We’re living in unprecedented times. You wake up every morning wondering if today’s the day you’ll catch the rona. You’ve forgotten what it feels like to have plans, so much so that you’ve deleted the calendar app on your iPhone to make room for more pictures of bread. You can navigate your way to the fridge with your eyes closed and know that it’s exactly 32 steps from your desk. You’ve forgotten when you last showered and questioned whether you even need to, just so long as you antibacced your hands after Tesco. Days of the week aren’t really necessary anymore and all the weeks are blending into one vast expanse of untextured time. The only thing punctuating one day from the next is the food you’re eating. Not even wine draws the distinction between weekdays and weekends anymore since you put Baileys in your coffee on Tuesday.
So food is a pretty big part of isolation. Of course we’re spending more time in our own kitchens, getting to know our utensils better and finding stock cubes that went out of date in the noughties. And of course we weren’t going to need the amount of pasta we frantically stockpiled, but there’s a whole lot more we’ve learnt about food whilst being grounded by BoJo:
1. When it comes to snacking occasions, the limit does not exist
2. Aubergines go off quicker than avocados.
3. Contrary to the above, there is always one carrot that is invincible to the passage of time.
4. Food diaries are not worth the agg. By the time you’ve weighed the spoonful of peanut butter you’re about to put in your mouth, you’ve guilt tripped yourself out of it.
5.Food diaries are designed to stop you doing things like putting a spoonful of peanut butter in your mouth.
6. You rarely cook food just to eat food. Cooking is meditation, it’s a time passer, a sprinkle of mindfulness in the madness. It feeds the mind first, then the soul, and only at the very end your stomach.
7. Kilner jars will turn any kitchen in a budget rental property into a middle class pantry and are absolutely worth every penny.
8. Food brings people together. If you’re isolating with others, putting food on the table quite literally brings you together at the table, forcing you to convene and share stories of the conference calls you’ve been on (me), or the loots you’ve found (grown men on COD). But not only that, it’s bringing people together virtually, sharing pictures and recipes with our friends online, dishing out Mary Berry brags here and Ottolenghi accolades there.
9. If you put your mind to it you really can make a meal out of anything, so long as you have an egg.
10. Buttered toast will forever be second to none.
11. Cheap butter is never worth it.
12. When restaurants release recipes for signature dishes, they will always lie about how much butter is used.
13. I have a butter problem.
14. If it wasn’t for Covid-19, no one would have ever heard of dalgona coffee.
15. You will never be able to take a nice picture of a katsu curry.
16. Delivery drivers deserve a clap too, risking their lives as they whizz through the streets to gift you your pizza. They’re the closest thing we have to a social life these days, dropping a flat-packed night out on your doorstep.
17. I wish Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef, Pasta Evangelists and the rest had been my idea. Sorry for ever doubting you, you guys are killing it. If you can make me feel like Nigella, take my money.
18. The sound of someone else dropping a spoon in the sink downstairs can make you think you’re hungry.
19. Tea is your ticket out of jail, or at least off the same chair you’ve slowly welded yourself too.
20. Food is happiness. Whether it’s as laboured and satisfying as the first loaf of bread from the starter you’ve been feeding for 2 weeks, or the ragu you’ve left stewing all afternoon. Or whether it’s as simple as licking the buttery, Marmitey, crumby knife you left on the chopping board, or the small piece of Stilton that accidentally ended up squished between your fingers while you swear you only went to the fridge for milk. Food has the propensity to quite literally take you from a place of boredom and misery, to pure nirvana. At times like this, it’s the little things we rely on to put the smiles back on our faces. Even something as little as a Cheerio.
21. I now know why they’re called Cheerios.
22. If I wasn’t sure before, I’m positive now, James Martin belongs on Saturday Kitchen.
23. Not wanting to waste food, because you’re an eco-warrior now, is a perfectly adequate excuse for eating more than you would normally.
24. When you take the bins out, it’s courteous to reassure your neighbours that you’ve not been having a gathering of more than two people, you’re just a low-key alcoholic.
25. Even with more chocolate than you can shake an oompa loompa at, you can never have too much chocolate in the house.
26. You will never be able to make roast potatoes as good as your mother’s.
27. Huel is still weird.
28. There’s a foodie in all of us.
So what I haven’t learnt in general knowledge from all the quizzes, I’ve learnt about food. It’s one of the only things that helps us tell the days apart, and it’s one of the only things capable of bringing us together. Whether it’s the little fingers in jars, (ironically socially acceptable now that Covid is here) or whether it’s the synchronised roast dinners you try to orchestrate over Zoom with your family, it’s the bridge over troubled water. It was here before Coronavirus, it comforts us throughout, and it’ll be here when we’re out the other side, in the home and out. Food can be therapy, let them eat cake.