What have I been doing with my time during lockdown? I don’t have children to home-educate, although I have been a teacher and tutor. I don’t have an elderly relative in a care home, worried about the covid risk. Although mum ended her days in a very good nursing home. I don’t have to be concerned about getting an income, having retired over ten years ago. I don’t have to scrimp and save to pay my mortgage or rent. I paid off the mortgage years ago. But until lockdown I could barely cook. Ah! That’s what I’ve been doing with my time. Preparing meals.
It isn’t, strictly speaking, lockdown that has caused me to take to the paring knife, recipes and the chopping board. For forty years my husband drove, shopped and cooked. Then he got ill. He was improving before lockdown #1 in March 2020. But add the general anxiety of covid to an already anxious-depressive clinical diagnosis and my husband deteriorated.
But we still had to eat.
I watched The Hairy Bikers as I love their cooking trips and their enthusiasm and I was given Nigella’s ‘Cook, Eat, Repeat’ for Christmas. During April last year our local shop closed as it was so tricky to effect social distancing in their small premises. And it was hard to get regular supermarket deliveries to our house. But farm shops did deliver and with much flour and yeast making dust clouds in the kitchen I baked copious loaves of bread. I traded yeast for garlic. Bottles of red for ice cream. It was like being under rationing.
The farm shops also delivered fine diced beef, eggs and bacon. My go-to recipes were boeuf bourguignon and frittata. And those yummy dishes last about four days. At the end of the week, back in the summer, we had fish & chip Fridays, a fry-up on Saturdays and a roast on Sundays.
Then, when I started gardening proper I got tired of the cooking/ washing up cycle and ordered a ready meal once a week. Richard always washes up or loads the dishwasher but it’s good to hear your meal is ready by the ping on the microwave.
As delivery slots became more plentiful I tried my hand at tiramisu, fishy stew and, later, Nigella’s fish finger bhorta. I craft a good chicken soup but love parsnip broth even more than carrot and coriander these days. Some evenings we’ll have fish cakes or burgers from the butcher. And now I have an egg poacher we have another easy-to-cook tasty tea-time treat.
My repertoire is wider than the above, of course. But these are my staples.
A roast chicken or turkey - with all the trimmings - is another standard. And I make sugar-free brownies with oats, red kidney beans and 70% chocolate every week.
During lockdown I haven’t had time to get bored or fidgetty. In a cruel twist Richard’s illness may just have saved me. The very act of being a carer, especially mornings, and having to provide for our household has kept me busy. No time for dwelling on life before lockdown. We have to eat thus I shop and cook.
For years I was the major breadwinner and I was barely domesticated. For many women, especially those with children, the daily decision-making about what to eat will be routine. But for me it has been a late development. As I say the need to provide may just have saved me. Too busy to fret.
Except for the obvious:
The more you cook, the more you eat, the less you swim ... the inevitable happens. ( It’s still better than getting covid or fretting, though.)