I blame everything on Karen Hardy, legendary Canberra Times writer and sub-editor. She and I have worked together for decades, had a few disagreements along the way, recovered, continued.
But now, she's publishing recipes, which may kill me. I fear it's on purpose. Honey Jumbles, for example. At least I'll die happy. Mind you, her recipe's only got 60 grams of butter divided among 40 biscuits, so not that bad really. And the fish pilaf recipe was actually pretty good for me, except for the coconut milk which might also kill me (I'm far too old to be eating so much saturated fat but bugger it, maybe that's a better way to go than COVID-19). Hardy knows we are all trapped on an island and the only thing left for us to do is to eat. The family that isoleats survives what appears to be an endless future of being locked down at home. Preparing and cooking gives us something to do, and how much better will it be if we make what we eat?
That foot traffic which disappeared from public transport stations now makes a distinct path from fridge to stove to sink to dishwasher (in history, the dishwasher will become the hero appliance of iso, ours is running four times a day). We are awesomely socially distant, except in our homes where we race to the kitchen at regular intervals in order to cook and eat, eat and cook, about triple the number of times we normally would have in our pre-COVID-19 lives.
Yes, we've moved on from isoleat to isoleatalot, at last count six meals a day - if you count a hot cross bun as a meal, which it is in these circumstances.
There's also something therapeutic about cooking during COVID-19. It's a meditative practice, because it's not like we have anything else to do with our spare time now.
But Rosemary Stanton, nutritionist and author, wants us to take care with what we are eating. We won't always be in lockdown and we need our bodies to be in good shape, not just to fight off COVID-19 but to get to the other side in one piece, not 10 kilos heavier. So, some Stanton advice.
Go for dishes which don't have so much fat in them. "I wish some of the recipes weren't so rich," she says.
It's true we don't need to eat cream and butter every single day, but the odd honey jumble brings a little joy into lives which seem too monotonous. Stanton says we should also plan to make food from scratch where possible. We don't need to buy commercial pasta sauces when you can achieve a better result in your own kitchen - or most of us can, even if we need more practice. Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci says panic-buyers are now stocking up on cake mix. Stanton wants to remind us all that we can make cakes ourselves with no need for prepackaged mixes! All we need is flour, sugar, eggs, and butter (we know some supermarkets have run out of flour. Hardy, the great enabler, was pushing Matt Preston's famous flourless chocolate cake yesterday. So thoughtful of her to provide the recipe on a just-in-time basis, as in just in time to coincide with the other great chocolate consumption time of year).
It's also the time when we might focus on sharing our cooking skills with others in the house. If your kids can't cook, or your spouse won't cook, now's the time to change that.
Which brings me to bread. We used to make pizza dough with our kids, and Stanton has a good point. "No child ever stays cranky after kneading dough," she says.
There's also something therapeutic about cooking during COVID-19. It's a meditative practice, because it's not like we have anything else to do with our spare time now. The regular distractions, the pubs, cafes and restaurants, are all missing. We can caramelise onions at our leisure, wait for the cheese in the toastie to melt and bubble brownly, boil bones, reduce stock.
I am by no means a patient person - just ask my children. But now I'm in the flow, I've pureed, roasted, and marinated. What I have not yet done is taken the advice of Dash Rumble, who looks after front of house at Pilot in Ainslie.
All restaurateurs have been promoting their own cook-at-home or takeaway, but Rumble makes another suggestion. Try your favourite restaurant's best dish and then recreate it at home.
She and co-owner Ross McQuinn have been asked countless times for the recipe for one of their signature dishes, Cabbage e Pepe. Now customer Arjuna has perfected it.
"Take inspiration from restaurants and nail the dish you're obsessed with."
It beats jigsaw puzzles, but maybe not honey jumbles.
- Jenna Price is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney and a regular columnist.