March 31, 2020 by Paul Levy

A pre-lockdown magazine feature

The Amazon delivery guy rang the bell, then scampered off to safety behind the garden gate, a good distance, but not so far that he couldn’t hear and acknowledge my “thank you.” My wife is so far coping with her duties as a Parish Counsellor by attending meetings online. I am writing, as usual – all too-regular obituaries, entries for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and occasional book reviews, or working on the book whose deadline my publishers have so kindly been ignoring for so long. My reviews of the performing and visual arts have been put on hold by the closing of the opera houses, theatres, museums and galleries.

Our two grown-up daughters have decided to “isolate” in the rural surroundings of the dusty 18th century farmhouse where they were born and educated, before being sent off to their boarding schools, gap years spent, respectively, in Chicago and London, their universities in Chicago and Leeds, their jobs in London and Brisbane, and ultimately their careers in Britain. During the current lockdown, our family’s fistful of UK, US and Australian passports won’t get us anywhere but here in the Oxfordshire foothills of the Cotswolds. Our British/Aussie son-in-law isn’t home with us. He has been designated a “key-worker’ and is on call to the Ministry of Transport in London.

His wife, Tatyana, is managing to work online, clocking in at the regular time for her admin job with the classical music agency, Harrison Parrott. Georgia, her younger sister, has been hit harder by the inevitable recession. One of her part-time gigs was developing and testing recipes for a couple of “celebrity cook” writers on British national newspapers. Her more steady job is as a restaurant consultant for a well-known food importing company, which also has a café; and devising takeaway and cook-at-home recipes for their several retail outlets. The firm’s chief customers are the chefs of London’s best restaurants. Georgia’s main work during the current crisis is to develop a daily recipe for Instagram and her own website, principally using her firm’s fruit and veg. Though she “tests” every recipe, I can’t think of one that has gone wrong; they all work, and can be reproduced in your own kitchen with ease (provided you’ve had the foresight, luck or nous to buy – or in the case of wild garlic, forage – the ingredients).

We know the recipes work, because our family of four sits down every evening to dine on the results (after they’ve been photographed, of course – Georgia is now sufficiently skilled at this that she’s started putting up videos on Instagram). We have had chicken Kiev with the wild garlic butter, kale and plum white haricot beans; a timbale of eggplant (aubergine), surrounding pearled spelt and spinach, flavoured with ’nduja, and a Napa cabbage salad; braised, tomato-y lamb shank with only the fragrance of chilli, and a sort of cole slaw with wisps of radish, fennel and cabbage; minestrone with carrot, potato, borlotti beans and wild-garlic infused oil; mild curried monkfish tails with french beans; cavatelli with shaved broccoli; banana and nut “bread” (cake by another name); and babka, marbled with deep, dark chocolate and walnuts.

Thank heavens the UK Wine Society (a cooperative, from which I try to buy most of our wine) was still delivering a week ago; and their last plague-time order, two mixed cases of alluring Austrian wine got here under the wire. I try to request my wine, as I do our prescription drugs from our local National Health Service Dispensary, at least two weeks before we run out. My wife now prefers her wine to be white and under 12% alcohol by volume. I’m not so fussy, but adore the three Austrian reds whose acquaintance I’m just making – and have a few dozen bottles of claret ageing quietly in the cellar if things really get rough.

Of course, the real problem is deciding what to watch on the television, a source of constant and genuine disagreement. As the news gets stranger, worse and more depressing, we feel compelled to watch it – and have discovered that the BBC rolling news network is the most reliable, and carries Trump’s rants live. Family dynamics are easy to predict, but hard to manage. Job tensions are difficult to forget; and there is rent and mortgage payments for the younger generation. After the glorious nightly meal, grumbling begins about the apportioning of the domestic tasks. Having put a token plate or two into the dishwasher, I slink out of our long kitchen/dining room to read in bed, not really complacent, but leaving my wife and daughters to make their own entertainment.

Filed Under: UncategorizedTagged With: Brisbane, Chicago, Georgia, Harrison Parrott, Levy, London, ODNB, Penelope, Tatyana

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


is almost a citizen of the world, carrying the passports of the USA and the UK/EU. He wrote about the arts in general for the now-defunct Wall Street Journal Europe. [Read


An Anglo-American look at what’s happening here and there, where English is spoken and more or less understood — in letters, the visual and performing arts, and, occasionally, in the kitchen or dining room. … [Read



ArchivesSelect Month March 2020 (2) February 2020 (4) November 2019 (3) October 2019 (1) September 2019 (1) August 2019 (1) July 2019 (2) June 2019 (2) April 2019 (2) January 2019 (1) December 2018 (1) October 2018 (1) July 2018 (1) June 2018 (1) April 2018 (1) March 2018 (1) December 2017 (4) November 2017 (3) October 2017 (4) September 2017 (2) August 2017 (3) July 2017 (2) June 2017 (5) May 2017 (2) April 2017 (1) March 2017 (1) January 2017 (1) December 2016 (4) November 2016 (1) October 2016 (3) September 2016 (4) August 2016 (3) July 2016 (4) June 2016 (3) March 2016 (4) December 2015 (1) November 2015 (1) October 2015 (3) September 2015 (2) August 2015 (1) July 2015 (2) June 2015 (4) May 2015 (3) April 2015 (3) January 2015 (2) December 2014 (1) November 2014 (1) October 2014 (8) September 2014 (2) August 2014 (3) July 2014 (4) June 2014 (2) May 2014 (3) April 2014 (1) March 2014 (1) February 2014 (4) January 2014 (1) October 2013 (1) September 2013 (1) July 2013 (2) June 2013 (4) March 2013 (1) October 2012 (2) August 2012 (2) July 2012 (1) June 2012 (1) May 2012 (2) April 2012 (1) January 2012 (2) December 2011 (1) September 2011 (2) August 2011 (1) March 2011 (1) January 2011 (2) December 2010 (1) October 2010 (1) July 2010 (1) May 2010 (4) April 2010 (2) March 2010 (3) February 2010 (1) January 2010 (2) December 2009 (2) November 2009 (3) October 2009 (2) September 2009 (2) August 2009 (3) July 2009 (3) June 2009 (6) May 2009 (3) April 2009 (3) March 2009 (6) February 2009 (4) January 2009 (4) December 2008 (4) January 2008 (2)


« Feb
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31

An ArtsJournal Blog


Skip to toolbar

Log Out