Isolated eating: the start of lockdown

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Musings from the first week of lockdown

Less than a fortnight ago I dreamt of days where I could work from home regularly, imagining being able to eat toast for breakfast (offices with the luxury of a toaster have somehow mitigated the health and safety laws my employers have been overpowered by), sleeping in until 8am, starting my day with yoga… indefinite social-distancing is not how I thought this dream would materialize.

In an incredibly uncertain time, waves of heightened anxiety are puncturing my days. In the office, I’d chat to a colleague, take a stroll along Embankment to watch the tourists or buy a pastel de nata from Covent Garden; now in the moments that overwhelm I’ll be sunning in the patch of sunlight that heats the kitchen in the early afternoon and rooting around our kitchen cupboard for a small joy to distract me. There are many essential changes that we all need to make, so being considerate to ourselves while social-distancing or isolating should involve planning small things to look forward to in the days which risk of blending into one very long day… (I’m feeling particularly morose today).

In the time I’ll save from not commuting, I’m hoping to learn how to bake cakes and bread, how to fold tortellini - I might just have time to make Dishoom’s eight-hour black daal. I’m hoping to make corn tortillas and learn how to use some of the things I’ve had in the cupboard for too long: urid beans, jaggery, tamarind, various lentils. But I need to find some quick, reliable break-time snacks for the days where I have less time or energy, too.

Most of these snacks use long-lasting ingredients that should still (hopefully!) be available despite the panic buying.

  • Use up a brown banana by baking it in foil with dark chocolate, then smearing it on top of toasted sourdough with peanut butter (something my aunt has mastered but I’ve not yet tried)
  • Frozen parathas, fried and served with a little butter (or with a dollop of that chutney that’s been in the fridge since last year - I’ve heard strawberry jam is nice too)
  • Crush a biscuit, chop some banana, add some greek yoghurt, any nuts you have and some honey (my mum sent my sisters and I a picture of this last week claiming it ‘one of the nicest thing I’ve ever eaten!!!’)​
  • Dip a chunk of dark chocolate in a jar of peanut butter (remember: this is not the time to be double-dipping)
  • I finally opened the tub of Halva I’ve had in the cupboard for months; it’s not too sweet or too savoury but is an interesting texture experience that’ll keep you entertained for a short minute
  • Slice pear thinly and spread out across a plate, add thickly grated parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil (best eaten in the sunny patch in your kitchen)
  • Chop some tomatoes and leave them in a small bowl with olive oil and salt for 20 minutes, mop up the juice with a chunk of bread
  • Salt everything: half an avocado, cucumber sliced lengthways, ribbons of courgette
  • Make smoothies: my sister’s recommendation is frozen blueberries, peanut butter, honey, banana and nutmeg
  • Slowly make your way through a packet of crumpets or scotch pancakes, toasted with salted butter (and grilled with cheese)
  • Buy tortillas or pittas (they’ll last a while or freeze well) - toast and dip into hummus or fill with sundried tomatoes and cheese

Don't try to fill the sport-shaped hole with whatever Sky Sports is showing (2007's play-off final between Derby and West Brom was not an exhilarating watch). Watch the second series of Ugly Delicious which discusses social contexts of cuisines. Watch episode one of the first series of Chef’s Table with Modena’s Massimo Bottura and a parmesan factory, then watch the third episode of series three with Nancy Silverton who makes perfect bread and makes Julia Child cry with a brioche tart (it makes me cry too). Then - before bed or in more anxious moments - watch the soothing first episode of series three where monk Jeong Kwan lovingly makes kimchi in the earth of her Buddhist temple, harvesting whatever grows in its wild garden.