Hunkering down


NEW NORMALWe’re all trying to find ways to make life interesting, and for many of us, that’s cooking and baking.

Green Living

McKinley Neal

While our family, like all others, is hunkered down spending lots of time together, we’re all trying to find ways to make life interesting. So, while our eldest is delighted with being entrusted with the veg peeler to work away on a heap of carrots independently, I’m also testing new skills.
It turns out that my problem with baking sourdough in the past was not a lack of volition, but a lack of time to do it properly. Now, I do have the time to just get on with it, and to troubleshoot and refine my approach for the next go (especially since the bread is disappearing quickly with everyone eating every meal and snack at home). Every time a loaf cools, I can’t wait to hand out chunks to see what the consensus is – how is it with seeds? with the new ratio of different flours? And that is what keeps the process interesting, the end result and the joy (hopefully) it brings to my loved ones.
Sometimes the best we can do in stressful times is to focus on the things we can control, like what’s for lunch. In addition to bread, I can imagine that, like me, you are trying as many variations on soups, curries, hummus (mung bean is our current favourite!) and pasta toppings as your pantry and veg supply allows.
And perhaps, like many others, you have taken the time to pass along some of the food you are making, or the recipes that you enjoy, to friends, to keep them looking forward to the time when we can sit down together again.

Knowledge sharing
It has been incredible to see how communities are making efforts to share food, and the traditional knowledge of how to transform simple ingredients into delicious meals. There are a number of local businesses in Westport that, despite not being able to operate normally, are sharing their techniques and even raw ingredients. You can learn to roast a chicken from Savoir Fare or find out how best to stock your pantry from Cian’s on Bridge Street on social media, or pick up a free sourdough starter and instruction sheet from Cornrue Bakery.
Smaller food producers across Ireland are also working to grow, manufacture and supply their goods much more rapidly than ever before; Glasraí Farm, based in Hollymount, has increased their veg-box subscriptions by at least 50 percent, and Galway-based Green Earth Organics is hiring more staff to pack orders.
The impact of this transfer of skills will have lasting benefits for us, as we find ways to reconnect with the food that’s being grown close to us, that’s minimally processed and that’s nourishing to people and the environment. If you are in a position to do so, buy directly from food producers, to enable them to continue operating. Cafés and restaurants will need capital to stock up when they are able to re-open, so consider a voucher to use when you’re well and truly tired of your own cooking.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.