OPINION: No more banana bread: Ten food lessons from a year of lockdown
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When Boris Johnson announced we would all have to stay at home a year ago this week, he was at pains to point out that this was a decision which he would be reviewing just three weeks later.
Yet here we are 12 months on, still in lockdown, and with the majority of the population stoically realising that sacrificing some personal freedom is necessary for the greater communal good.
Despite the occasional lapse, the past year has finally nailed that old Thatcherite view that ‘there is no such thing as society’.
We have learnt much during this difficult period.
We routinely use new vocabulary such as ‘socially distanced’ and ‘self-isolating’. Parents have discovered new-found respect for the job done by teachers. Employers have realised that they can trust their staff to get on with the job, even when they are at home.
And perhaps most importantly, it is the people who do the jobs which keep society moving at its most basic level who are important, not the overpaid football prima donnas or the vacuous celebrities and ‘influencers’.
At home, too, we have learnt much about how we live our lives, and in particular how important food is, not just as the fuel which keeps us going, but to our mental and emotional wellbeing.
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A year of lockdown has taught us a number of food-related things which will remain with us even as we slowly emerge, blinking, back into the light of normality.
Cooking is therapy
Providing nourishment for our nearest and dearest has been something we have been able to achieve, even as most other activities have been shut off from us. Many have discovered the creative satisfaction to be gained in the kitchen.
That pleasure is about to be multiplied as we get the opportunity once again to cook for friends and family.
The best sourdough is professionally baked
Many of us have had a go at making our own bread, with mixed results. It’s certainly something I would recommend; there is nothing quite like the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting through the house.
However, sourdough is difficult, and few of us can get it right. The best place to get a really good loaf is still your local artisan baker.
Banana bread has no place in our diet
We have all done it: baked the iconic lockdown loaf of banana bread, if only to stop a rapidly-blackening bunch of bananas going to waste. But let’s face it, there is a reason no-one made it before the pandemic – it’s just not very nice. One most people will be happy to consign to the Covid history books.
Value the delivery person
Whether it’s supermarket delivery drivers or takeaway-toting moped riders, all of us have relied to some extent on that band of road warriors bringing food to our door. For many, the weekend takeaway of our substitute for eating out; so consider tipping the driver as generously as you would the restaurant waiter – they are worth it.
We love local food shops
One group which has really stepped up to the plate are local food shops. Whether market traders who have rapidly created delivery services, or simply the local shop which has stayed open throughout the pandemic, our local food retail heroes have deservedly won our custom – and there is evidence that they will keep it lost-lockdown. I certainly hope so.
Supermarkets are remarkable
It’s fashionable to knock the big stores, but where would we be without their incredible logistics capabilities? Barring the odd bog roll shortage, the shelves have been kept stocked throughout, which is an amazing achievement. I’m not a believer in outsourcing public health initiatives to the private sector, but can you imagine how much better Test & Trace would have been if it had been entrusted to Tesco instead of the prime minister’s buddies?
We must stop waste
The fact that shopping became difficult - for a while at least - meant that we learned to plan what we were going to eat, which in turn led to a dramatic fall in the amount of food we waste. This is something we must carry forward into the post-pandemic world.
We have learnt to cook
Whether it’s baking cakes, making our own pasta, or churning our own ice cream, lockdown has given us the time and in many cases the inspiration to improve our cooking skills.
We crave restaurants, pubs and cafes
That old cliché ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ couldn’t be more true when it comes to eating out. Whether it’s a leisurely espresso, a quiet pint, or the full fine dining experience, we are all champing at the bit to experience some hospitality.
The best food is social
The thing most people are looking forward to most is sitting down to eat with friends or family. The gazebo is already up in my garden ready for next week; the desire to break bread with others is a human basic.