Week 10 of lockdown and there are still gaps on the shelves of the supermarkets. The stock of toilet rolls has been replenished; antiseptic wipes and bleach can be easily bought; there is a good supply of dried pasta; tinned food supply seems to be improving, but among the baking shelves shortages remain. Flour disappears quickly, sugar for cooking seems in sparse supply, and baking powder seemed unavailable until last week.
Any idea that the crisis might have created a “new normal” is contradicted by the traffic jams at beauty spots and holiday resorts and by the overwhelming evidence of people ignoring the guidelines, but it does seem to have prompted culinary changes.
Perhaps the purchase of supplies for home baking was initially a panic reaction to fears of food shortages, but the persisting popularity of bags of flour and other cookery ingredients does seem to suggest that people are cooking more. Perhaps it is just that people have more time.
Someone working from home, instead of spending two unproductive hours a day travelling to and from an office, has time to prepare food from scratch. Fresh produce, home made dishes, kitchen-baked bread, pies, cakes and puddings come onto the menu in place of things grabbed at a supermarket and taken out of a packet.
Perhaps among the process, among the home baking revival, there is still space for a small boy who wants to scrape out the mixing bowl.
One of the clearest memories from childhood years is my grandmother’s home baking on Sunday mornings. A big roast dinner was prepared, along with pudding and cakes for Sunday teatime. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, rice pudding, rock cakes and butterfly cakes, the kitchen was filled with aromas. But lingering long enough meant that there would be the opportunity to lick the big wooden spoon that was used for mixing the cakes and to scrape out any mixture that might remain in the bowl.
Home baking meant having ingredients at home. In my grandmother’s larder there were round white tins with lids that had scenes of London on the front. In these tins, the dried fruit was stored, raisins, sultanas, mixed fruit. Providing he wasn’t too greedy, and carefully smoothed over the surface of the fruit, a boy might escape unnoticed with a handful of raisins or sultanas (the mixed fruit was not as nice).
Hopefully, the home baking revival will bring to children fifty years younger than me a similar degree of happiness.