Tuesday, 9 June 2020

My lockdown life, from a culinary point of view

 Official lockdown portrait March 2020
 Now is the time to be looking forward into the thawing warmth of possibilty. When the icebergs finally melt and we’re all running for the safety of the lifeboats, I want to experience the great thaw wherever it takes me.As we emerge from our homely transitional and protective chrysalis I am keen to see what has been learnt from our recent experience. 
It’s our first coffee and pastry post-lockdown in the local café on the square, and I get confused with the mask and the coffee drinking – for a moment I almost sip my meia de leite with my mask on. I’m not the first I am told. I guess we all need more practice before we can master this new social etiquette.I have already been the subject of accidentally spraying my shoes instead of my hands with sanitiser on entering the supermarket,and at the checkout politely being told that wearing the mask over my eyes was not obligatory when they saw me struggling with the PDQ machine.Management has now installed an absorbent mat for sad old twats like myself.
Frantically scanning my locked-down world for sources of distraction,sadly my visual field continues to contract.options are becoming scarce. 
In these times when I can barely remember what day it is,fresh fish and chips with garden peas makes the house smell like Friday.After the customary early evening Pink port and tonic, the aroma created by roasting  shoulder of pork in the oven with roast potatoes tells me its Sunday, so forth and so on.
Here are a few things that I have not done or been forbidden to do during the past two months. Indulged myself in a gourmet shopping trip across the bridge to Spain. Get dressed up to go out. Go to the dry cleaners. Think about what I’m going to wear tomorrow. Wearing something nice around the house, except on days when I have still been wearing my morning exercise gear at 6pm – and even then, I haven’t always bothered.My kitchen pinny is fine for me.
Making dinner became the new getting dressed in my lockdown life.Lifting the needle on the record and moving on to the next track of my life is what has happened.My world has become a microcosm, I have become more contained and somewhat of a homebird.In fact all our worlds have become more home-based.We have been trying to look after each other as far as possible and in my world this has involved the therapy of cooking.Our social lives have been mostly centred around the people we live with, and cooking a nice dinner has been  a way to turn just another evening in into an event.If you are missing that delicious linguine you always order at your favourite restaurant,and are not brave enough to venture out just yet, you can learn to make it at home.
And here, on the other hand, are a few things that I have done:In the early days of lockdown I often found myself still wearing my dressing gown and pyjamas at midday.Attempted to make millefeuille for the first time. Attempted, with little if any succeess, to make my favourite Gyozas that Fabio serves at LPA Made peanut butter bread for the first time ever. I made umpteen versions of banana bread.Through trial and error, nailed a fail-safe cafe de paris sauce. Pitted bowls of cherries for a clafoutis. Eaten a salad made from cherry tomatoes and garden herbs.I could have taught myself to pickle a cucumber or to bake panettone perdu,but I couldn´t be arsed, I wonder why? On line ordering a new look from COS paled into insignificance when austerity set in.The only thing that got ordered online were food items to replace those much used spices in my store cupboard.
My biggest guilty pleasure has been twitching the nets of the internet to have a sneak peek into what other households look like.All these online podcasts have given one a chance to be the nosy neighbour so to speak. How does Meryl decorate her kitchen and what is Patti Lupone´s hall look like? I have had great fun watching the rich and famous broadcast,particularly when I can see what they are cooking.The evidence showed that in a pandemic "Broadway sings" while "fashion eats."Some "world beating" performances were witnessed.

French Designer Simon Porte Jacquemus made a video for French Vogue explaining how to make pizza.What I would give for one of your designer shirts Simon.Sadly the weekly budget for my wardrobe has just been channelled towards  store cupboard essentials.Still on the subject of fashion there have been some flash in the pan surprises as fashion icons come out of their culinary closet.Gigi Hadid showed us her take on macaroni cheese, using not one but three types of cheese.You would expect a supermodel to feel naughty having eaten two peas,but high cholesterol mac and cheese,steady on with that wasp waist girl.Who would have thought Vogue cover girl and the face of Louis Vuitton,Selena Gomes, would be signed up for a 10-part HBO cookery series on the strength of her quarantine kitchen skills.“Queer Eye” star Antoni Porowski was creating his own quarantine-centered cooking series, while Tan France has been at it on instagram with a live tutorial on baking chocolate-chip cookies. Who would have thought that the darling of the ladies who lunch, Michael Kors was using his time off from creating jet set luxury to bake pineapple upside down cake.Something for those ladies who lunch,"A toast to that invincible bunch,the dinosaurs surviving the crunch".Well "take me to the world,
that’s bursting with surprise".It takes all sorts.It all brings to mind that jaunty metaphor "squash the sombrero." "Does anyone still wear  a sombrero?"
 Of course what I enjoyed the most was watching my biggest culinary crush, Michelin-starred Chef Massimo Bottura´s home videos.

                   These videos show a glimpse into Bottura's home life


Each episode began with a friendly reminder to "wash your hands," and included guest appearances from Lara Gilmore, his wife and fellow restaurant proprietor, their son, Charlie Bottura, and their daughter, Alexa Bottura, who films the episodes.Bottura started streaming his family dinners on Instagram while his country was in lockdown.The series, called "Kitchen Quarantine," showed him and his family cooking dinner with common household ingredients.Bottura is one of countless chefs worldwide whose restaurants have closed amid the coronavirus outbreak,and who we need to support in any way we can.Bottura´s restaurant Osteria Francescana was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2018.It's an informal cooking class, unlike Bottura's MasterClass lesson series,which I have to say while I had the luxury of time on my hands, I have sat and absorbed many of these classes.With entertaining out of the window, traybakes became the new canapé for D-day enforced jollity.There was delicious comedy to be found too.
“How do you chop a garlic?” asked Hamish Bowles, editor-at-large for American Vogue, during a video tutorial with cook and food writer Skye McAlpine in which she teaches him to make chilled almond soup, and salmon en papillote.How much of a challenge was that? Not much culinary know how there.
“Is this a clove or a bulb?”he later asked.Virtual reality in ones kitchen will be the next best thing, but what I really yearn for now is a professional to put some "real food" on my plate.The restaurant industry hinges on our support so the sooner we can get out there and get that buzz of animated conversation in a dining room the better.
Come in Fabio,Cliodhna,Marco,Paolo,Sandra,Julia,Pedro and his team and anyone else that I may have forgotten we´ve missed you.
 These are our friends, people who have given us so much. Think about the people behind your favourite restaurant.Support your local businesses and the local economy.These are hardworking people who have dedicated their lives to host superb guest experiences. Think about all the past experiences they have given you. Without these people, going out to eat would not be the same.Now is the time to give something back and show our support to those who need it the most. There are several ways you can help these people,book a table now for the future,order a takeaway if that is a service they offer,ask them if you can purchase a gift voucher for that deserving friend.These are all ways that we can get them going again.Its not rocket salad!!!

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