Writing and self-publishing a recipe book has long been on my to-do list. Never in my wildest dreams or craziest catastrophized scenarios, did I ever imagine having to pull it off in less than 3 weeks. As if the lead time wasn't enough of a hurdle, add being on lockdown because of a pandemic that has infected more than a million people worldwide into the mix.
What a time to be alive.
I can't remember when I first heard about COVID-19, but it must have been some time in late December 2019. As news started spreading and more people began talking about it, I started paying closer attention - not because I was in any way concerned about it becoming a global problem, but more because I lived in China for 3 years and still had a lot of friends there.
The global impact of it started becoming a serious issue for South Africa about a month ago, and slowly but surely, things began falling apart. My contract work was secure. Things were looking up for me: I was getting my life together after a tough couple of years, I signed a lease in January and was finally feeling confident about the future. And then I wasn’t. On the creative side, a big recipe book shoot planned for April was postponed after my client had three weeks of events cancelled before 10 am on the Monday morning after the first presidential address. On the digital side, advertisers began pulling out and the commercial value of the websites I worked on dried up over a matter of days. It was a massive blow for me on both fronts.
It was also the realisation that even if you weren't going to get sick, the far-reaching consequences of this thing would be felt by everybody. No one would be immune to it.
In times of crisis, people handle things differently. After I’d gotten over the initial shock of what my fate might be over the next few weeks, I went into survival mode. How would I get through this? What would my next move be? How could I use my skills to generate an income during a time where people are having contracts cancelled, being retrenched, freezing positions and closing their businesses?
I'd do what I know best - cook, bake, photograph and create content which people needed. And so began what I hope will be something that I can successfully do now and continue doing after this is all over.
After the lockdown announcement, we made the call to spend it in Walkerville with my boyfriend's elderly father on his plot. As he's been struggling with his health for a while, he's pretty vulnerable when it comes to contracting COVID-19, and him being alone during a time like this wasn't a great idea. So we packed up our essentials, including the contents of our individual fridges, freezers and pantries. I also gathered a few props and things I thought I'd need for this book, and we headed 30km south of Joburg to our new home for the next few weeks.
Being isolated isn't something that's new to me. Living in Shanghai was extremely isolating at times. I was far away from home, hardly spoke the language, missed my family and friends, and felt a lot like an outsider. It was alien, I was an alien, but I found solace in my writing and my kitchen. There was a week over Chinese New Year in 2016 where I didn't see or speak to another human for days. I watched series, listened to a lot of classical music, baked, wrote and enjoyed my own company.
When I began working from home, there were weeks where I wouldn't leave the front door of my apartment for days on end, especially in winter when it was very cold and even more miserable outside. I had all of my groceries delivered as well, which made it that much easier. The projects I was working on involved a lot of recipe testing, writing, and a lot of ingenuity and creativity when it came to ingredients - which consumed me.
In hindsight, I realise that I was becoming somewhat of a hermit, but it was how I coped and got a lot of my work done. My life in China compared to a pandemic is obviously very different, but it's where my experience with isolation stems from, and what inspired me even more to create this ebook.
The Isolated Kitchen
The Isolated Kitchen includes 20+ recipes which make use of pantry staples and basic ingredients available at the time I created it, and include a combination of basics, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and treats.
For an indefinite time, R10 from each and every sale of The Isolated Kitchen will be donated to charities doing amazing work assisting those who have been impacted most by this pandemic.