Confinement and Conserves

By Keda Black

Food writer Keda Black speaks to Taste France Magazine about cooking during lockdown. In other words, how she slowed down in lockdown. Read on.


Day 1, day 2..., day 14..., day 23... As the days in lockdown go by, I inevitably spend a lot of time in the kitchen. But it's not just that I find myself spending a little longer at the stove. What has really changed for me is how I use that time. The fast food of daily life pre-COVID has made way for low, slow cuisine…

A little can go a long way

Normally, my half-organized, half-improvised style does me just fine. The stash of home-made stock and flaky pastry in my freezer gives me the freedom to whip up a risotto or pie on the spur of the moment, using fridge leftovers or whatever I pick up from the market that day. Being under house arrest has changed all that. Constantly running to the store at the last minute for that one item, or strolling through the market are both off the menu. Now, I have to plan out the vegetable basket, optimize my weekly shops and above all, make the most of what is to hand. Using up every last scrap is no longer a mere flirtation with a greener lifestyle: this re-adoption of the "waste not, want not" philosophy is now essential to make it through to the next permitted outing. At the same time, it is making my cooking more flavorsome, for example with a vegetable peel stock to enhance a simple velouté, or a lovingly simmered pasta sauce.

Stop the clock

As the days come and go and each feels like the one before, our sense of time is altered, and the days feel strangely drawn out. And so I find myself drawn back to the kind of food preparation that takes time. For example, baking my own bread. In the past, I would have got tired of having to stick to the proving times it demands, but in the present circumstances, these constraints actually help restore some structure. They offer a comforting ritual. And as a bonus, there's the thrill of removing the lid from the dish to reveal a beautifully risen, delicious-smelling loaf. Meticulously preparing the bitter oranges for my marmalades holds the same appeal. It's far easier to sacrifice an entire afternoon to them when it doesn't involve missing out on a movie or an exhibition... And as for fermenting! Admittedly, preparing jars of lacto-fermented vegetables and other pickles doesn't take that much time, but I love the idea that my salt-preserved lemons will be confined for at least as long as me before being allowed to venture out…

Team spirit

And the final, perhaps the most important effect of this new culinary timetable? Everyone lending a hand. Schools closed or not, gone are the parties, sleepovers and skate sessions. Working from home or not, it's bye-bye to poker evenings, football games with friends and endless rounds of pre-dinner drinks. That means more time to take it slow - I rest my case. Now, every member of the family takes their turn at cooking (and cleaning up!). This evening, the eldest is making a stew. Now, can anyone recommend a box set for a cook who suddenly has some time on her hands?


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