The term is not a favourite of mine, yet I have personally learnt a good deal from the “new normal”.Our needs are less, I am grateful for every day and small things. In “level one” we have more freedom, yet we have consciously decided not to take chances.
However, to get our lives back we need to catch up with friends and enjoy the company and a good meal. So we still need to apply the rules. As such, we have kept our meals to small groups.
This year, many of us will be looking forward to getting our social lives back on track. And often, there’s no better way to spend time catching up with friends and family than with good conversation over some delicious food and drinks. Yet we will still not be hosting large groups and instead have opted to have meals where we invite a single friend or a couple. Whichever way we go it still requires a good deal of planning. The first thing we do is set a date and get it into the friend’s diary. People are enjoying their newfound freedom, “spur of the moment” does not work. I have found it difficult to meet a friend to share a glass of wine. When it suited me he was in the Kruger National park with his wife. We have also found that simple is better and are enjoying uncomplicated meals. Meals as simple as kebabs with salad, homemade fishcakes and even a spaghetti dish. During winter we will make hearty soups served with fresh bread and some cheese as an accompaniment. Special treats and bread would come from a nearby deli. It’s all about the company and the chatter as we catch up.
If you picnic with friends in one of our green belts take simple things like crusty bread, wraps, homemade quiche or pies, served with a green salad. Add in a side of olives and a dip or hummus. Plan your menu, although it is simple you will want to be sure that you have all the ingredients on the day. Don’t forget the shopping list.
Other easy sides could be a potato salad, biscuits with cheese, or even nuts and crisps.
Our friends are not fussy drinkers so we have plenty of sparkling water and red wine. I often make a cold “rooibos tea” with sparkling water, honey, mint and lemon, it goes down well in hot weather.
Soft drinks include organic lemonade or homemade ginger beer. Generally, our friends bring a dish of their own as well as something to drink. And don’t forget the ice.
Deserts are simple, normally a vegan cake with vegan ice cream, everyone loves the combination. The devil is in the detail, you need to cover items such as crockery, cutlery, glasses and serving trays. Add in bowls as well as a suitable board for the bread and cheese. I am currently drawing up a checklist for future use to make planning much simpler.
You can also prepare many of the ingredients the day before to make the process easier. Salads I only do on the day to ensure that they are not soggy. Soups I freeze, which reduces preparation time and allows space to prepare the rest of the meal. Salad dressings are prepared beforehand, which allows the individual ingredients to infuse with the oil and vinegar. Set up a small table for serving and get the crockery, cutlery, etc., out the night before. We use our camping plates and cutlery which minimises the risk of breakages. Wine is served in normal glasses.
I pay attention to bugs and usually light a burner with some citronella oil. I also find that bugs are not fond of lavender, mint and rosemary so I occasionally place a bowl of herbs as a centrepiece on the table. Drinks are dispensed by flasks or bottles so as not to attract bees or other bugs.
We watch the weather and have moved many a picnic to the back garden. We prefer this as there is easy access to the kitchen and facilities and our pets join us. It’s crucial to adhere to social distancing requirements wherever you may be. The ability to be with friends and dine outdoors is a treat and a privilege. Have fun, enjoy the food and the company, there has never been a better time to catch up!