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Imperfect Pierogi: The One Where We Didn’t Go to Poland

This July I should have been following Pearl Jam around on their European tour, hopping from the UK to Poland to Hungary to Switzerland. Obviously, things have turned out slightly differently.

This is not Krakow, this is Manchester.

One good thing about lockdown has been having more time to cook, to put on the radio and actually enjoy the process of making something. So, although I am disappointed not be in Krakow right now, I brought a little piece of Poland into my kitchen, and made some (very imperfect) pierogi ruskie.

These pierogi were made to the sounds of a live Pearl Jam bootleg – sadly not part of the accompanying video – in a bid to capture just a little bit of this lost summer.

(I’m not sure many people eat pierogi with hummus and edamame. Sorry, Poland.)

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Personal story

Bored and Baking

Lockdown provided much time for ruminative chewing and for trying out new recipes. Breadmaking is a time-heavy pursuit, but the aromas wafting through the house, more than make up for the hours spent kneading and proving. There is also a primeval satisfaction derived from feeling that after the brave delivery people have delivered your sack of flour and powder keg of yeast, you are self-sufficient, ready to feed your brood without venturing out into the cold and deserted streets.

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Spanish/English comfort food for solitary lockdown eating

tostada con tomates: garlic rubbed on toast with olive oil and tomatoes, made with sourdough toast delivered from Newcastle’s Grainger market whose stall holders banded together to do market deliveries throughout the epidemic

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Lockdown comfort food /2

Andalucian cold rice pudding with cinnamon and dried tangerine dust; the rice pudding rice brought back from Spain , dated 2015…

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Lockdown comfort food/3

Eggs and soldiers. First eggs from new milk round delivery from local Northumberland dairy. Half a dozen a week and I’ll continue to order after lockdown. Love the sound of the clink of clean milk bottles when I put them on the step each day.

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Collaboration Personal story

The pesto that lasted through lockdown

Jesmond Dene wild garlic, picked just before lockdown and made into pesto that boosted many dishes throughout .

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Diversification of business model Personal story

Lockdown comfort food 5

I bought 4 ‘luxury hot cross buns’ just before lockdown, made by the social enterprise Big River Bakery, Shieldfield, Newcastle. I resisted eating them straight away- the heavenly aroma of spices and orange was almost too much – popped them in the freezer and ate them on Good Friday . Well worth the wait and thanks to Andy Haddon and all at the bakery. Hope you can open your amazing project again soon https//big river bakery.com

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Personal story

Baking in the time of lockdown

Throughout the lockdown, I was still working full time at home. Actually, my colleagues and I have never worked so bloody hard, or been under so much pressure. I have been reminded that one’s colleagues aren’t just people you work with – they are as necessary as friends and family for mental wellbeing and supportiveness. The opposite can also be true, of course. But mine are great.  Really great. And while working from home can have its benefits in terms of eliminating commuting and saving a few bob on petrol, I’ve really missed the physical presence of my colleagues. Zoom, Teams and Skype have helped fill some of that gap left by isolation, but not all of it.

So, in between bouts of peering into a screen of stacked faces resembling a badly dressed episode of Blankety Blank, developing eye strain and an RSI of the wrists, I’ve managed to combine my essential breaks with a spot of cooking.
This is done mostly just for me as I live alone with only my dog for company, but also for a few people I’ve been keeping an eye on in lockdown. Friends who’ve relied on me and others to do their shopping. I’ve always thought that the gifts of food reach places in our minds and emotions that other gifts simply cannot. They pleasantly remind us of what it is to be ‘human’ in a community of inter-dependent individuals that really do need each other. Leaving aside maslovian motivations for a moment, food’s symbolic factor is penetrating and universal. It says ‘I care’ like nothing else.  And it might sound a bit fanciful, but if you are what you eat, then that care becomes part of you too.

For me, baking is the perfect mode of edible emotional expression. It’s in the genes. My maternal grandmother was a professional baker, and I only ever had industrially produced cakes at friends’ houses and a school.  She made the family’s wedding and Christmas cakes – even our Easter eggs were hand-crafted in copper moulds. So, even from an early age, I knew that to have access to the same quality of food as my grandmother’s, I’d have to learn the art of baking.  There’s something about the skilled and tactile process of baking that I find quite mesmerising. It has the same appeal as alchemy – an almost magical, creative art and science. You can taste the care in a homemade cake that is glaringly absent in its industrial cousins. The brilliance of the Great British Bake-off was that its producers identified the enormous dormant desire to invest food with that same care again.

And when I became ill myself during the lockdown, friends started coming to my house, leaving food on the doorstep, and at one point, my front door became like a shrine to soup and pastries. I’m still incredibly moved by that.

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Feeding the Family

Feeding my family is a never-ending task as a mother of three, but when thrown in the depend of lockdown with everyone at home and the hinges nearly falling off the fridge with the increased usage I found myself with an increased food bill and still three hungry children.
For inspiration I scoured Pinterest for new and easy meals to prepare, as a family we would pick our meals and implement a meal plan, this has helped massively the kids would pick meals they wanted and would even help with the cooking! Their new found independence in the kitchen has meant that have been able to make their own lunch which before lockdown seemed impossible. Bonding over food and how to cook during lockdown has definitely made the experience more enjoyable, my children are learning a new skill and are eater more adventurous food because of this and we are all loving it!