News

What got me through lockdown? Sharing pork belly with the next-door neighbours | Jay Rayner

Swapping missing ingredients and spare custard tarts over the garden wall made difficult times a little easier to live withTrue neighbourliness is a single onion sitting on a garden wall. It’s a nub end of ginger or a roll of greaseproof paper. Over the past year, all of these things and more besides have loitered on the old brick wall that separates our garden from that of our lovely neighbours, Marc and Elvira. The pandemic has written many narratives around food: there have been community projects to make meals for those in need, and schemes to keep frontline healthcare workers fed during long shifts. But alongside the big arching themes are the more intimate stories of people simply finding ways to bring moments of joy into the flatline of lockdown. When I eventually look back at it all I know it will be the story of our garden wall, and the part it played in how we ate, that will make me smile the most.Before Covid-19 we would, of course, knock occasionally on each other’s doors and ask to borrow a missing ingredient. We discovered shortly after they moved in a few years ago that our new neighbours were as up for a cooking project as we were. Marc once showed me a picture of a suckling pig on his phone, like he’d been offered a hot motor, and asked me if I fancied going halves. He’s that sort of man. (His name suggests he might be French, doesn’t it? He isn’t. He’s from Exmouth.) Marc and Elvira could always be relied upon to have what we did not and vice vera. Plus, we were all impeccable neighbours. We replaced whatever we had borrowed. Have a couple of onions back. Here’s your lemon.Suddenly there was a WhatsApp message. Would we like some pavlova? Yes please. It’s on the wall Continue reading…