For Food’s Sake

8 May

There are few pleasures to be had, here in ‘lockdown’ (barring, of course, the warmth of a sunray on your leg as you work by the window). Food becomes the only connection to the physical.

Before the virus, I was trying to be more ‘flexitarian’. Tofu, beans, curries made with those little spice kits you can get from the supermarket. I ate breakfast and lunch at work, and sometimes dinner, too, snaffled at my desk before dashing out to a dance class or a gallery late. Salads. Those slightly slimy falafel wraps from Tesco that made my stomach cramp. A bag of Jacob’s Crinklys, lip-smacking food of the gods. An overpriced pain-au-chocolat as a Friday morning treat.

My food habits changed rapidly. In mid-Feb, I put aside a small stockpile of canned and dried goods just in case. I’ve been reluctant to touch them, but it’s good just to know I’ve got a tin of rice pudding if I’m desperate. My last meal out was a last-minute, ‘if this is my last supper, let it be a good one’, dive into Shake Shack for the deep indulgence of burger and chips.

The empty shops quickly sent me online to search for deliveries and I’ve been getting regular veg boxes, a dairy delivery and a couple of hauls from a posh butcher. My diet has become centred around fresh produce.

I’ve enjoyed making my favourite ‘cheat’s’ moussaka with rich, fatty lamb mince that renders the tomato sauce glistening, plump slices of aubergine, and a cheesy yoghurt mix to replace effortful béchamel. I’ve had the time to slow cook my grandfather’s ‘Italian Spaghetti’ with chunks of unctuous chuck steak. Chicken thighs roasted with olive-oil, lemon, rosemary and thyme soused potatoes were a real delight.

Eggs. Oh, elusive eggs. I’ve been adding them to the veg box to save the disappointment of the empty shelf in Sainsbury’s. Two big-yolkers cracked into a jammy frying pan of cherry tomatoes, onions and garlic. A boiled egg sliced into a bowl of spicy ramen. A fried egg with beans, cheese and marmite on toast: ha-lle-lu-lja.

I haven’t eaten bread regularly for years, but I’ve become addicted to pesto on toast, or, if I’m brave enough to go to the Greek deli round the corner, their tart, pungent tzatziki spread on a slice of wholemeal. A mushed banana, smothered with honey and sprinkled with almonds, works too.

No recipes. Nothing that needs special ingredients or fancy equipment. I’ve mastered ‘throw it in the pan’: pasta sauces laden with carrots, peppers and onions; egg fried rice with whatever’s in the fridge; casseroles with cubed potatoes. And roasted cauliflower. I’ve never really liked cauliflower, but the veg boxes insist on sending them to me. Lashings of tahini turns out to be the solution. Garlic, too. In fact, I’m eating vampire-repellent quantities, confident that there are only my flatmates to smell me.

I’m not all virtuous. I’ve developed a raging chocoholism, occasionally branching out to a tin of Caprice Papadopoulou, which are the Greek cigar-shaped wafers filled with hazelnut ganache. In other words, crack. My dear friend Hannah runs a mid-morning Biscuit Club on Zoom, for which I often have the Queen of digestives: chocolate caramel.

And, despite having not drunk alcohol much over the last couple of years, I splashed out on a few bottles of really nice wine.

I’m learning to make the best of what I have. I’m using the freezer for the first time in ages, eating up what’s good, getting creative within limited means. I miss the flexibility of being able to pop out to pick something up or grab a sandwich. But learning to eat in lockdown has been a simple pleasure in itself.

 

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