Banishing loneliness with food and fun plus #recipe for Mackerel Pate with Homemade Chutney

I don't like feeling lonely. Not that it happens much nowadays with the size of our family of course but years ago when my husband worked away I regularly went for days speaking to absolutely no-one out of working hours.

And to be fair I found my school years incredibly lonely at times. It seemed to be that the cool kids saw me as the posh geeky kid who loved literature and wore sensible shoes. Rabitty teeth which no end of brace-wearing could fix, and a distinct lack of boobs didn't help either.

Even now under my veneer of brash confidence there are times I feel lonely, even in a crowd, so when I heard about the Campaign to End Loneliness group I was right on board, keen to support such a great idea.

So what defines loneliness? There is a great explanation on the Campaign to End Loneliness website:

"Loneliness can be defined as a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want (Perlman and Peplau, 1981)."

There are apparently different types of loneliness:
  • Emotional loneliness is felt when we miss the companionship of one particular person; often a spouse, sibling or best friend.
  • Social loneliness is experienced when we lack a wider social network or group of friends.
Loneliness can be a transient feeling that comes and goes. It can be situational; for example only occurring at certain times like Sundays, bank holidays or Christmas. Or loneliness can be chronic; this means someone feels lonely all or most of the time.
Loneliness is linked to social isolation but it is not the same thing.  Isolation is an objective state whereby the number of contacts a person has can be counted.  One way of describing this distinction is that you can be lonely in a crowded room, but you will not be socially isolated.
Loneliness can be felt by people of all ages, but as we get older, risk factors that might lead to loneliness begin to increase and converge like poor health, loss of mobility, lack of public transport, technological changes or lower income. 
Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience.  Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
One group who know all about the risk of loneliness is the experts at Sunrise Senior Living who provide all types of care for the elderly including supporting independent living, respite care, care home accommodation, nursing care and assisted living.  

They actively encourage community participation at their care homes across the UK and in a bid to promote awareness of the importance of combatting loneliness came up with a great way for anyone to help.

They produced a series of exciting recipe cards and invited a bunch of bloggers, including me, to invite someone lonely to share a meal and a board game or similar fun to brighten up someone's day.

I chose to invite a church friend who was desperately missing her husband and daughter as they visited family in the US, and a playground pal who is a single mum. She has recently been hit by Cupid's arrow but the new BF had gone to a wedding overseas leaving her bereft! You can see them below practicing their "sad and lonely" faces.

I decided to serve them a three course meal including Sunrise Senior Living's mackerel pate as a starter. I left off the chutney as I was feeling lazy to be honest but I include it in the recipe here as it looks lovely!

Mackerel Pâté
4 smoked mackerel fillets (275g)
 63g ricotta cheese
86g soured cream
9ml lemon juice
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
20g watercress
4 lemon wedges
143g salted butter – clarified
4 slices of granary bloomer bread
½ red onion - finely sliced
83g tomato - chopped
1 garlic clove - peeled and crushed
½ red chilli - chopped
3g ginger - peeled and chopped
42g brown sugar
25ml red wine vinegar
Pinch of ground cardamom
Pinch of paprika
5ml sunflower oil

Mackerel Pâté 1. Combine mackerel fillets, ricotta, soured cream, lemon juice, seasoning and nutmeg in a food processor until smooth. 2. Evenly divide the mixture into the ramekins. 3. Pour clarified butter over the pâté mix and chill until set. 4. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper. 5. Serve with chutney (see opposite), watercress, lemon and toasted granary bread.
Chutney 1. Sauté onions gently in pan with 5ml of oil. Then add paprika, tomato, garlic, ginger, cardamom and chilli. 2. Add vinegar and brown sugar. Stir and cook on moderate heat until consistency of jam, then set aside to cool.

After a fairly serious start as the lovely ladies shared their worries and woes we soon felt the mood lifting over the pate  (minus chutney) and homemade bread, followed by pork belly an coleslaw with sweet potato fries and a hot strudel to finish.

We never got round the playing the board game as given the chance to chat I could not shut my guests up!  Well OK maybe I was chattering on too!

I was so glad Sunrise Senior Living prompted me to invite them. We joked that I had named them as lonely people but the truth is no-one really likes to spend too much time alone and the evening provided welcome relief during a stressful time for them, and me to be honest.

It didn't cost much and wasn't much effort so if you know someone who might be feeling lonely for whatever reason, why not do some good and ask if they'd like to come round, go out or have some company. I promise you, it'll give you a warm fuzzy feeling!

Disclaimer: I received help with the cost of producing this meal for my lonely friends. Views and opinions remain honest and my own.

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