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.

Supporting each other

Alma Road Curry House (Paul Khan)

When we entered lockdown several neighbours (we have a WhatsApp group) set up a service to shop and help any vulnerable persons in our neighbourhood. One neighbour, Paul Khan, asked if anyone would like to try o e of his curry pastes. What followed was weekly deliveries of the most delicious and imaginative tastebud experiences! Paul would announce via WhatsApp what each weekly paste would contain and suggest a dish to combine it with also offering alternatives. He would then deliver the paste to each household all free of charge. We only had to supply some jars each week. Photos of curries adorned our WhatsApp page.
It enhanced our community spirit and led to many neighbourly discussions.
Paul remained humble throughout and his innate knowledge of spices and cooking methods inspired several households to try new recipes and flavours. He clearly has a gift which he generously shared with his neighbours in these worrying times. We all felt uplifted in our connection with curry ?

Personal story

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!