“Who’s a pretty girl then?”

It’s been a long time since I’ve put digits to keyboard, apart from browsing and reading, I can no longer plead lack of time as that is the thing that many people, myself included, are struggling with just now; how to give days shape, build in a routine that doesn’t feel artificially bolted on.

In times of celebration, I cook. In times of crisis I cook. Whether things are going spectacularly well or not, I cook. One thing that has held me back from rejoining the world of blogging is the realisation that I am not a natural recipe writer, never will be. Cooking is a free form process. I see what’s in the fridge, freezer and cupboards decide what I want my focus to be, how much time I have before food needs to be on the table. Meal times are very elastic in our home , realistically there still needs to be some parameters. Nothing is measured, apart from when I bake, even then I bend the rules. Perhaps I’ve been preparing meals for too long. I see cooking as a more spontaneous process. Do many people who have fed their families every day for years actually follow a recipe?

Don’t get me wrong we ate some delicious food which was thoroughly appreciated, but it wasn’t my natural way of cooking. I prefer a more hands on approach. After a day at work, well that’s different. Now I had time to cook and I really wanted to cook. Then a miracle happened. No my hip is still not fixed, someone at work told me to get a perching stool. Yes the ‘pretty Polly’ references abound. I had no idea what a perching stool was. Now I do! It is what has given me free range, well almost, in the kitchen. I can ‘perch’ and chop, sauté, stir and mix. Freedom to cook!

One of the effects of this lockdown is that I have almost unlimited time to read about food, to plan meals and prepare them. During the first week of April I was scheduled to have a long overdue total hip replacement. Obviously that has been postponed. The consequence being that due to severe pain standing in the kitchen became very problematic. All onions were caramelised, by design, leave them on a low heat and sit down. Roasting tin meals, using my Instant Pot became the norm.

Just before the start of lockdown Joseph and I were going out for a meal to celebrate his birthday, which is on March 20th, because of our concerns about Covid-19 and the dreaded ‘underlying plethora of health issues’ that follow me around like so much unwanted baggage, we stayed at home. Little did we know that would have been the last time either of us would have ventured outside the confines of our garden. I love cooking but I also love being catered for.

Two months later, another lockdown birthday under our belts; Mr McC is the only member of our household to have gone out into the wild world beyond our gates. Due to having been brought up in a home where you always had a well stocked pantry, something you could turn to if you needed to, if you had a visitor, invited, or not, you fed them.

Abthorpe didn’t have a shop, mum couldn’t drive. Hence you needed a pantry, we had no fridge either. It was second nature to have a pantry full of staples, pickled vegetables, preserves, even Ye Olde Oak ham. There was always something to use to rustle up a meal. This is my history. However, tinned ham doesn’t feature in my list of essential staples. Not a lot of fresh ham either anymore. Mainly veg, pulses and beans delivered by a local organic farm community shop and fish with the occasional meat fest.