Her name’s Janet. She’s fussy, greedy and quite honestly the damn light of my life right about now. Since we went in to lock down last month I feel like I’ve managed to swerve in to every quarantine cliché so quickly I’ve given myself whip lash. From existential dread in form of blanket burrito (or: too anxious to sleep, too depressed to move) to overzealous bleacher (a nervous Virgo energy made manifest complete with sore angry hands and eau du flash oozing from my pores) but it seems at least for the interim I’ve settled on “wholesome bread mama.” Which by the by is as much as a surprise to me as it is to anyone else. Janet you see is my sourdough starter. My named, loved, and cherished starter. That I have named.
And I will let you in to a little secret dear reader, I don’t even really like bread.
So there is Janet. Who has taken over my life. Each of her bread brethren is named like an old timey English monarchs and her bastard children have made me many a delicious pizza or pancakes. People ask after Janet and I tell them how she is doing; “very active today, must be this heat” “I don’t know what to do, she just seems to lack any umph” I, in one brief moment of madness considered buying a banneton for Janet. A banneton, dear reader is a bowl specifically designed for proving your sourdough loaf. At this moment I’d like to remind you that I’m not exactly a bread person. But here I am with my lock down identity. Less Mad Max and more bread Jesus. Making infinite Janet’s to keep the darkness at bay.
Because I suppose that’s what we’re all doing right? Keeping the wolves from the door. This has led to an element of performative productivity. National collective trauma? Looming economic uncertainty? Social isolation? Why not pick up a new hobby? Learn a language! Join a book club! Try a fun Instagram challenge! Zoom yoga! Facetime your friends! Facetime your acquaintances! Constantly do the things constantly! At this point I’ve pretty much cleared my quarantine bingo card (HOUSE) but it’s all a bit like building on quicksand or a house of cards or any other overstretched over eked metaphor you can manifest. It’s not a competition with anyone other than myself. The need to ear mark the days with activities and projects and other minutia because otherwise everything seems to blur in to one and even though I’m still working it’s all too easy to forget what day it is.
And all the while I’m sitting there, very acutely aware of just how fucking mind numbingly saccharine my overwrought privilege is. I’m not on the front line. I still have a job. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. In the grand scheme my apocalyptic ennui has lost some of its flavor and feels unbearably tone deaf. Watching the news, going on twitter, fuck, going to the shops is unrelenting in the reminder that everything is terrible, people are the worst and the world does in fact feel a little bit like it’s ending. So why not bake the fucking bread?
There’s no real correct way to cope. There can’t be. And while everything seems a little bit (okay let’s go with huge bit) awful – it’s still nice to be reminded that people can ultimately be good, do good and find small ways to make the world a little bit less worse. Podcaster Lauren Mahon has been a weekly dose of positivity with her series of Lockdown Lip Syncs on Instagram coupled with her daily isolation tekkers (that’s football for technique fact fans) are handy tools for keeping yourself right when times are tough. At the time of writing Run For Heroes has raised over four and a half million quid for the NHS (the unpacking of it going via Virgin and the fact the NHS is not a charity is for another day) and has become akin to the ice bucket challenge of lockdown. Publicist Jenn Nimmo-Smith has launched a campaign to get more tech devices in care homes so families can stay connected in a time when we can’t visit the most vulnerable amongst us. Yeah, the world feels like it’s ending, but there’s a whole lot of good out there too.
The goal right now is survival. Maybe you fall into the camp where you need to feel productive every moment of the day or you get itchy and weird. Cool. Let’s exchange sourdough techniques at the end of all this. Or maybe you’re watching the same Netflix series for the 12th time because quite frankly anything more than that is emotionally, mentally and physically taxing. Cool. I’ll send memes. The most important thing though? Wash your hands. Stay safe. Stay at home. Be kind.