Friday, March 20, 2020

Sour - Mark Diacono

What a difference a week makes. So far Leicester city centre has been reasonably calm and getting fresh food hasn’t been a problem, but panic buying is spreading so that might change. The current situation is not encouraging, and seems designed to promote panic, uncertainty, and anxiety.

Meanwhile there’s rightly a lot about the heroism of NHS staff which is fully deserved, but not quite as much celebration of people working in supermarkets. This was my job for a decade, I know how physically demanding it is, how badly paid, how little respect employees get, and how important for all our comfort and well being.

I don’t really know what to do at the moment. For now I have the luxury of being able to stay at home, my redundancy payment will see me through for a while yet, and I’m diabetic which makes me vulnerable to this virus. On the other hand I could probably walk into a job in Tesco round the corner for the next few months which would be a financial relief because once that redundancy has gone I have nothing and long term the job situation is looking - well who knows, but it’s hard to be optimistic.

The supermarkets are recruiting like mad, and as far as I can see the people who will take those jobs are either doing it because they want to help the rest of us get food on the table, or because they have no choice but to put themselves in a role that will make social distancing really hard. All for something close to minimum wage. I think this is a fairly big deal which deserves even more attention than it’s getting.

And now to ‘Sour’. Mark Diacono is a brilliant food writer - warm, engaging, interesting, and inspiring in equal measure. Reading ‘Sour’ has been a pleasure, never mind cooking from it. It’s another book that’s been great at expanding my idea of what I might want to cook and eat. It’s also got a lot of information about fermenting and pickling in it.

That’s a whole lot of help in how to make the best of the food you have and cut down on waste. It’s also the chance to master what would be a new kitchen skill for me (fermenting) which is something I  can look forward too. Which I need right now in the interests of good mental health, and I assume there’s quite a lot of us in the same boat.

Perhaps even more than the practical elements of the book though is it’s tone. Reading it feels like having a friend in the room with you. It’s full of funny anecdotes about more or less everyday things and memories. Fiction is great to get lost in, but books like this are company in an entirely different, and very helpful, way.


  1. Hm - hard choices there, Hayley. Whatever you decide, take good care of yourself. Everything changes so fast! I cannot believe that it's only a week since Belgium started implementing special measures, it seems months ago!

    Supermarket workers are indeed unsung heroes (but if you do decide to work there, check the stuff about sick leave closely as anecdotally some workers have been finding it hard to take time off when they fall ill). I have a friend who is flat out at the moment working in the local Aldi.

    There are other heroes too! Public transport workers, dust men, cleaners spring to mind. And somewhere civil servants are desperately working on systems to get money to businesses and workers who need it, that can't be easy either. And I'm sure there are more people who could be added to that list.

  2. Yes, all those people and more. Any supermarket work would be 0 hours temping so there would be no sick leave as far as I’m aware. You’re right about how fast things are changing, Yesterday left me feeling overwhelmed but I hope I’ve got better perspective today, and I’ve decided to try and take the weekend off from worry and listening to the news. Monday will be time enough for that.

    1. Yes, the news can definitely feed anxiety, I can get a bit hysterical if I spend too much time on the Guardian live feed.

      There's a lot to adapt to in a short space of time, isn't there? And so much uncertainty. But here's a good news story if you're up to it:

      I hope you feel better soon and that your travel & cookery books hit the spot.

    2. Back on an even keel today. Reading and knitting has worked it's magic.

  3. It is a worrying time, I find myself waking up with my teeth clenched which can't be good.

    Like you, I am finding it difficult to achieve a balance, some days I have it and then it can go in the blink of an eye. I won't read or listen to news, just in case it floors me totally but bits of it do seep in. Do take care of yourself, keep on knitting and reading.