By Hazel Riggall
25 weeks in and counting ….
Six months on from those chilling headlines, ‘Covid-19 confirmed as a pandemic’ and news of our first isolated cases in the UK, where are we now with the ‘new normal’?
The pace of life has for the most part slowed down for me, after the frantic weeks back in March and April, with seemingly endless tasks to complete. I still ensure the food security blanket is firmly in place for the vulnerable group I help to support at the food bank and for my siblings.
What of my NHS clinic? The sluggish cogs of the NHS did eventually turn with persistent and regular nudges to a result – a laptop, weak but usable Wi-Fi signal at my health centre plus a virtual clinic set- up called Visionable. The latter, rolled out hastily, at least six months ahead of a planned introduction, is somewhat clunky and for my purposes, far inferior to Zoom. Who would have thought the name of a childhood favourite, multi coloured ice lolly would be in common usage in 2020? I can proudly say that I have used Zoom for a private client in Australia and it has been a great success. I am now a Zoom master -able to record a consultation, have a backdrop that puts me in orbit and interact on a live webinar with judicious use of a comments box.
‘Covid Ready Steady Cook’ has been a WhatsApp group set up at the end of March with nearly 30 participants; my aim being to share anything food related. A meme-free oasis, full of practical tips and support with the occasional underbelly of friendly rivalry. Topics have varied from what to do with gluts of foraged food and unusual ingredients to favourite recipes and bountiful plates of deliciousness.
In my newly decorated kitchen, the cupboards remain replenished with a plethora of grains. With the looming of a final Brexit-exit, I am in the process of laying down decent stocks of the best olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A generous supply of parmesan is kept in the fridge, rather than in a Pepys-style garden burial. A weekly bake for friends and neighbours with opportunistic bonding saves me from a rise on the scales dial.
With time and produce to use creatively, a glut of limes and lemons from foodbank leftovers was transformed into curds for their funds, a garden crop of black lace elderflowers became delightful pink cordial gifts and some of the blackberry glut is steeped in cheap gin for a medicinal winter warmer.
I have been meeting up with John (who lives in the local park) every Sunday in the town centre supplying a hot coffee and a ‘top up’ food parcel to keep him going until the foodbank session on Tuesdays. During these liaisons I have learned so much of his life- a well-travelled, ex RAF engineer with a penchant for the writings of Lee Childs and Clive Cussler. John enjoys my food, from my most basic of vegan bakes to the finer dining dishes of Glyn Purnell and Yotam Ottolenghi. He particularly loves spicy foods, so I will make sure he samples the dishes from Lajina’s curry masterclass in October.
The dystopian experiment we are reluctantly participating in, looks set to continue for another year. Armed with a healthy dose of optimism and acceptance, I await more culinary and life challenges.