Adam Edwards: The Cotswolds’ new Ice Age
PUBLISHED: 12:34 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:34 27 April 2020
‘The freezers are full to bursting, but why does no-one ever consume the contents?’
My daughter, with whom I’m self-isolating, was designated to do the weekly supermarket shop. She queued at the Cirencester Waitrose, social distancing from her neighbouring shoppers, to buy the basics. As she was leaving she picked up a receipt dropped by a previous customer that recorded the purchase of a single item – a packet of Smints. How she laughed. “Who is stupid enough to queue for hours and hours to buy a single packet of breath-freshening mints?” she asked.
“You don’t know your Cotswolds,” I said. “This is the First World’s first world.” The well-heeled Smints customer, I explained, had no need to buy such life-saving necessities as sourdough loaves or packets of Halloumi because she will have a brace of freezers and a regular Ocado delivery slot. She could probably survive a siege longer than that of Mafeking and still not have need to resort to her out-of-date tinned chickpeas or ageing packet of Uncle Ben’s rice. Her shopping trip was, rather, to stave off the boredom of self-isolating.
In my valley, which is overflowing with weekenders, there is no house that doesn’t have a freezer the size of a shipping container or a larder better stocked than Fortnum & Mason. The extraordinary thing is that nobody consumes the victuals.
My friend Hugh, for example, is a keen shot. At the end of any shooting day he is the first to grab a brace of pheasants ‘for the freezer’. And yet in the 20 years of knowing the man and visiting him for various lunches and dinners I have never been offered pheasant and he has never said to me that he has dined on the game bird. Another friend frequently shops at Daylesford Organic Farm, which like many supermarkets has a set of shelves for reduced items. Whenever she goes to the shop she picks up a couple of ‘bargains’ – despite the word being an oxymoron when coupled with the name Daylesford – and puts them in her freezer ‘for emergencies’. That emergency has yet to happen.
As if to prove this is a truism, the week before the UK was put into quarantine my partner said to me that we wouldn’t starve because both her freezers were full. She opened one to show me the bulging innards and the smell was appalling – it had been moved nine months earlier and because it hadn’t been opened since the move nobody noticed it had not been plugged in. In fairness she is not alone in this madness of stocking the freezer full and then ignoring it. Some years ago I bought a supermarket leg of lamb, priced as a loss leader in the weeks leading up to Easter, and bunged it into the deep freeze. I forgot it was there. And then in January I finally dug it out for Sunday lunch. It tasted not of roast lamb but of old carpet despite my having embellished it with rosemary, garlic and anchovies. It had, I was assured, freezer burn.
My store cupboards are similarly frozen in time. In the top shelf of my kitchen cupboard are two large cans of corned beef that I bought in about 2010 after a bloke in the army told me the tinned meat was delicious with a fried egg and lashings of Tabasco, but I was never quite sure whether or not he had been pulling my leg, so I thought discretion is the better part of valour and I squirrelled them away. Then there are the three unopened jars of home-made chutney given to me by my brother-in-law for various Christmases in the noughties, the tins of coconut milk for the homemade curries that I have been planning to make for years, bags of long grain rice that I don’t know how to cook, and who knows when or why I bought the tins of chicken chow mein.
However, coronavirus and self-isolating has not encouraged me to touch any of the above. In fact, I am less likely to defrost a pheasant breast or gamble on the corned beef because I like the occasional trip to the corner shop. I suspect one of the survivors of the pandemic will ironically be the full freezer and bulging pantry because during these dark days an essential journey to buy a chicken leg or two stops insanity – so too does queuing for a packet of Smints.
Contact Adam Edwards: email@example.com / @cotswoldhack