Self-isolation isn’t the time for reinvention


The banging and crashing continues as I force the oven racks from the stove to make way for the giant pot of chicken thighs, bacon, canned tomatoes, stock cubes and sliced mushrooms. It’s not long before fragrant smells fill the room. Even our cats are sniffing the air hopefully.

But don’t be fooled. As a proud crap housewife, I’m remaining true to my lack of culinary prowess and haven’t used self-isolation to reinvent myself as a domestic goddess. I’ve not gone to the dark side of baking my own bread. Yes, the days have become very long, but never that long. And what is the point? There hasn’t been any serious stockpiling of sliced white bread.

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My pantry is already crammed full of tins of baked beans and spaghetti and microwave rice. I’ve been stockpiling these items for years as they’re staples of my cooking repertoire. Beans on toast has been our Sunday dinner since my daughters were toddlers, which is probably part of the reason why my husband has worked every Sunday evening since our youngest was born.

Time at home can do strange things to people. I did make a pavlova for Pete’s birthday a few weeks ago (it’s a sugary party trick I dig out for special occasions). However, a big part of me rails against suggestions that we use this moment in history to reinvent ourselves, whether it’s by becoming a baker, learning a language, writing a novel or enrolling in a degree.

According to some historians, Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth during plagues. But I bet
the Bard didn’t have to juggle home-schooling and arguments about screen time when creating his masterpieces. Surely I’m not the only person who struggles to finish an email, or even a train of thought on a FaceTime call, during these groundhog days at home. It’s hard enough just to muddle through the day without adding absurd expectations.

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Cooking gourmet meals and having a spotless house don’t bring me joy. For me, the comfort is in keeping things the same and, if anything, lowering my expectations. All that has changed is that my piles of clean laundry have been shifted into our junk room to stop them becoming a permanent tripping hazard in our lounge room.

All this extra time at home is not going to turn me into Nigella because, in my heart, that doesn’t interest me. What does interest me is finding laughter in the mundane as a way of coping with the uncertainty of isolation, slivers of silver lining like having uninterrupted time with my girls to talk, laugh and dance, even though my slapstick dance routine is driving my husband slightly bananas.
I’ve always loved an audience, even one that’s shrunk to just three for the moment. An audience which now also appreciates my Chicken in a Pot. That’s enough of a masterpiece for me.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale May 17.



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