By Harriet Simons
The announcement of a nationwide lockdown initially brought sadness; I live in Edinburgh with five friends, we are all in our early 20s and it was immediately apparent that we’d be stuck in the city, away from our families, for the foreseeable future. Months later, I realise that this early gloom was needless, and that being marooned in our flat has inspired a greater sense of family than I had felt since far before I left home.
The requisite to stay home all day is unusual for anybody. It is extraordinary amongst my flatmates. We are, I like to think, a close-knit group, but we naturally have separate lives that have us moving to different rhythms most of the time. Duly, we shop, cook and eat independently, perhaps crossing paths in the kitchen after a day at work or university. Occasionally our schedules converge to allow for birthday celebrations or a movie night, but more often than not someone is missing, and there are no hard feelings, because after all, we’re just flatmates.
And then lockdown was announced, throwing an unequivocal spanner into the works of each of our lives outside of the household and providing the familial comfort I didn’t know I was missing.
Andrew’s birthday fell at the start of lockdown so, without a restaurant or pub to go to, we decided to cook for him. We assigned ourselves a course each and spent the afternoon preparing food. Bruschetta to start, Paella for the main, and a slapdash (but tasty) chocolate birthday cake for dessert. We got dressed up; I threw aside the joggers and sweatshirt that had too-quickly become my lockdown uniform. The boys wore shirts and ties. Obviously, we decided, we should do this every week. So we did.
Our weekly meals have become the highlight of my lockdown experience and a welcome indulgence to break up the hum-drum nothingness. What’s more, I had not regularly cooked for others, or been cooked for, since long before I had left home. The necessity to stay at home has reinstated the conditions I last felt when I was too young to leave the house alone, so naturally spent each evening eating dinner with my family, and I am grateful to have discovered such a situation again.
There is much contentment to be found in sharing food. Compliments volley back and forth across the table making for a truly shared sense of fulfillment. Each week, we’d decide upon a certain cuisine, prompting the sharing of stories about the best meals we’ve had and the sending of messages to parents and friends, asking for recipes and reminiscing about holidays and celebrations past.
If taking the time to cook for one another wasn’t wholesome enough, we’re a flat with diverse dietary needs and the care that has gone into making our shared meals ‘everybody- friendly’ is impressive. Yes, this has definitely made for a couple of flattened gluten-free sponges, but no man has ever been left behind.
As lockdown begins to ease, it is inevitable that our lives will meander back into less harmonious rhythms. I hope, however, that we will return to this rediscovered delight, if only occasionally, once we have drifted back into normality.