For me, never more so than now, it’s about the table.
My thoughts are never far away from food, what I’d like to be eating and where. During lockdown, this became more important than ever. It became my map, my satnav and my path through this. Every morning I would wake, think about what I had in the fridge and what I could make. In much the same way as I start to think about writing a book. I think about the ingredient at the heart of the story. The food that is made and eaten in a place I want to explore and then look around to see what other ingredients I can add to this to create a satisfying story, or in this case, a dish to put a smile on people’s faces and want them coming back for more.
At this time more than ever I wanted to gather the family around the table and have them close.
I found myself making the most of leftovers and being more creative with them, reminding me of dishes my Mum had cooked for me when I was a child. Connecting me and helping me feel close to my Mum who was on the other side of the country.
And with teenagers in the house, it also became a focal point of their day, taking it in turns to get out of their bedrooms and into the kitchen to cook. I have loved gathering in the kitchen and being the other side of the breakfast bar for a change, while we chatted and they cooked!
The ideas for the meals, the local ingredients, the new experiences, like making pasta, gave us a focus and a bond as a family. It was our satnav through the day, our map through the week as we waited for my husband to return with the shopping, waiting to see what he’d managed to come back with and plan the weeks meals.
And the more it became the focus in my world, the table where I would gather and feed the family in the evening, even relishing the fact that one announced they would like to go vegetarian at the start of lockdown, the more the days evening meal became my waking thoughts. Then, I started to imagine where I’d like to open up a restaurant and what I’d serve. And so began my morning tweets and facebook posts called #JosFantasyKitchens, where I’d dream about running a Spanish tapas bar on a hilltop, a pizzeria in Naples, a seafood shack by the side of the shore and posting daily menus. And to my delight, my readers came on the journey with me, suggesting wine pairings and desserts and even booking imaginary tables. It was wonderful for us all to imagine being in these places, feeling the sun on our faces and food we’d taste and finding some escapism. Now lockdown is over and people are returning to their jobs and their lives outside the house, Jo’s Fantasy Kitchens have become less of a focal point of the day…..although, what it has confirmed is the appetite there is for escapism in books and I’m sure there’s a book to be written in each of those places and I can’t wait to take my readers back there for a reunion!
And now with lockdown ending, my daughter has moved out and in with her boyfriend full of excitement and yet missing home, and the one thing I ask her every evening is what she’s cooking for dinner. I like to think it keeps us connected and still at the kitchen table together.