Covid Kitchen, July 2020

My overwhelming sense of pessimism is now off the Richter scale. And while the kitchen is still central to our health and well being, it has become a place of drudgery. Any comparison to a glass half full or empty is now meaningless. There may be a few drops left in the bottom of that metaphorical glass, and while I do feel grateful for all that I have, knowing this does little to improve my world view. Things are bad, and they’re likely to get worse. I keep recalling the rise and fall of dynasties in ancient China, where dynastic change followed a sequence of events which built up over time, and included plague, flooding and natural disaster, famine and food shortage, insect infestation, poverty and inequality, ineffectual, corrupt and cruel leadership, followed by war, more famine and the eventual rise of a strong leader committed to change. I sense we are on a similar trajectory. This outlook can be quite crippling when it comes to writing and guarantees a sleepless night. I know I’m not alone in holding this view.

Chestnut haired angels delivering groceries. it’s now a drop and go affair.

I’m trying to address this daily terror. I read far too much most days and remember very little. I’m sleeping in more, and personal grooming has taken a nosedive. One helpful routine is to write down at least one inspiring quotation each day in the diary. This delightful quote from Kurt Vonnegut, in a letter to school students, inspired my return to the keyboard.

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Another useful routine, mainly to counter the daily grind of cooking two meals a day for the last 4 months, is to write a weekly menu, based on the items available in my fridge and pantry. Included in the list will be a few new recipes, largely from cookbooks, rather than internet sites. It’s time to go back to those lovely books and I do have far too may. These meals are substitutes for restaurant dining, a date night at home. I also try to vary the menu from week to week, and include one Indian curry, a few pasta meals, a pizza night, one fish meal if I can get my hands on some, classic old style comfort dishes, as well as soups and salads. At present, we seem to have a glut of pumpkin, eggplant and red capsicum, so the focus will be on these ingredients for the week.

I’m attempting to improve my sourdough baking, aiming for a more disciplined approach to shaping. This is another form of artistic expression for me during this lockdown, mark 2.

The other daily delight includes bird visitations. I often hear Mr T chatting outside, and have often wondered if he was finally losing the plot. But no, he’s chatting to birds, they follow him around like pets, and watch him through the kitchen window as he washes the dishes. Some are special messengers and others are after some seed. Their visits keep us sane and help us ignore the negativity out there on social and regular media. It’s like slime seeping through your kitchen door.

29 thoughts on “Covid Kitchen, July 2020”

  1. Francesca, im so sorry to hear you’re having such a bad time during covid. We feel a bit guilty up here in fnq that life is little changed for us. We miss our large scale entertainments, like concerts, but our cinema group will be back in action in a fortnight, and most welcome it will be. Meanwhile we watch sbs movies and listen to the opera house’s wonderful online concerts. We cook (but not twice a day!), and walk, and cycle, and swim, and read, and meet to eat and chat. We also have wonderful local destinations to visit– coastal, island and outback. I do hope you find a way through it ok. Personally, while i miss the opportunity to travel farther afield, i have the utmost faith that human ingenuity will get us back to the life we know eventually. Best wishes, Louise

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, then you are a wonderful optimist Louise, full of life and love for your environment. Thanks for your empathy. There hasn’t been much coming from Qld I must say. I have a 97 year old mother in aged care, which exacerbates the worry. But I do think this thing is not going to be over any time soon. Best, Francesca.


      1. Thanks for your reply, Francesca. Oddly, i am not a natural optimist but have had to train myself in that field, based on life experience. I’m still a worrier, but use past experience to mitigate or even overcome it. My mother is 100, also in aged care, but luckily no cases in her home yet. We talk on the phone (she is 1500km away) and my sister can visit her weekly. Your meals and breads look fabulous, and i enjoy your blog very much. Here’s hoping easier times come soon for you. Australia flattened the curve promptly, so maybe victoria can too. Best wishes, Louise

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran . . . there are no words in me I know to send to you to accept the ‘what is’ with less pain . Please do believe that . . . I simply do not know how . . . Victoria is doing it bloody f-ing tough, largely because of the stupidity of many lucky people living there. Being older than you I would not have a chance to overcome what threatens. I take care. I hope. Otherwise I resemble Louise . . . actually since the fires stopped burning in my backyard I have never experienced a more productive year in work, study or getting closer with friends . . . many of them originating way back in social media. Just one ‘correction’ for you perchance to think about . . . looking at your comment above mine – I am not an optimist by nature, but I am a logical realist who survived six years of WWII in one piece . . . just sometimes perchance ‘cancel today’, do something you truly enjoy and begin anew when the sun wakes you in the morrow . . . all my love . . . and I shall pray for your mother . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou for your kind thoughts regarding my mother. If you consider my post as a whole, you might see an uncanny mix of complete impotence intertwined with a call to positive living. It is the paradigm of the era. I write to express my feelings, a form of soul searching. If I were to ‘ accept what is ‘ you wouldn’t be receiving my posts. This is why I write.


