It can be pretty lonely cooking and eating food by yourself, as digital writer Hollie Richardson has found out during lockdown.
Pret a Manger’s cheese and tomato croissant. Pizza East’s buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil pizza. Wetherspoons’ beer and a burger meal deal. The haggis toastie from Broadway Market. These are the foods I truly miss during lockdown (yes, they all involve cheese. Lots of it). I’m happy to forgo such luxuries and stay at home for as long as we need to protect the NHS during the pandemic. But I have to admit that I’m absolutely FED UP of eating my own food by myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cooking and baking. Pre-coronavirus, I used to regularly impress my desk buddy Sarah with lunch boxes packed with the previous night’s leftovers (mostly recipes from The Green Roasting Tin cookbook, which I highly recommend). And my flatmates were full of compliments when they tasted my efforts after some weekend cooking.
But I did also grab a lot of grub on the go or eat out with friends: the morning Pret run was a Wednesday (and Thursday, and Friday) treat; coffee and a generous slice of cake at La Bouche in London Fields; pizza at every single one of London’s pizza joints.
“I’ve totally got this,” I thought when we first went into lockdown over a month ago. I saw it as an opportunity to save some money on eating and drinking out, get more creative in the kitchen and build a better relationship with food.
Things went well at the start. I baked Easter treats. I caught up with my favourite podcasts while slowly chopping and preparing ingredients for my favourite recipes. I made nice meals using only tinned goods.
But now, I’ve hit a brick wall. And I just can’t be bothered anymore.
(Hold on, I just need to go and get my curly fries out of the oven…)
Part of the joy of eating is sharing the experience: the surprised look on a friend’s face when the waiter brings out the sticky toffee pudding; the shoot of pride when a flatmate can’t say anything but “mmm, oh my god” with a warm mouthful of the cake I’ve just made; the shared, knowing glances between my siblings at the dinner table when mum serves her iconic soggy veg sides.
But, since my flatmates decided to go home and I stayed in London, I’ve been living on my own during lockdown. There’s nobody to share a meal and conversation with on an evening after work. I can’t kick back and relax while my flatmate rustles something up for us. I actually ended up eating a WHOLE BANANA CAKE within 24 hours because there’s no one around to make me feel judged. And I throw money at takeways to try and bring back some excitement.
I eat on my own all day, every day. And it’s really, really boring and lonely.
That probably helps to explain why I take photos of just about every meal I cook and takeaway I order, even if it’s just a crisp sandwich! Yes, I have become the person no one wants to be. But it’s my way of striking up a conversation with friends and followers, of saying “this represents what kind of mood I’m in right now – how are you?” They reply saying how delicious it looks, or telling me what they’re having for dinner.
Of course, I’ve learned not to post them all on my Instagram Stories. Instead, I’ll sometimes send them to my mum. I can tell she’s fed up of receiving them though because she only ever replies with a thumbs-up emoji.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is a very first-world problem. But for anyone else who has fallen out of love with food at the moment, I hear ya. My plan is to dig deep and try out some exciting new recipes or find some comfort with some fuss-free classics (hello jacket potato). Eating on the phone can usually be considered rude but, in these unprecedented times, I see nothing wrong in chomping away while catching up with a pal on Zoom as if you were in Pizza Express. And I have found that sitting down with the radio on can sometimes help.
And if you want to continue posting food photos, I’m right there with you.