Without question, this lockdown is harder than the first. Putting aside the heart rendering daily numbers, the weather is grim and the days are short.
So we need to dig deep. As hospitality folk we are brilliant at finding an extra gear when needed – the cheque grab is officially now full guys.
So what’s to be done.. assuming your fences are painted, you’ve mastered sourdough and watched the entire Netflix catalogue…
Well, everyone has positives to take from Lockdown 1, right? Moments we look back on and think ‘that was special’ – time with my family, time to breath and think, time to reflect etc. For me it was all of those things plus a time to cook slowly, unrushed and considered, for a change.
For this lockdown I have to prioritise two things – my mental and physical well-being and keeping my head in the game with my cooking. If these two are in order, I can manage being a half decent husband and father, I can be there for my team, I can strategise how we are going to get out of this mess and most importantly I can retain a sense of humour.
Everything in Moderation
I tend to refer back to that old adage, everything in moderation. So I do drink, I just drink well and in moderation. We do eat well, but we moderate eating meat. We eat great meat twice a week and great fish twice a week with lots of fresh vegetables. We do exercise but not to excess etc.
My mental and physical health is dealt with by running. I’ve run for years, never very well – never enough time. I got better at it in Lockdown 1 and now rely heavily on it to balance my mental health and well-being. I run daily, look forward to it and love it, the repetitive uncomfortableness suits my chef brain! I get that running isn’t for all, but we must all exercise. It’s imperative.
I keep my cooking fire alight by writing a weekly menu with Vicki for the family. Lunch and dinner plus snacks, breads, cakes and the like. The menu includes dishes I want to revisit, ingredients I want to cook with, might be a cake or dessert I’m hoping to master. It could be curing a fish that will take a few days, the trim getting used for fish cakes etc. Of course, the menu needs to be family friendly and not break the bank but it gives me something to focus on, ordering to do, Mise en place (MEP) to advance, a fridge to manage and produce to care for.
This has really helped me. It has also helped me with routine and having a sense of purpose – which is the emotion I miss the most.
I speak to my suppliers a lot, buying bits and pieces from them. I brought some blood oranges and made a delicious posset. Oxtail from Lake District Farms was a highlight and made a cracking Sunday lunch and wonderful parpadelle with chestnuts a few days later. Leftovers are my new-found friend and you will find the suppliers really willing to help.
Early in January, Vicki and I headed to Tooting Market and bought loads of fab Indian ingredients to experiment with. Certainly used up a couple of days!
We try to keep the weekdays structured with schooling, exercise, chores, shopping and the odd pieces of work Vicki and I need to do. We make the weekends special, more fun, more indulgent cooking (and drinking) and more down time. It’s worked for us.
We don’t always get it right. I have dark days, times when it’s harder to manage but these have never once not been brought into check by either a long walk, a run or a good session in the kitchen!
Keep cooking and carry on I say, there are without doubt brighter times ahead.
Happy cooking all