Five weeks ago I left London; bound for Goa, one of my oldest friends and three and a half weeks of sun, sea and theoretical recipe writing. I am still here. I have not written any recipes.
I don’t need to tell you that the general landscape of the world has shifted somewhat since I left UK soil.
The first few weeks passed uneventfully enough. Days blurred into each other as we passed our time rolling from sun lounger to sea to restaurant. Rinse and repeat, day by day. Thai salads and chocolate thalis at La Plage. Glistening piles of veg Manchurian at Pagan Cafe. Scrambled eggs encased in flaking rolls of paratha at Prana Cafe. As lockdown grew from one day to three, then three days to three weeks, food has taken on a more rarefied value. Confusion around the new laws has seen vegetable sellers arrested, shops that should be open closed, and scared villagers erecting makeshift bamboo roadblocks. Suffice to say our days of boundless snacking are behind us.
It is completely predictable that when you remove something from someone they will then fixate on the removed thing. But it’s not the dahls of recent memory that I find my mind wandering to. I’ve been thinking a lot about my maternal Granny, and the blousey sponge cakes she would make around our birthdays in the summer. Soft sponge and sweetened cream and strawberries, eaten at her high kitchen table, the smell of the greenhouse wafting through the adjoining kitchen door. My paternal grandparents on the other hand, prompt thoughts of the darkest of chocolate cakes, dense with Camp chicory & coffee extract, a slick of icing holding everything together. Or plum puddings so tart they make your eyes water, booby trapped throughout with hard little stones – completely delicious with the obligatory glug of double cream. With family so far away, and relatively reticent about their feelings at the best of times, these memories of affection displayed through the baking of a cake or the licking of a spoon find their way across the equator to me.
As the days stretch into each other, we will have to create new cravings to be satisfied. The morning bowl of muesli is suddenly exponentially improved by half a local banana. My attempts at flatbreads, fried in ghee, take on new levels of satisfaction. The promise of tonight’s attempt to make babaganoush with a single gas burner and a stolen hand blender holds intense excitement. I hope that when the days return of being able to grab a bag of Kettle Chips, or order an indulgent mid afternoon pizza, this joy we have found in the small things remains. And that we recover from the scurvy.