JOSEPH O’Neill used to work in an army kitchen and loved cooking.
But a series of bad luck, mishaps and failed relationships left him feeling lonely and depressed.
After separating from his wife, he lost touch with his three children and 10 grandchildren.
Then his girlfriend and dog passed away.
A botched operation on his spine left him housebound.
With just one to cook for, Joseph all but gave up.
For years he survived on jam sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
He couldn’t be bothered making anything else.
But then he discovered Meal Makers, a charity that aims to bring neighbours together by pairing volunteer cooks with older members of the community in need of a good meal.
And since he was matched with Neil MacKinnon, Joseph, 67, has been dished up a whole new lease of life.
Modern languages teacher Neil visits Joseph in his Dundee home once a week with a whole host of hearty cuisines to try, from roast dinners and risotto to coq au vin and Spanish chorizo stew. Neil, 49, applied to become a “cook” after spotting an ad online.
With a busy lifestyle, the dad had always wanted to do charity work, but couldn’t find the time.
Meal Makers, however, was simple.
All he had to do was cook an extra portion when rustling up dinner for the family, and pop into Joseph’s with it for a quick chat.
Over the past few years, the pair have struck up a good friendship – and Neil has tickled Joseph’s tastebuds with a variety of foods he would never have considered would whet his appetite. His favourite though is Neil’s good old-fashioned lasagne.
For Joseph, every week brings a surprise, and peace of mind that someone is looking out for him.
And keen chef Neil gets to fulfil his wish of doing some charity work – and has found another devoted diner to try the dishes he creates in his kitchen.
It’s a two-way street with each of the neighbours giving something to the other.
And it’s even got Joseph thinking about getting back into the kitchen and rustling up a few culinary creations of his own!
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