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IF WE STOP (10) // Zahra Dallilah & Julie Tomlin

In a series of numbered written dialogues Call Centre correspondents Zahra Dallilah and Julie Tomlin respond to their own prompt: If we stop: Flourishing. Nourishment. Lockdown.


One Sunday when we were preparing lunch we ran out of cucumbers. I walked to the walled garden, made my way into the polytunnel and picked a large one that was ripe for eating. On the way back I picked some dandelion leaves and plantain to mix in the salad. We sat and ate in the sunshine, marvelling at how exceptional everything tasted - tomatoes, lettuce, that cucumber, all picked that morning. Someone said she thought the salad ingredients looked surprised, but happy, to be together.

Life in London seems clunky.

I’m not used to the routines that have been devised to ensure that we stay removed from one another, that germs don’t spread. I went to pick up the vegetable bag that is delivered weekly to a nearby pub and the woman whose job it was to tick off the people who collected them was sitting on a deckchair outside, which seemed like a good fix. But we couldn’t order food at the pub because we didn’t have the app.

I struggled with buying food, cooking and eating after Mark died. I couldn’t remember what I liked, couldn’t connect with the routine of shopping for it, preparing it, making meals to eat alone. I walked out of supermarkets several times because I became overwhelmed with the words, the labels, the images. I only started to make sense of food again when I started to think about nourishment, when I started to buy fresh food and cook it from scratch, when I started helping out on my neighbour’s allotment.

Life can be so enchanting; the lover’s kiss, a meal in the sunshine that nourishes every part of us, folds us into something greater than just the function of eating.

Image: Andrew Wilson


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