By Issy Macdonald
When lockdown was looking imminent, I moved out of my flat in Edinburgh, and back into my family home in Norwich. The move was undramatic (as a student I have spent 2 years in limbo between my two ‘homes’) but it felt like I lost two years of my age. Returning to home-cooked meals was at first a relief, which morphed into a loss of freedom.
My loss of freedom in cooking is more the loss of freedom to shop; to buy whatever I desire that evening, as now my Mum is the buying team for our household. While there are no limits to what I can add to the weekly shopping list, I can’t be alone in needing the food on the shelves to fill in the blanks of my hungry brain. I miss wandering down the aisles aimlessly, collecting different coloured fruit and veg to be thrown at the oven in a range of shapes from ‘cube form’, to ‘chip form’, and the jewel of ‘put-an-egg- on-it’ to top all of my flat’s protein deficient vegetarian concoctions.
Living back with my parents I have fallen back into high school habits. Breakfast and Lunch are subject to what can be found in the kitchen (a mixture of leftovers and cheese on toast). However, dinner has become a celebration to rest our minds and end the day.
I think a positive to the loss of consumerism (personally and as a country) is the heightened consciousness of locality in our shopping. I wonder whether we have shifted our habits in this way to off-set the guilt of globalisation? Our worlds have gotten smaller, and the importance of buying food from nearby to support our local businesses has been noticeably galvanizing. From my cousin’s raving about deliveries of quality meat from the local butchers to the city’s coffee roasters record-breaking trade. It’s made me hopeful of an improved consumer culture that focuses on the quality of local ingredients.
Of course, we have been undeniably lucky (if that’s any way to describe our situation) that lockdown came in spring. The evolving ingredients as the season warms have been keeping our palettes interested. Being in Norfolk I am grateful for asparagus season, a vegetable that has taken over our dinner table, proudly sourced locally. Asparagus pie, asparagus risotto and asparagus grilled with Parmesan cheese to name a few recipes. The sweetness of Norfolk Strawberries end every sunny day. These seasonal foods are nothing new, but we have been able to observe their coming much more closely in our home-bound state, beholden by their fleeting appearance on our plates as time has otherwise paused. My family is not unfamiliar with shopping seasonally, but it has become a focal point to lock down life in our household, every meal served as ‘Norfolk’s finest’, with a side of tales from newly discovered farm shops.
Dinner has become more than just the meal at the end of the day. It is now the meal to end the day. A celebration of our surroundings and creativity, finding new ways to paint them on a plate, and enjoying them together as a family. Me and my Mum have been working together in the kitchen, trying to inspire each other with our different tastes to make new dishes (I finally convinced her to eat kale last week... after frying it in an unsocially acceptable amount of garlic). I may have lost my freedom as an independent consumer, but I’m glad that has been replaced by an homage to local vendors and produce, as well as a chance to re-take my role as sous-chef in our kitchen. Food has resurged in importance, to nourish our minds as well as fuelling our bodies. Feeding the comfortable sense of control that comes from knowing where our food came from, in a time that is otherwise very unsettling, has become imperative.
As I write this my Mum is preparing Cromer Crab for dinner, bought from the market this morning and apparently caught last night. The delicacy of all delicacies.
Read two of Issy's delicious and seasonal recipes here: