If you had asked me in November 2019 “Stephen, what is COVID-19?”, I would’ve taken an educated guess; that it’s a type of specially formulated shampoo for grey hair?
If you had told me that all restaurants and hotels would suddenly close overnight and we would be put under house arrest for most of 2020, I would probably have laughed loudly and given you a helpline number.
As I write this, we are 342 days into Lockdown restrictions in South Africa. Who knows how long this will last? What we do know is; the world is still in the grips of the biggest crisis since World War II. For much of 2020, people were either working from home or sadly unemployed. With certainly, I can say, we had / have far too much time on our hands.
Our beloved Hospitality industry is struggling. Until March 26th 2020 , we were the centre of people’s fun. The place to celebrate a happy occasion, a successful business deal, a wedding, a product launch or a divorce party. Guys – we were once the high point of the week for one and all!
So, what were our customers doing? How did they expend time they would’ve spent with us? Did middle managers swell their minds with on-line courses? Did CEO’s binge on re-runs of the Singapore Open? Were advertising executives stripping car engines? Did hairdressers indulge in DIY projects? No, they did not.
They were baking!
Just look at Facebook and Instagram circa March to September 2020. Actuaries crafting carrot cake, foreign exchange traders fluffing up meringues, estate agents baking poppy seed muffins, sour faced accountants proudly exhibiting sourdough bread. I don’t understand humans! When the going gets tough, the tough BAKE? Are our ‘culinarily challenged’ friends only trying to keep busy?
I read this quote on a blog called Minds Journal:
Feeling the need to be busy all the time is the trauma response and fear-based distraction from what you’d be forced to acknowledge and feel if you slowed down
To be fair, we all need distraction. The constant barrage of negative news is draining and promotes fear. Perhaps the process of baking is somehow therapeutic? In a world filled with uncertainty, the ability to control a small part of our lives is compelling. Making bread is tactile, it requires patience and planning. I know chefs won’t believe me but, baking is stress relieving and the feeling of achievement good for the soul.
Baking has become planet Earth’s distraction of choice during lockdown. A look at the supermarket shelves during the height of lockdown, It was a struggle to find bread flour and, though it’s cheating, pre-mixed scone blends were the first to fly off the shelves.
In my mind; It’s not just about the process and joy of baking something delicious. It’s the communal satisfaction of sharing with family and friends. The primal consummation of breaking bread together. Togetherness and love. ‘Stephen, how existential’ you may gasp?
During this pause from the feverish pace of business, the uncompromising hamster wheel of commerce – are we learning humility?
Perhaps just staying home, being kind and baking helps us through these tough months, until we meet again.