My first food memory was being really shocked by my mother eating baby squid whole.

She was Australian and would eat anything. But she was a terrible cook – the only person I knew who could burn peas. She did her best, but ours was not a gourmet household.

We had an allotment, and my mother was a fantastic gardener. 

Which meant lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. But it was the 1960s, so I was taught to cook by opening a can of Buitoni ravioli.

I was a really fussy eater.

I’d Turn my nose up at everything and was very skinny.

I was partly brought up in Melbourne, Australia. 

And my school had a tuck shop in the middle of the playground, where you could buy pies and sweets and liquorice without having to cross the road. Back then, it definitely wasn’t the food capital of the southern hemisphere.

School food in England was horrible. 

It put me off a lot of things for life. Two days a week we had beetroot, which covered the plate with that runny red stuff. I now love it, but it took me about 30 years to try it again.

Occasionally we’d walk to school, rather than take the bus, and spend the money at the sweet shop.

I remember being very naughty and going to my first Wimpy bar, aged about 12, and the excitement of ordering my own food and feeling very grown up.

Life was sweet in Melbourne but beetroot school dinners in England left their mark

Life was sweet in Melbourne but beetroot school dinners in England left their mark 

In the 70s, the nearest we came to anything resembling gut health was watching a Ski yogurt advert.

It had happy families bouncing up and down in white leotards, which we were told had something vaguely to do with being healthy. But no one made the connection between gut health and wellbeing until a few years back.

In my gap year, I worked in Austria in restaurants and hotels, doing the washing up.

I put on about a stone in weight as I would hoover up all the wiener schnitzel that came back, untouched, to the kitchen.

A junior doctor can have no interest in food. 

It’s egg and chips in the canteen and eating quickly enough so you’re not starving at 4am when you’re working. It was very hard to have any sort of good diet as a medical student.

Lasgane is Tim's happy meal

Lasgane is Tim’s happy meal

In my late 20s, I got a job in Brussels, on a medical exchange. 

I went wild, spending all my money in restaurants. I also started cooking when I lived there on my own. But it was a very masculine style of cooking – the occasional flashy dish, showing off. I got slowly more and more interested in it.

Brussels is also where I met my wife [fellow doctor Veronique Bataille], who is a huge foodie and took me to all these wonderful places. 

She’s French Belgian and a naturally good cook. We have big fights if we try to cook together, and she basically kicks me out of the kitchen. If she’s working late, I’ll cook, and if I’m out, she’ll do it. She definitely likes a lot of butter, while I use much more olive oil.

I think the UK is now at a turning point when it comes to eating. 

It’s hard to see this getting any worse. We are the sickest, most obese country in Europe, and we have the most ultra-processed food in Europe. But I think the tide is turning, and I get the feeling that finally people are waking up to the fact that a bad diet is crippling us physically and economically. I used to be pessimistic, because I felt no one was listening, but now there are definitely more people saying the same thing.

My comfort food? It’s a good crusty cheese lasagne.

I always have fermented food, like kimchi, in my fridge, but my wife complains about the smell. I make some of it myself or I buy it.

I hate liver and onions. 

And kidneys. Maybe that’s school. I’m 99 per cent vegetarian, and you couldn’t pay me to eat it.

The thing I missed most in Brussels was a really good curry.

That would be my final dinner.

Food for Life by Tim Spector is out now (Vintage, £12.99) 

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