Cooking My Way Through Lockdown

On Women’s Day, 8th March, 2020, my husband, Tom, and I went out to lunch with friends. We were surprised to find that we were the only customers in the restaurant. A special Women’s Day lunch, with a piano player and general celebration had been planned, but, with Covid-19 threatening, it transpired that we were the only group of people there. We had the place to ourselves and found it slightly surreal.

Two days later Italy went into full lockdown. I, personally, was terrified. Was I going to get this mysterious virus? Would I die? My anxiety levels were through the roof. My sleep pattern was all over the place, I couldn’t get stuck into reading more than leafing through a glossy magazine, nor could I write a word of my new book.  It was as though my brain had frozen. To be honest, I am not the calmest person on the planet at the best of times, but the feeling of being stalked by an unknown enemy was deeply challenging.

First of all, I turned to Netflix for solace and watched TV series after TV series for several weeks. Then I calmed down a bit, began to read again and actually managed to finish writing my book, which will be out next April/May called “In the Shadow of the Olive Tree”, a follow-up to my previous novel “The Blonde in the Gondola”..

In the meantime, I had a hungry husband to feed, a true foodie, who was keen for me to try to produce a different dish every evening in order to entertain and titillate our Facebook friends. Having nothing else to do at that point, other than binge-watch Netflix, I complied happily and Tom posted my culinary offerings almost every evening on his popular post, which goes by the name of “What’s Burning Tonight.” I went by the name of “Chef Double O”.

I am not a professional cook, not at all. I am someone who spent many years cooking in bulk for four children with healthy appetites and have never thought too deeply about the subject of food, other than its nutritional value. Certainly, there was not a whole lot of variety and making it look pretty never crossed my mind. However, all that was about to change.

So, here’s how it went: I would try to create a dish I had never cooked before. Then, as it was nearing completion, I would call Tom and he would hurry to the kitchen, poised to photograph whatever was bubbling on the stove-top or steaming in a dish.

When I would serve it, Tom would take several photographs, while it – from time to time – got so cold that he had to reheat it. By then, I would often have finished eating. Such dedication!

In May we had artichokes and I learned how to prepare them and tried out several dishes. Artichoke lasagna and fettucine, steamed, grilled, in risotto – you name it, it had artichokes on board.

In August our two fig trees provided bountiful fruit which I made into quiches, with brie or blue cheese, cakes, crostata and jam. We dried them and froze them and ate them straight off the trees. They were unbelievably delicious.

Here are a few of Tom’s and my photos of some of the many dishes I tried out over that period and some from later on too.

I even froze tarragon and basil for winter in our very own olive oil.

Tom and I have remained in our own bubble since March and have no plans to begin eating out or mixing with family or friends until this terrible virus has been brought under control. Luckily, we have the beautiful countryside of the Itrian Valley of Puglia around us, where we can walk the trails through the olive groves, keeping ourselves fit and healthy.

Orna O’Reilly

Ostuni, Puglia.


9 thoughts on “Cooking My Way Through Lockdown

    • Full marks for dedication and for all your culinary suggestions….quite apart from eating everything and being kind enough not to photograph the few disasters along the way! 😘

  1. So many of us have been enjoying the “What’s Burning Tonight” Facebook photos and have been extremely impressed with Chef Double-O’s cooking skills. Kudos to you for night after night making such interesting, delicious dishes. You faced off the lockdown and came out a winner. All the best for your continued health and culinary triumphs!

    • Thank you Karen. Having to find something different to cook every evening for more than 60 days put me to the pin of my collar, I can tell you! Quite a challenge. The best part is that it’s forced me out of my “old favourites” type of cooking and made me aware of how many great dishes I never knew were possible. No going back now! 😊

  2. So “What’s Burning Tonight” is on FB? Drat. I’ve basically left FB and am living happily FB-free. I’ll have to consider popping in just to see what burning…er, cooking. From the photos I have to think that Tom has gain a zillion pounds, yet I saw him trim as usual in his latest fly-by post, so I know that’s not true. Seriously, everything sounds yummy. We love artichokes but never see the small ones that can just be cooked as is.

    When my sister-in-law and brother-in-law lived in Provence, our younger daughter visited once and made the most delicious fig jam from, I believe, a Georgeanne Brennan recipe. By “the most delicious”, I’m in no way denigrating what you made. 🙂 I’m drooling just thinking about it. It also makes me happy that you’ve made a blog appearance, even though it makes me realize I need to up my cooking game.

    Much love,


    • Thank you Janet. It’s been a challenging year and I’m glad Tom got me going with lots of new culinary suggestions. I became very keen as time went by, dreaming up food combinations and reading recipes on line. I haven’t been blogging for months, as we can’t travel right now with all the restrictions and I had no new places to photograph and write about. I’m glad you enjoyed reading about Tom’s and my kitchen adventures! It’s been fun. 😊

  3. Hello Orna, Roberta from San Diego, California here. I love your spirit! Pulia is a long way from England. What a sense of adventure you and your husband have. I loved your telling of your olive trees and your first olive oil! Cooking is a great artistic and useful endeavor during Covid. Puglia is similar in weather to our San Diego area so we too are outdoors a lot. Our area is also very tourist dependent so the economy is suffering tremendously. Now the vaccine is just weeks away. It will be interesting how this plays out. Talk of vaccines in Italy? Cheers!

    • Hi Roberta. Thank you for your nice comment. I have never been to San Diego, but if its climate is similar to that of Puglia, then it must be lovely. As regards Covid vaccine, here in Europe our schedule is similar to that in the US and we hope to receive our shots early next year and look forward to being able to move around freely, see our family and friends and begin to resume normal life once more. Orna

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