  3. I’m unsurprised that you have pretty much expressed the words and sentiments I omitted from my recent post. It’s a battle supressing the rage and frustration. I’m afraid I don’t have any broad optimism, simply faith in myself and the likemindedness of my family, friends and strangers who I grateful for. I’ve given up completely on vesting any hope in the imaginative empathy lacking demographic and had to admit I can’t take up their slack. Similar to you I cook, we eat and live our life in situ well, as do the resident feathered ones. I’m pleased you mentioned your mother… I think of her every day and send positive energy out to her and all the other vulnerable people who are most at risk through no lack that is of their doing. We may be apart but it means so much knowing we stand together on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dale. My post was brewing away and then encouraged by yours, it finally spilled out. We seem to be walking along the same path and I’m enjoying your company.Thanks for thinking of my mother, she’s doing remarkably well and her place has only had one minor scare to date.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You are so eloquent. I too have wondered how your mum is faring. Geoff’s mum (91) has actually started using Facebook, she is managing to see pics posted by the family and liking them which she loves, feels a little bit in touch with everyone. My reading genre this year has been a lot of WWII novels and as much as I say we are so much better off than people living through the blitz etc it still drags you down especially when the big picture looms. I can also tell you that a hair colour lasts hell of a lot longer when you aren’t showering and washing your hair everyday! Take care, keep talking to the birds and watching those beautiful loaves come alive.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How amazing that Geoff’s Mum has taken to FB. I think Mum is beyond anything to do with the computer. She doesn’t like Zoom or Skype but prefers a good chat on the phone. She is pretty positive and keeps busy- in fact it’s hard to get through to her on most days, as she attends exercise classes, coffee groups. bingo, a bit of old church, and cards in the afternoon. She is now in complete isolation as there was a suspected staff case there on Friday. So she has returned to Foxtel in her room to watch the races and had a bet on a Quady. She is coming first in my brother’s footy betting comp and watches every AFL match. I have none of these interests so will be a bad candidate for a nursing home.
      I’ve also been reading stuff set in WW2 but from the perspective of the Italian experience, and the role of women in the hills during the 30s and 40s, especially the partigiani. Yes, things have been tough in the past, depression, war, and so on. But it’s very important to recognise your loss and to give voice to it. Because someone is doing it tougher, or that life was difficult in the past, does not diminish your own present grief. Loss of cuddling that new born babe, loss of long anticipated travels OS, loss of running workshops that you set up and enjoy, loss of having fun with family and grandchildren. I’ve been reading about disenfranchised grief today, hence this rather long reply.
      My mother’s advice for personal grooming- don’t forget to put cream on your face.


  5. I hope that as each day passes, life gets a little easier for you. As much as I miss so much of our wonderful life, I feel that each of us is still lucky in many ways. For a cheerful note, I love your breads…they are a work of art.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Karen, things are going pretty badly in Melbourne, Victoria as the second wave increases daily. We were fairly immune from from community spread during the first wave. Yes, we are very lucky in many ways, but it’s important to give voice to loss and the things that have altered in your life, and to recognise it as grief. Yes, breads are keeping me sane.


  6. Back in March I read an article in the Harvard Business Review of all places titled ‘That discomfit you’re feeling is grief’ (not sure if WordPress will let me but here’s the link – I think I might have also read the same article as you about disenfranchised grief, and I have found them both very helpful – putting a name to feelings always seems to help me even if I can’t shift the feeling.

    I think I am also more optimistic than you about the broader positive changes that might come from this, based at least in part on the views and actions of young people like my daughter whose top priority on turning 18 was not to drink (she doesn’t) but to enroll to vote.

    To return to food, I’m not sure what you think about farmed fish, but I’ve got a couple of mail order deliveries from Huon in Tasmania that were lovely, and have since used the polystyrene boxes they came in to grow peas and microgreens. I’m also newly enthused about sourdough since we recently got ducted heating in the main living areas including the kitchen, and it’s been rising so much better!

