Lucy Corry’s Blog: The power of comfort food

As the world panic-buys and self-isolates, Lucy Corry switches on her oven in an effort to spread the love. 

Once upon a time, when the world was a kinder, gentler place, there was an accepted course of action if someone you knew was sick, recently bereaved or just going through a tough time. All you did was turn on your oven, or pull out your crockpot, and cook up a useful, tangible sign that you cared.

Whether it was a batch of scones or a tureen of chicken soup, it showed that you had their best interests at heart.

My brother-in-law says money is the gift of love but in times of trouble, a meal you haven’t had to think about is even better. I know this from experience. When I was a new mother, my lovely friend Ann saved my life on numerous occasions. She’d text me at night to say that she’d drop off a food parcel on her way to work the next morning, but that I wasn’t to come to the door or feel like I had to make conversation after being awake all night.

It was like having an incredibly thoughtful fairy godmother who made amazing muesli, cake and quiche – all food that could be eaten one-handed while rocking a baby. Obviously, the deliciousness of the food was important (her muesli is next-level), the kindness of the gesture was what really nourished me. It’s still enough to make me want to cry with gratitude more than a decade later.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this in recent weeks as the headlines are full of stories of panic-buying at supermarkets as people prepare to self-isolate against Covid-19 or various other disasters. I know being prepared is important, but couldn’t we all just help each other out a bit too? No one wants to get sick, but you can’t catch anything from dropping off a food parcel at someone’s front door, can you? Some days I fear that the greatest risk to our collective wellbeing is hysteria and a widespread shortage of commonsense.

When life gives you lemons, make a lemon and date cake for your neighbours?

Of course, you don’t have to only cook to comfort people you know well (though it’s probably a good place to start). One of the most heartening things about a former workplace was how people rallied around to fill a dinner delivery roster for a colleague whose wife was receiving cancer treatment. On a slightly more removed level, I’m proud to be a member of Good Bitches Baking, the volunteer organisation that’s delivered more than 700,000 ‘moments of sweetness’ since its inception nearly six years ago.

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Good Bitches Baking, whose founders have been recognised by the Prime Minister and the Governor-General, started out of a genuine belief in the power of cake to make life seem a little bit brighter. With more than 2300 members around the country, there’s bound to be a GBB chapter in your area. If not, there’s nothing stopping you from starting one up.

Saving the world through cake

If baking’s not your bag but you make a mean pot of meatballs or a locally-famous lasagne, Bellyful might be a better fit. Bellyful cooks and delivers meals to families with newborn babies or those with sick kids who have little in the way of family or social support. Volunteers have monthly ‘cookathons’ where they prepare freezer-friendly dinners and deliver them to families in need over the following weeks.

If you’d like to help either of these organisations out but you’re a walking kitchen nightmare, they’re always keen for volunteers with other skills. If you’re a bit short on those but you’ve got a lovely fat wallet, they’re very grateful for cash too.

If you’re not blessed with either culinary skills or pots of money, you can still make a difference. The next time you’re panic-buying loo roll and soap, consider putting a few extra treats in your shopping trolley for your local food bank (my mother used to say the best thing to put in a food bank bin was chocolate biscuits or other treats, a theory endorsed by food poverty researcher Rebekah Graham).

Few of us are medical experts, but we can all help lighten the load in our communities. If you want the world to be a better place, start in your own kitchen (but don’t forget to wash your hands first).

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