Food and Drink

Laura Jackson's got advice on how to celebrate the everyday, even when the world feels bleak

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Helen Bownass
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Laura Jackson, founder of Hoste London

Creating our own cultural calendar could be one way to inject a little joy into lockdown life, suggests Laura Jackson. Here’s how to do it. 

Life feels hard and monotonous right now – and we know it’s not just us feeling that way. So it’s understandable if celebrating, well, anything is the furthest thing from your mind right now. But what if lighting a candle while you’re eating your tea on a Tuesday night or using your favourite coloured glasses for your morning smoothie could give a little glimmer of light and hope?

The broadcaster and founder of Hoste London, Laura Jackson, has been encouraging such small moments of celebration. In lockdown 1.0 she began a hashtag #makeamealofit encouraging people to make an occasion out of a meal – be it spaghetti hoops on toast or saffron risotto to punctuate the day and give a small moment of excitement. It’s up to you how hard you want to go on the tablescaping

Now Jackson has worked with Moet & Chandon to create a meal box for Galentine’s Day – a day invented by Parks and Recreation bringer of joy Lesley Knope (played by Amy Poehler)  to celebrate her female friends on 13 February – to give people a chance to acknowledge their favourite people, even if we can’t do it in real life.

Jackson talks to Stylist about the importance of togetherness even from afar, and how to bring chinks of brilliance into even the most January of days… 

Laura Jackson, founder of Hoste London
Laura Jackson, founder of Hoste London

#Makeamealofit has been such a joyful thing and thousands have used the hashtag on Instagram. Why do you think it resonates?

The best thing about Make A Meal Of It is that it has become a community, giving us the togetherness of everyday life that we so miss. Beyond getting the table laid and making an occasion out of everyday mealtimes, I’ve loved that you can also have a nosy to see what everyone else is eating and how they’re styling their tables.

It’s not about being flash and expensive. You can do all of this on a complete budget and use what you already have in the house. It’s not about having to rush out and buy everything new, but perhaps lighting a candle and getting your nice crockery out to make you feel like there’s some distinction from your everyday dining to try and make it feel that bit more special. 

Nigella Lawson recently wrote a piece for Stylist about solo eating and the power in it saying: Eating alone is not all about cooking: it’s about enjoying the moment for what it is”. Do you have any suggestions for how people living alone can find pleasure in that moment?

Firstly, I love Nigella and secondly, I agree. Solo dining is so liberating. It’s the ultimate self-care in taking a moment to do something for you. I also love the fact with solo dining you can go really over the top and indulgent with the food and properly treat yourself. Plus you don’t need to compromise. For instance, my husband is vegetarian so I often just cook a veg-based dish for the pair of us, but when it’s just me I absolutely love lamb so I can really go for it! 

If you’re having a celebratory meal alone it’s important to set the scene, get the candles going, get the music playing in the background. It’s all about taking time to be in the moment and enjoy your own dining experience.

What is the one meal you always make when the world feels particularly tough?

Fish pie or curry are my go-to. I have been perfecting my curry paste and because we mostly eat vegetarian at home, it’s so nice to get lots of seasonal vegetables from my veg patch and create something fresh and delicious.

What’s the best cocktail to make to make any day slightly less grey and grim?

I have a bit of a thing for margaritas with a salted rim and Lockdown Liquor have done the best virgin margarita I’ve ever had. For something alcoholic, I am really into champagne-based cocktails, particularly if you’re having a drink with dinner as you need something to complement and enhance the flavours of the food. I worked closely with the Moet Hennessy champagne ambassador Ethan Boroian to create two delicious cocktails which I’ve paired with the dishes in our Galentine’s box.

Let’s talk about candles, they’re all over Instagram, but is it really worth lighting one when you’re just eating pesto pasta?

Yes. I love the ambience you get from a candlelight dinner. It brings everything in closer and feels so much more intimate. You shouldn’t restrict yourself to using them just for special occasions, I am all for a Monday night candlelit supper! I would recommend spending a little more, if you can, and get soy or beeswax candles. Also avoid using scented candles on the table at dinner so the scents don’t clash with the food. I’m loving Wax Atelier’s candles right now. 

Why is Galentine’s an important thing to celebrate?

I end most days feeling exhausted and I think the lack of joy and things to look forward to is draining. So creating a new cultural calendar to give us the “moments in between” to celebrate is really important. We need little pick me ups and bursts of joy to give us a reason to do something. That’s why working with Moet & Chandon was important because champagne always feels like a big treat that you only have at celebrations. And now more than ever, I wanted everyone to feel extra special. I also love that Galentine’s means that you don’t need to be in a relationship, it’s something you can celebrate with your gals, pals, family, flatmate – to enjoy something fun and special.

What have your friends meant to you during lockdown?

My friendships have been an absolute lifeline. From the silly memes to endless WhatsApp chats, I’ve really valued all of my true friendships and the way our relationship has had to evolve.

What’s one thing you can do in the morning that might make things feel a little bit brighter?

It is hard, and I think the first thing is about letting yourself off the hook and accepting that this is challenging, and some days are going to feel harder than others. For me right now it’s about getting back to basics: things like getting showered and dressed are important, going for a walk, sitting down away from a screen to have lunch, reading at the end of the day instead of scrolling on Instagram, drinking enough water. It seems so basic, but we need structure to punctuate our days, so we have a routine and things to look forward to.

What else has kept you going during lockdown?

Schitt’s Creek on Netflix gives me endless joy, it’s so brilliant and the perfect lockdown watch. I have just finished reading Candice Carty-Williams’ book Queenie which was such a powerful read. Also the foodie websites Eater and The Infatuation have me lusting over the restaurants I really want to visit when we finally can.

And finally, what one thing are you most looking forward to doing when we all emerge back into the world?

Dancing. I just wanna go somewhere and dance. 

Laura Jackson teams up with Moet & Chandon for Galentine’s to #MakeAMealOfIt – the ultimate way to toast to friendship and loved ones this lockdown. Buy here

Images: Moet & Chandon (photographer Jon Gorrigan),  Instagram