When we started this food blog in June 2020, we could not imagine that less than a year later we would be looking at the panicked eyes and forced cheerfulness of the lady in this 1940s propaganda poster and feeling such total empathy. We love food, and want to prepare healthy and enjoyable meals for our families. But planning, shopping, and making meals was always a daily grind, and the Covid-19 epidemic has suddenly made those tasks significantly harder. It is no longer possible to simply ‘pop to the shops’ for a forgotten ingredient or to restock on milk or bread. Every trip to a supermarket brings with it the risk of taking home a deadly disease, and there is no guarantee the ingredient you want will even be there. We are writing this post to acknowledge this new reality, and reflect on some of the things we feel we need to do to get through the next unspecified number of weeks. Our hope is to continue to deliver posts and recipes that will be useful to the home cook. We welcome contributions and comments, so please let us know what you are making now and how you are coping.
To state the obvious, to make a meal, it is necessary to have food in the house. We have tried to avoid going to the shops as much as possible, though it has been very hard to avoid doing so completely. Delivery slots from the major supermarkets are incredibly scarce, and there is some guilt attached to taking them when there are other households in more desperate need. Businesses that were already set up to home deliver food were quickly overwhelmed and it was not possible for new customers to sign up. Things are gradually starting to change as wholesalers or businesses that delivered to restaurants are now making deliveries to individual homes. Local shops in some areas are also offering home deliveries, which has been a great way to support them and get tasty foods. But a lot of this depends on where you live, what’s available, and what finances allow, plus you often lose some convenience. One business may offer home delivery, but only for a minimum (and quite high) spend and some lack of flexibility in the choices. We have found ourselves trawling the internet late into the evening hoping that one more search will make a local farm with a nicely priced veg box scheme magically appear. If only!
Assuming you have found somewhere, or a mix of places, to source food from you need to work out what and how much to get. If you were already a master at doing only one weekly shop, we salute you! Please share your tips. Getting the balance right of how much will be needed for the week ahead without waste is really difficult, especially if you planned everything around certain recipes only to find no-one has flour, or tinned tomatoes, or bread. Many of us are also adjusting to having all the meals of the week at home. Usually some were at work or school, or even (gasp!) a restaurant, but now everyone is at home all the time eating everything. We have in utter disbelief watched what look like generous stocks of bread and fruit quickly disappear from the kitchen as though our partners and children are part-locust.
Whilst we would always liked to have thought of ourselves as cooks that avoided waste, these circumstances have really made us look again at opportunities to use every last bit of the ingredients we have. The squeezy marmite jar has been completely dismantled in order to scrape every last bit from the lid, neck and sides. The stalk of the broccoli became a focus of a recent experiment and was meticulously peeled and sliced so that there would be more vegetable in the dish. Lightly coated in oil and roasted along with the florets (see our Roasted Brocolli recipe) the stalk came out not unlike water chestnuts. Not a revelation of taste and flavour, but good, and importantly it meant more meal from the one vegetable.
We are not quite ready to embrace our 1940s lady’s ‘can do’ approach to canning and preserving. I’m not sure what we would use anyway since the only thing the garden is abundant in right now is withering bluebells and cocky dandelions. However, what we can do is bung some things in the freezer. As space is limited, having the spatial awareness to play freezer tetris with the weekly shop is a key skill. Getting a loaf of bread in there is useful for toast or sandwiches later in the week, though too much squishing did lead to a couple of interesting attempts to toast bread frozen into a right angle.
And so, on to another day, which of course brings with it the need for another set of meals, another set of snacks, all alongside work and schooling commitments, and god forbid a bit of time for yourself to stay sane. It’s a lot. We hope this post finds you and your families safe and healthy, and that you will find in this blog a realistic and reassuring approach to at least getting the eating part done. Stay safe and reach out to us – we’re just trying to find our way too.
Katie and Charlotte of Democratic Kitchen