Lockdown Lunacy

Blimey. Is everyone still sane out there? Here, I’m lurching between cooking and baking, reading and writing, trying to keep my creative mojo going whilst wondering just how much longer I can tolerate the new lockdown chic: I seriously look like the ageing lovechild of Simon Cowell & Prue Leith. It’s not even funny. In a bid to improve my look, I rashly dug out the dreaded Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred DVD and can highly recommend it if you want to instantly slip a disc and subsequently let yourself go completely.

I guess I’m lucky. Until last week, I was still working full time. Now though, I’m in my second week of furlough. Like I say, I’m lucky. I’ve managed to hang on to some positivity. Words are being written – 10,000 so far, go me! They might not be the right words but I shall pop them in a tupperware to keep them fresh and rearrange them later. This is more than can be said of the sourdough starter I, er, started. Why didn’t I know I’d need some fancy gubbins for the proving malarkey? Oh well. French banneton, Dutch oven. How terribly continental. I hope the Brexiteers don’t find out what I’ve been up to.

The whole sourdough starter thing has always terrified me, to be honest. I have this fear that the stuff will all bubble up, burst the lid off its cage and escape. Out of the kitchen, along the hall and out, OUT into the world through the letterbox. Forget Covid-19, the new peril on the streets would be this creeping yeasty beast, inching along while nobody looks before taking over other people’s worlds. It could happen.

Anyway, I had better go google my latest must-buy. To accommodate the unexpected purchase, we will mainly be eating hoover fluff and hedge clippings for the foreseeable. Oh, and just in case you doubted my skinflintery, here’s the cake I baked for my birthday yesterday: keeping it retro with a poor man’s Black Forest Gateau. It’s amazing what you can do with some out-of-date cocoa and a tin of cherry pie filling, eh?

Give us this day…

One of the hardest things about doing food in public is, well, doing food in public.   It’s fair to say I’m a bit anxious at the best of times.

“You don’t see pittas like this in the supermarket,’ said a lady last week.  She meant that in a good way, right?  I’ve wondered approx. 869 times a day since.

“It takes me ages to get them looking all rustic like that,” I tell her, nodding furiously.  “I have to throw all the perfect ones out.”

I’m joking, of course.  Anxiety means I have to pretend; like an actor I wear my mask, hamming it up all the time… But I’m an intelligent, adult woman.  I run a successful business.  I am not a total nitwit.

But I can’t do anything if people are watching.  I won’t be going on Masterchef anytime soon.

“Jen’s going with classic bread and butter,” says Gregg Wallace.  “But when you’re doing something simple, it’s got to be perfect.”

John Torode nods encouragingly but doesn’t look convinced.  The camera discreetly pans away from my shaking, sweaty hands.

I stand, quivering, on the designated spot before them.  They look from the plate, to me, to the plate then to each other before gamely lifting half a slice each.

“Well it tastes like bread and butter,” says Gregg, tugging at his cardigan.  “Your presentation’s let you down though.”

Tears run down my ruddy cheeks.  “I do it so much better at home,” I wail…

Bread & Butter