The 7 things I learnt during lockdown

Lockdown has been a trying time for us all. The world is officially closed for business and we’re all frozen in action. Some of us have it better than others, and I count myself lucky enough to be in that first category – I have a roof over my head, friends to chat to and repeatedly beat me at cards, and that blessed power shower. Who knows what is around the corner but we just have to plod on and not lose our heads over the smallest things – the other day I nearly cried because I couldn’t find my headphones. I later found them in my pocket. We’ll all have petulant grievances but good company, good music and good food will always help. Let me share with you the things I’ve learnt, or am still learning, during lockdown.

the 7 things I've learnt in lockdown

  1. Every Monday – which we as a household re-christened Second Sunday because who knows what day of the week it is – we cook a big group dinner. It started with a roast; Anna cooked a leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, chicken until its skin was golden brown, crispy roast potatoes, and an enormous dish of bubbling cauliflower cheese. We all crowded around the dining table which was buried under dishes of food, bottles of wine and devoured every morsel, scraping the cauliflower cheese dish clean. Due to this meal’s success we have continued the tradition, following with a lasagne night, make-your-own-burrito, and lemon chicken with wedges and salad. Sharing food is so simple and to have the seven of us around the table, chatting about our days or the worldwide situation as we eat and drink is as good as it gets.

  2. I will, forever more, shape my shortbread dough into a log and chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Once cold and rock hard you can brush it with beaten egg then roll in sugar. Slice it all up and arrange on a baking tray. Once baked the biscuits are sparkly and lacy with crisp sugar, a bejewelled piece of confectionery.

  3. I taught Tony how to make poached eggs. And now I feel like a Jedi and he’s my Padawan.

  4. Get out of the house if you can. We all ate a picnic lunch perched at the top of a waterfall. On reflection this could have been a bad idea. We were balanced on slippery stepping stones and wrapped in coats so, should any of us had fallen, we’d have slid straight to the bottom as though on a watery rollercoaster. But in the quiet isolation of Mount Aspiring, alone in quarantine, we settled down, opened our foil packages of cheese, ham and tomato sandwiches, peeled hard-boiled eggs and munched on apples. After five weeks of staring at the same four walls a simple picnic is paradise.

  5. Brown sugar hardens if left exposed. I suppose I knew this somewhere deep down but this is nothing like those satisfactory chunks of brown sugar which dissolve in hot, melted butter or crumble when pressed between your fingers. This is like a lump of stone and could knock someone out if you threw it at them. It needs to be chiseled, or in Tony’s case, painstakingly massaged into melted butter then poured into a flapjack mix. The simple solution, which none of us have done, is buy bag clips.

  6. Prepare an avocado in the usual way; pop out the stone and scoop the fruit from the skin. Then, slice it into slivers and garnish with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a quick drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Present on the chopping board à la Jamie Oliver. At first I was doubtful, skeptical even, when Gaylord brazenly dowsed our avocado half with vinegar at breakfast one morning, but man, it’s good. A little vinegar adds acidity which we know deliciously complements avocado, but as it’s balsamic there’s a richer, sweeter depth of flavour. Eat it smushed on toast, or delicately speared on your fork, either way please eat it.

  7. Finding joy in the little things our secret chocolate drawer by the bed, a cup of instant coffee every morning without fail, Anna and I sharing the residual chocolate ganache stuck to the baking tray, and eating leftover takeaway lamb pasanda for breakfast. If I focus on these things, the ‘what ifs’ melt away. 

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