What a long 3 weeks it has been in the Coronavirus lockdown but I am slowly becoming accustomed to the new normal. Like many families, it was a bit of a shocker at first to suddenly have a full house again after the schools closed down. Balancing work with family life has become slightly trickier with everyone working from home but my main challenge at the moment is actually feeding everyone. With the big eaters from uni now back 24/7, the demand has ramped up exponentially with no plateau in sight. As for the supply, I have had to rapidly up my game by buying and cooking much more food to slow the perpetually emptying fridge. But that’s easier said than done. In a time of Coronavirus, the usual weekly shop is more like a secretive slow-motion game of tag.
Coronavirus tag has taken off quicker than Pokémon GO! and is being played everywhere. However, the rules have somewhat changed from playground tag. The crucial difference is that nobody knows who’s ‘it’. However, they can only tag you if they are within the 2m orbit of your personal space. The game is primarily played in supermarkets because all of the staff are playing, too. Social distancing while creeping around the edges of the aisles is the best strategy to avoid being tagged. However, playing Coronavirus tag every time you go shopping is extremely time consuming and stressful. Especially when there is always one person shopping while texting who drifts a little too closely to others.
But trying to limit your risk attempting to do one large weekly shop is virtually impossible. Although panic buying has now mostly subsided after restrictions of popular items were put in place, there are still many empty shelves. Which means that even when you plan in advance what to cook for the week, you seldom find all of the ingredients that you need. And no one can afford to be standing next to an empty shelf in an idling stupor trying to come up with a Plan B and C lest they be tagged. Unless you know that you have the right ingredients for a backup, the only choices are to join another game of Coronavirus tag at another supermarket or on another day.
Having said all that, once you finally manage to restock your kitchen or resort to Plan D, there is at least one unexpected benefit of everyone being stuck in a lockdown. With all of the restaurants and the majority of takeaways closed it means that more of us are cooking again. Of course, this is not to trivialise the fact that many of the same families will be under considerable financial pressure from the lockdown and likely to be cooking on a tight budget. Even if there may be some form of government relief in the future not everyone feels like ‘we are all in this together’.
I also realise that not everyone takes great pleasure in cooking or feels confident enough to give it a go. It can be challenging at the best of times, especially cooking with children, and it’s incredibly difficult to make meals in a family that everyone always enjoys. But if possible, it is still worth all the effort because the difference that cooking nutritious meals makes to our physical, emotional and mental health, our well-being, and our longevity is immense. However, we should also get back into our kitchens in the lockdown because there are huge benefits to be gained by the act of cooking, itself.
Cooking and particularly baking can help relieve one of the most common and difficult symptoms to shift in the lockdown, that of utter boredom. If you have got time to fill, cooking can take up as much time as you need it to. From finding a recipe and getting started, to finally sitting down to eat the results can make time fly by. There is also something to be said for having a routine to organise your day. Simply following a recipe will help to add some structure and much needed normalcy when everything else feels slightly alien.
Cooking can also relieve some other common symptoms that are being experienced by many of us in the lockdown: stress, anxiety and simply going stir crazy. Cooking momentarily forces you to concentrate on something other than your immediate worries, fears, frustrations and downright anger from being confined to your home. Cooking will also temporarily distract you from the daily Coronavirus updates of gloom, Twitter conspiracy theories over the real origin of Covid-19 and the frequent breaking news alerts of more bad news. Not to mention giving you a break from listening to the latest government spokesperson wheeled out who only skirts around the same questions raised about when the lockdown will be over. Keeping your hands busy by whipping, stirring and kneading out some angst can do wonders for your mood.
Lastly, at a time of social distancing, cooking and baking can prevent loneliness and help you keep touch with your family members and friends outside of your home base. Sharing your recipes, the results and the disasters of your bakes is the perfect way to reconnect and get a conversation going. Start a recipe swap, share a baking secret or try a live virtual bake with others. You never know what you will learn. You could even share out your bakes with those living nearby you. Provided that you do not share any crockery or utensils, there is no evidence that there is any risk of contracting Coronavirus from sharing food. What could raise your spirits more than answering your doorbell to a box of freshly baked Lockdown lemon cupcakes sitting on your doormat and your neighbour waving in the distance?
Ultimately, no one can say what the future holds for us or to what extent the Coronavirus will shape the way we live our everyday lives. We have to hope that the worst of the pandemic has already passed us and the lockdown will begin to ease up in the near future. In the meantime, I hope that many will take at least a little comfort and enjoyment from cooking while they wait it out. The question is whether everyone will still continue to cook and bake at home once the lockdown is finally lifted. Only time will tell whether the Coronavirus will leave a resurgence of home cooking in families in its wake or if there will be another wave of panic buying, but one that hits fast food outlets.
With Easter coming at the end of lockdown week 3, it is the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and get kneading to make the best batch of Hot cross buns.