenzie, Inchmarlo’s Director and General Manager, says, “Quality food is at the core of good health. It’s also so pleasurable and brings out many sociable qualities in people. It’s a real priority for our team. Our residents and Home Owners like to, and expect to, eat well.”
Much of Inchmarlo’s passion for food is inspired by the travels of Charles Skene CBE, the founder and owner of Inchmarlo. Having dined in Michelin-starred restaurants all over the world, he decided, when he opened Inchmarlo in 1986, that the quality of the food served in his establishments should be of a high standard. To this end, recipes from chefs such as Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and Paul Bocuse regularly grace the menus.
The Dining Club is a natural progression for this Retirement Village. Interesting food, especially historic dishes, can stir memories among its Home Owners, and the Inchmarlo Dining Club is always on the lookout for new culinary stimulation.
“The Titanic meal was a great success”, concludes the evening’s host David Owen, “and a club like this can only increase your appetite for life”.