Whilst I’m pretty positive that I won’t ever forget the strange times that we are living through right now, I feel compelled to document and share my experiences to date in case the memories ever start to fade.
When it became clear that we were heading into some form of “lockdown” (not that any of us really knew what that would involve) and that people were suffering, I knew instantly that I wanted to try and help in whatever way I could – I’m sure many of you were the same. And, as I saw more and more images of empty supermarket shelves and sensed the panic that people were feeling over potentially not being able to feed their families, I knew that the best way that I would be able to help was through food and cooking; showing and giving people inspiration as to what they could make with whatever they had available to them.
With plans forming thick and fast in my head, I went straight onto the Amazon website and started “filling my basket” with all the equipment I thought I’d need to help turn those plans into reality – and trying to figure out how I would turn The Little Kitchen into the film studio I would broadcast from.
But, just as the equipment started to arrive from Amazon, both Jamie and I started to feel increasingly unwell and came down with, what we believe was, a strain of the virus (tests weren’t widely available at that point so we can’t be certain) and so, whilst I continued to use what little energy I had to cook for me and Jamie, desperate not to waste any of the precious fresh food that we were lucky enough to have in the house, my bigger plans had to go on the backburner.
2 weeks of isolation passed and, with my mojo (and senses of smell and taste) starting to return and stories of peoples’ struggles seeming to get louder, I was determined to get back into the kitchen and developing, making and sharing as many recipes as I could. I could see that the love for home-baking was burning strong and so, early one morning, I came downstairs to try and master a gluten-free Focaccia recipe – and that’s when I hit my next “pot-hole”; the bottle of olive oil that I had been using slipped out of my hand and spilled all over my open laptop!! Thankfully it didn’t kill it, but it did damage the keyboard making trying to type anything frustratingly slow -but I was determined that I’d still carry on.
A few days later and it was time for another first (I seem to have had quite a few of them over the last few weeks!) my first Zoom cookery demonstration!!! It was so exciting to be whipping up my delicious Chicken Baked in Braised Red Cabbage and seeing lots of faces (some familiar, some less so) watching me and getting involved! I enjoyed it so much that I then took on the challenge of a 2-hour cookery class (again via Zoom) with 12 boys – it was challenging and tiring but so much fun! That same week Jamie and I did our first live demonstration together as we teamed up to make Chocolate Brownies in order to support Variety; The Children’s Charity and, shortly after, I went solo again to lead a cookery demonstration as part of a “virtual spa retreat”. Like with anything new it’s taken me a little while to adjust to this new way of interacting but, despite a few teething problems along the way, I can definitely say that I’m a fan and am excited about the opportunity that it offers to reach and interact with an even greater group of people – no matter where they are in the world!
But whilst I was loving my computer for how it was letting me reach out to so many people, the damage caused by spilling oil all over it meant that, when it came to needing to do anything that involved typing (writing emails, new recipes etc) it was beyond painful – and so came the realisation that I was going to have to buy a new computer – not something that was going to prove easy during “lockdown”. Thankfully though some incredibly kind and very generous individual took it upon themselves to ride to my rescue and gift me one, saying that they wanted to help me in my hour of need when I was so busy trying to help others in theirs – and I will be forever grateful to them. Trying to transfer all my precious files to my new one was the next challenge – and one that was beyond stressful! My IT company said that they would be able to manage the whole process for me and so, after having dropped both old and new off to them and going back a few days later to collect, I excitedly opened the new one – only for that excitement to turn to horror and despair and my blood to run cold as, no matter how many I tried, none of the files would open. On the verge of tears at the thought of so much precious material having been lost, I phoned the IT company again, hopeful that the backups I thought they had been running for me for the past 11 years would mean that not all hope was lost. And then the next bombshell hit. The backups that I had been paying for more than a decade and thought had been running? They hadn’t actually been run at all. And, despite everything they tried in order to try and get my files back, nothing could be done. The reality slowly began to sink in, and I pivoted from floods of tears to waves of rage – as you do when grieving for anything precious and I felt – and still very much do feel – shattered and devastated. Each and every day I pray that I’ll come across something that will help me to be able to get some of my precious work back – the recipes that I had stored in the hope of publishing a second cookbook, personal files, videos and photos of special moments, the contact details of dear friends, clients and so many other people….
But, if this experience has taught me anything, it’s the importance of sharing as much as I can, of not saving too much for a rainy day – and I recommend that you do the same – don’t save things “for special” or for “that day when” because that day might never come….
In the meantime, I’m throwing my energy and attention into creating lots of lovely new recipes to share with you all, to teaching and demonstrating via Zoom, to trying to help and support people as much as I possibly can – and I do hope that you’ll stay with me for the journey that is undoubtedly to come