    Best wishes to you and your family and I will be thinking of you along with our other family and friends in Melbourne. xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I read that article too. It must have been shared around widely as I don’t subscribe to Harvard Business School either. Thanks for reminding me of it. I found the notion of disenfranchised grief quite interesting following yesterday’s article shared by the ABC. Wikipedia gives some varying examples of that. I agree. It’s valuable to name and identify grief and loss, and not dismiss it through passive statements of acceptance. One of the most annoying expressions of the day is ‘ it is what it is’, a statement designed to shut down dialogue. My pessimism began last year after the election, and was fanned by the climate inaction by our present governments, Federal and State. This pandemic is the icing on the cake.
      It’s good to hear that your daughter and friends are doing the right thing, which is a legal requirement upon reaching the age of 18, by enrolling to vote. Maybe the recent national disaster, bushfires, climate inaction and this pandemic will help politicise our youth. This is a good thing.
      I can still buy fresh fish at the market but am reticent. My fave fishmonger can do a phone order, then deliver to the carpark. I’m still considering this option. Scary times. I’m not so fond of farmed fish, but quite like Huon smoked products.
      Best wishes to you too Beck and thank you for such a well considered and helpful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am sorry Francesca, I am feeling the same way. The US is a mess, and that is putting a polite spin on things. As a country we are spiraling out of control. Meanwhile, your sourdough is lovely and we have to go on taking some pleasure in small daily activities which we can control. Be well, this will be over someday although the world will not look the same. It might be better, one can hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Liz, the scene in the US is so frightening and dusturbing, it’s partly why I feel so pessimistic. Spiraling out of control on every front. I’ll be thinking of you and a few other special people in the US over the next few months.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This discussion has been so interesting and thought provoking, Francesca. Thoughts far too involved and with potential for diversions to explore here, but i will say I’m surprised by my optimism. Yes, the US and the planet are on the road to ruin, but i think of all the people, like us, worldwide, who are prepared to change our ways of living to reverse that. Maybe it’s psrtly a matter of reaching a tipping point, where enough people are convinced of the need for change (banning plastic bags a micromicrocosmic example) to take governments along with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Louise, I am pleased to hear that you still feel optimistic. There’s hope yet I suppose. My pessimism set in last year during the alarming growing awareness that global warming had become irreversible and that, regardless of my/our good intentions, not much could change that. This pessimism led me to join XR, ( Extinction Rebellion), which holds local meetings of like minded people committed to change. Not much action happening on the XR front at present, though in that small hiatus between wave 1 and 2 of lockdown, some locals were very active in saving nearby forests, and drawing attention to the outrageous decision, this April, to renew Victorian logging agreements, The pandemic is only one one small part of my pessimism. The situation in the US is disturbing, and will have a huge impact on the globe. How frightening to see people in Texas wandering the streets with machine rifles, the country irrevocably torn apart by the mad ramblings of an insane leader, black versus white, rich versus poor. Civil war is on the agenda.
      With regard to your microcosmic example of plastic, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Coles seems to be dishing out plastic bags like an old man with a lolly bag. I feel there’s a return to plastic use. Many feel that they can’t be bothered caring about the issue of plastic when there are so many bigger concerns.
      I can’t see much positive change going on. Australians are more divided than ever. Climate action seems to have suffered a blow. Maybe people are more frugal, or baking bread or not buying so much useless clothing and shit. Maybe we don”t really need so many coffee shops after all?

      I’ll add that my personal pessimism and apocalyptic outlook has nothing to do with my mood. I am happy and find a lot to laugh about. The funny side of things keeps us sane. Hold on to your optimism, just for the little ones in your life.


  9. Mannaggia! I’m sorry to hear how this pandemic is making you feel. I have my moments too, and I try to think of those in worse situations than me. Doesn’t always make me feel any better. I hope things in Melboutnbe get better very soon. Ciao, Cristina

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Where I live (Vancouver) things are not bad in terms of cases, but everyone is predicting this ‘second wave’. Watching what is happening in the US is hard too. Keep watching those birds 😎. Ciao, Cristina

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Last night I watched a programme concerning the situation in the US and was horrified to see groups of right wing people on the streets of Michigan armed with machine rifles. Unbelievable. Not just the pandemic, but the level of division and insanity there.
          May Vancouver stay safe. Doppio Mannaggia.

          Liked by 1 person

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