‘White chocolate mousse was an important component in saving our son’s life’

My most treasured food memory: Muriel Thornton

Throughout Food Month people will share with us their most treasured food memory.

White chocolate mousse was a Thornton’s Restaurant favourite on our menu during our 26 years in business. Kevin’s dessert was an utterly delicious, dense, creamy mousse that was blast frozen and served with crushed fresh raspberries and shards of dark chocolate.

Our son Conor adored it and it was his favourite food. It was also an important component in saving his life.

Conor’s repeated utterance of white chocolate mousse was the catalyst for converting my instinct to certainty that something was catastrophically wrong that Saturday evening in April, 1996.


It wasn’t a casual request – he was hallucinating and his repeated words white chocolate mousse were one of the triggers for me to make an urgent request to our GP for a call out, despite the fact that I had been assured at an earlier GP visit that afternoon that Conor was fine.

What had started out as a typical, enjoyable Saturday, turned into the beginning of a living nightmare that was to continue for several weeks, and the trauma of that experience still resonates.

Conor had contracted meningococcal septicaemia and within hours he went from being a healthy, happy two-year-old to near death, his inflamed organs going into terminal failure one by one and his skin bruised black by thrombotic necrotic lesions.

Worst nightmare

Meningococcal infection is every parent’s - and doctor’s – worst nightmare because it strikes so swiftly and without warning. One in 10 people, including children, have the potentially lethal meningococcal bacteria in their respiratory tracts. No one knows why the bacteria chooses to run rampant in only a fraction of the people who play host to it.

While there are many negative accounts of the Irish medical system, our family’s experience was a very positive one and Kevin and I are forever grateful to the medical team who saved Conor’s life.

There are two doctors in particular who we appreciate beyond measure – Liam Claffey and Eoin Smith. Now, 21 years on, Conor is a healthy, happy 23-year-old. If there is one piece of advice I can offer is to take the time to connect with, listen to and always trust your instincts.

Muriel and Kevin Thornton run a bespoke cookery school. See kevinthorntonskooks.com