Anybody else here obsessed with food. It’s about all I can think of. I wake up and immediately my tummy is saying what’s for brekkie? And by the time I have had my coffee, gone back to bed with my iPad, had breakfast cleaned up it is time to think about what is for lunch and before I can say hey presto or whatever one says it is dinner time.
Planning meals especially now Toby and Linda are home takes up a good half of my day. The other half is taken up with what the fuck am I going to write about today?
I imagine there is some comparison to cooking in times of Coronavirus and cooking during rationing. Only ‘some’. I have to think creatively with what is in the larder. Eggs are much too precious to waste and as there is no food order coming need to conserve on the butter and oil and well a whole host of other products. Still have sugar though which is something my mother never had until rationing was eased. I kind of wish it had never stopped being rationed. As soon as it was freely available my mother served up sugar with everything. A staple diet in our house was dripping sandwiches and white bread and butter with white sugar. Rhubarb dipped in sugar. Banana mashed in sugar. Hot milk with sugar, apples with sugar and many other sugar infested foods. Not surprising then that my mouth resembles the black whole of Calcutta – every tooth has a minimum of two fillings. When I asked my dentist about the state of my mouth he diplomatically remarked, “I can see that your mouth has been heavily worked on.”
Actually, it is surprising that I am such a good cook because I was never taught. Unlike many Jewish families I don’t come from a family of good cooks. My mother’s repertoire was limited. Being strictly kosher and with no money, cooking was just a chore that had to be fitted around everything else. She used to say how wonderful it would be if you could just take a pill rather than have to make the food. Think how much time you would save. No shopping for food, putting it away, cooking, eating it or clearing up. Of course, the whole thing was made a lot more difficult because she had to keep milk and meat and in-betweens separate. And wo betide any of us who put a milk fork in a meat dish.
Our garden was full of knives and forks sticking out of the soil” Why do you have so many forks in the garden,” remarked one of my confused school friends. To us it was normal as soon as we made a mistake with the cutlery into the soil it went to be koshered. But try explaining that to a non-Jewish eight-year old.
My mother’s claim to fame cooking wise was biscuits with a cherry in the middle, chocolate eclairs and egg and real chips. We only ever had chicken twice a year and that was when Grandma supplied it for the Jewish new year and Passover. Kosher chicken was very expensive, and Grandma would split it with us. As we were four and she was just 2 she would give us the legs. So, for years I thought that chickens had 4 legs. Well you would, wouldn’t you?
The beginning of my cooking experience was a little alarming. I had taken a job on a huge American yacht in Marbella in the late 60’s. I was just 17. I needed to leave Marbella in a hurry, and I won’t go into why – let’s just say better than ending up in Franco’s prison. The yacht Krapfcandoit owned by a very wealthy construction family in Delaware were looking for a deckhand and a cook. My boyfriend at the time was a deck hand and I – well I needed a job quickly. So being a little economical with the truth and confidently cocky I applied for the job. Mrs Krapfcandoit wanted to be sure I could cook so she gave me a trial menu before we left the port and on the menu was sweet potatoes. Well I am a girl from Leicester and bought up on a meagre kosher diet of very boring food. As you can imagine sweet potatoes didn’t feature on the menu. Unfazed I set about preparing the meal with the sweet potatoes. I mashed them with sugar – seemed a bit odd but hey they are Americans.
They laughed so much that they hired me saying that anybody who could do this was going to be a lot of fun. And this was the beginning of my cooking. Everything was trial by error. And there were a lot of errors.
How amazing is the internet I just decided to look up Krapfcandoit and there he was Jim, the son who was a few years younger than me with his own boating and yacht company and, of course, very successful and very rich.
Now I consider myself a fairly accomplished cook and a soon hopefully to be baker if I can locate any eggs. Interesting then that my middle son is a wonderful and creative chef. Albeit not the best profession to be in right now.
Just read an interesting article in the Guardian which says that we are becoming a more abstemious nation and making our food go further and throwing less away. So, another Coronavirus silver lining making us more appreciative. Not sure if I should admit this but I am quite enjoying it. No expectations, do what I like, watch lots of movies, no makeup, no need to blow dry my hair, just taking it one day at a time. What’s not to like. Except of course the risk of dying!
The Guardian article quoted a commissioned poll which showed that 90% of consumers said their shopping and cooking habits had changed since the coronavirus lockdown started. More than half (57%) admit they value food more now since the restrictions kicked in, with 43% enjoying it more. And how wonderful that families are eating together, for some this is an entirely new experience and children are learning to cook.
Of course, I realise this is not the situation for everyone. There are many people struggling to get food on the table for their families with increasing numbers of people resorting to food banks. So, while I write this blog from the relative luxury of my home and enough food to feed my family, I am very mindful on how fortunate I am.
So, signing off with dinner in the oven – its Lasagne and jelly for desert and a little aperitif beforehand. Single Malt on the terrace. Not bad eh.
“Let’s be careful out there”