Home cooking warms hearts during lonely days of lockdown

Published: The Age
Topic: Coronavirus

Angela Maglieri prepares a plate of scones. Photo: Joe Armao

Most weekends Angela Maglieri bakes a batch of scones for two single neighbours who live in her South Yarra apartment block.

She walks down the hall, knocks on their doors and hands them a plate of fluffy scones, topped with a dollop of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, she has added meals to the menu and now wears a mask for deliveries.

"One woman is 78. The other woman is 95 and she hasn’t been out of her apartment since March because of the risk," Maglieri says.

"It’s not so much about the food itself as it is about having a chat at the doorway and letting them know that I’m here if they need anything. I always bring my puppy for extra company too."

With many feeling disconnected after the introduction of strict stage four restrictions, Maglieri is one of many using food as a way to stay connected with Melbourne’s older population.

"I grew up in an Italian family and we shared so many emotions and experiences over food," she says.

"Whether it was a celebration or in the event someone passed away, we would always get together for a meal.

"Food was always the centre of everything we did, so it’s natural for me that in a time like this cooking would be my way to connect with people."

On Wednesday, she made a double batch of lentil soup to share with the two women, adding a little less spice than usual to suit her neighbours' tastes.

Angela Maglieri says she always brings her puppy when she visits her neighbours. Photo: Joe Armao

"They’re always very grateful," she says. "My 95-year-old neighbour has family drop food off as well. She can’t go for walks because of the [COVID-19] risk, so our visits help add a bit of variety to her day."

Kate Wengier, a dietician and founder of FOOST, a social enterprise that supports healthy eating, also sees the power of food as a way to stay connected during lockdown.

Wengier supported Boroondara City Council as it launched an online cooking class for children and grandparents who can no longer visit each other due to the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The sessions are live, so children can have a direct connection with their grandparents while they both work together to cook vegetable-filled sausage rolls, pizzas or Vegemite and cheese scrolls in their own homes.

Susie White on her balcony at her Hawthorn East apartment. Photo: Joe Armao

Susie White, 70, joined the first class in May. She cooked in her home in Hawthorn, while two of her grandchildren joined from Lower Plenty and Ascot Vale.

"Being able to do an activity with my grandchildren was really a fantastic feeling," White says.

"Sometimes when you just Zoom family you run out of things to say but having something doable like cooking makes it feel like quality time.

"You can build stories into it the same way you might around the dinner table."

Angela Maglieri says it is also about having a chat at the doorway and letting them know that she's there if they need anything. Photo: Joe Armao

Wengier says the classes have also connected Boroondara’s elderly residents with grandchildren that live interstate.

"I think this could be an opportunity to continue connecting families that live apart from each other even beyond lockdowns," she says.

The third series of the classes will run during the September school holidays. More information here.

© JB 2020