Picture the scene. It's 1977. I'm 12 years old, and I've just got back from two weeks away at International Camp in the wilds of Loughborough University campus grounds.
Unlike the previous summer when we had to water the veg with our bathwater, it has NOT been a scorcher. August dumped three years' worth of rain on us, as we gathered in a pathetic ring of soggy tents round a sulky camp fire, sipping scorched cocoa in a bid to get warm and convince ourselves that we were having a marvellous time (which we were, actually).
I'm filthy, my hair is matted with twigs from the final night's bivouac (rain miraculously held off for that one) and, for the first time in my life, my fingernails have grown (couldn't bring myself to bite them after digging the camp toilet). I look like the unmentionable cousin of Stig of the Dump.
But now I'm home. Back in the bosom of my family. In the warmth and security of suburban formica and three-piece suites.
I walk through the back door, drop my rucksack, and breathe deeeply.
I grin across the kitchen through the mud caking my face and say "You made my favourite. Thanks Mum!"
After being bustled off to the bathroom for a thorough soak (changing the bath water three times before it stopped looking like weak coffee), I emerge - scrubbed and glowing - to be guided to the dining table.
In front of me is a steaming plate of steak and kidney pie, oozing with rich brown gravy and topped with a crisp golden crust. To the side are new potatoes, with mint and butter, and runner beans - all fresh from our garden of course.
I'm in heaven. I've survived my first big adventure - and now I'm getting my reward for making it home in one piece. A condemned man eating his last meal couldn't have relished it more. After a fortnight of cold porridge, charred bangers and scalded tinned beans, it tastes like the best food in the world. And at that moment, it is. No super chef or exotic ingredient could produce anything better than my Mum's homecoming feast.
It's much more than a good tasty meal. It's confirmation that I matter, that I'm loved, and that I have a place - and always will have - at this dinner table. It's what being part of a family is all about.
And if I could possibly have any doubts about that, they are soon dispelled when pudding appears with a flourish of the oven glove: blackberry and apple crumble, with custard...
This post was inspired by 'Oui Chef" over at http://www.beckicklesie.com/ who gave us the prompt "Mum's Cooking".
Thanks to the lovely Becca and Cheffy Daddy for transporting me back to some of the best food memories of my childhood... ...but be warned, food played a bit part in our family (and still does), so there could be more to come.