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Corona Diaries: eating the lock down – an entente gastronomique

April 26, 2020

I don’t know about you, but in our home, food has assumed a central role in our lives during lockdown.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that we no longer have teenagers around the house who would graze throughout the day and then spurn the lovingly-prepared communal meal. Not surprising, I suppose, since in those days mealtimes were not so much an opportunity to refuel but an attempt on our part to communicate with offspring who might as well have been on Mars.

Since, in keeping with government guidelines, we only go food shopping twice a week on average, the freezer has become a key worker. Nor that it ever wasn’t. Now, though, it’s gone from tactical to strategic.

If we ever get to the bottom of our freezer I will rejoice. Because then I’ll have no option but to capture and eat the squirrels that have made their home in our loft. But it’ll take an L-shaped economy as long as the line of space characters produced by my grandson when he starts playing with my laptop for that to happen.

The freezer is one of the major spheres of spousal influence into which I’m reluctant to wander. It’s a Tardis, vast and packed with good things. Yet I find it hard to reach beyond the outer portal. As far as I know, the little sister of Otzi the Iceman might be hiding in its furthest recesses.

If I attempt to search for stuff I either get shooed away because I’m disrupting the sacred order of things, or I’m covered in ridicule because I can’t find what’s staring me in the face. Not surprising really, because all I see when I open the door is ice. And then, when I find what I’m looking for, everything around it falls to the floor with a cacophonous clatter that alerts my beloved not only to my intrusion but to my rank clumsiness.

Every so often, the boss retrieves a strange icy object and puts it in a tray, muttering that “we really must start clearing the freezer”. If it’s a haggis I’m happy. If it’s some strange concoction with many vegetables known only to the patrons of Waitrose, I’m less enthralled. I find it strange that these periodic purges seem to liberate no space whatsoever. All that’s happening is that the space is mysteriously filled in short order.

I say mysterious because I’m rarely allowed into supermarkets. The reason for this is that I have a habit of making whimsical purchases alongside the essentials. Things like custard creams, pains aux raisins from the bakery and obscure bits of animal from the deli. And now, under lockdown, is no time be buying stuff that won’t be of use in a time of starvation. In this house, as in the wild, it’s the lioness who goes hunting.

Although I have no involvement in the supply chain, I’m happy to say that we have the perfect regime of harmony and cooperation when it comes to cooking. Stuff I do, such as baking cakes, she doesn’t. Preparing veggies, her department. Making elaborate and sometimes disastrous sauces usually involving cream, my job, provided I remember to insert garlic. Doing the pasta, the rice and the spuds, her role, and much else besides

As the result each meal is a celebration of marital success, bathed in mutual congratulation, and unsullied by our elder daughter’s complaints about our overcooking the Sunday joint (no vegans here, I’m ashamed to admit). She, by the way, is a better cook than either of us. But for now, we are alone with our backward culinary habits.

Food is not generally a political issue, unless there’s a shortage of it. But here’s an interesting development. We all know that in the UK, Waitrose is the preferred outlet for the powerful and well-connected, including our revered Royal Family. Could it be that the store is trying to nudge its patrons towards a union with France, just as Winston Churchill proposed in the darkest hours of World War 2?

I ask this because yesterday my beloved came back with a bilingual tub of coleslaw. On one part of the container it says Red Cabbage. On another, in spidery fin de siècle writing, it proclaims Salade de Chou Rouge. As it happens, it’s not a Waitrose product, but I do wonder whether, in this our darkest hour, we are witnessing the beginning of a campaign.

If so, I heartily endorse it. Imagine tariff-free cognac, the seamless flow of camembert in our direction and custard creams in theirs, and the gorgeous cuisine of France just a visa-free train ride away.

Although we no longer have any say in political decisions in our country, most of us would surely acquiesce in a partial sharing of sovereignty if that meant unity with our nearest neighbour, provided of course that the other side agreed to the supremacy of our gracious Queen, who would thereby recover the territories lost by her feckless ancestors. Even the Brexiteers would be happy with that.

It’s time for bold decisions. Such a thought alone makes the lockdown more tolerable. That, and the pleasure of watching Rick Stein eating his way through France while I trudge away on my cross-trainer.

And since we’ve just realised that the squirrels in our loft appear to have been joined by pigeons, unity with France, given their imaginative methods of cooking both animals, seems to be ever more desirable.

And now I’ve just realised it’s Sunday. Oh joy! Roast lamb awaits…..

From → France, Politics, Social, UK

  1. deborah a moggio permalink

    OHHH! cut it out! (pun intended)
    I live alone, am a lousy cook, love lamb and have never had the opportunity to taste squirrel.
    How dare you taunt and tease so!

    • Which leads me to believe that you have tasted pigeon pie. As soon as this bloody pandemic is over, France will welcome you! S

  2. deborah a moggio permalink

    Yes, Thanksgiving at a sister’s house one year started with pigeon. Her husband and son spent the previous day wringing the necks of 47 pigeons.
    The results were well received by all invited.
    (except my mother, who refused to even try it when she heard my nephew’s graphic description of how he had spent the previous day)

    • Wow! 47 pigeons sounds like a Dire Straits song. Must have been a big Thanksgiving. Four pigeons per person? Sounds good. Your mother missed out. S

      • deborah a moggio permalink

        I think it’s more like Tom Lehrer or Flanders and Swan.
        Squirrel sounds more like Dire Straits, as in, have to be in… in order to eat.

      • I was thinking of 47 pigeons with nothing on….

  3. Andrew Robinson permalink

    I have several questions and a link:
    1) What are you doing living in my house (with its “strategic” freezer)?
    2) Who gets their eggs from Waitrose (previous post)?
    3) Why couldn’t I find the frog’s legs in the chest freezer (1991 vintage) today?
    4) Should it be “frog’s” or “frogs’ “?
    3) Brian Hawley, who(m) you know…asked me today via Mrs. R’s Facebook why I didn’t have haggis on the BBQ. Why can’t I send you a photo of the two McSwain’s haggi from said strategic white good (and bottle of Crémant de Limoux) which accompanied my reply?
    – and a link
    Bon appetit !
    Andrew & Debbie

    • Hi Andrew.

      Re freezer, isn’t everyone strategic these days?
      Re eggs, as I said I do not control the supply chain
      Re frogs, is the freezer 1991 vintage or the frogs’ legs that aren’t?
      Re frogs, see above.
      Re Hawley, haggis on the barbecue sounds good, but only if you have a large supply of charcoal. Crémant de Limoux sounds good, and no need for charcoal. As for the squirrel recipe, I want his gun.

      Happy Sunday!

  4. Andrew Robinson permalink

    P.S. That should be the Arabic number 5, which is actually Hindi and looks like 0 (that). The freezer is 1991 vintage…not the frog’s’ legs, which turned out to be chicken wings for making gravy. (“Twilight Zone” music…….)

  5. deborah a moggio permalink

    actually, turned into a VERY large soup.
    was indeed delish.
    lost count of the guests.
    followed by fire works and all sorts of good ol’ boy fun.

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