My new best lockdown pal is Alison Roman the carefree cook from Los Angeles, writes ALEXANDRA SHULMAN (pictured)
My new lockdown friend is an American chef and social-media star called Alison Roman. If our sultry, curvaceous Nigella is the Elizabeth Taylor of the culinary scene, Los Angeles-born Alison, 35, is the Taylor Swift.
With her jaunty ponytail, red lipstick, and ‘who cares?’ self-deprecating shrugs, she is despised by large numbers of foodies for being too ‘girl next door’ and too pedestrian in her cooking. I, though, can’t get enough of her.
I love the way she has a tiny kitchen (in Brooklyn, where she’s now based) which I know is really hers and not a studio set because I’ve seen a video tour of it, complete with freestanding cooker and spider plants.
She sloshes olive oil over everything she cooks, which is fine by me, doesn’t bother to peel shallots and, by the way, her recipes are utterly delicious.
Since we’re currently deprived of pretty well any possibility of making new friends, figures like Alison have become substitutes.
Naturally it’s a bit of a one-way relationship but at least social media allows us to share our opinions with them, although not always that kindly, as Alison recently discovered when some comments she made about model Chrissy Teigen and tidying guru Marie Kondo were blown into the usual ghastly Twitter tempest.
These days it’s safer to stick to the chicken with caramelised dates and lemon than have an opinion on anyone.
It’s not just social-media personalities who have become just as much a part of our lives as actual friends over the past year.
Who doesn’t feel they have a familiarity of sorts with Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam (JVT, as we feel able to call him) after seeing him so often on the daily Covid briefings? He’ll get his own show when this whole thing’s over.
He’s not just some dry old stick giving us the bad news on virus numbers. He’s someone who tells us about his mum (who calls him Jonny) having the jab.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Social media’s 35-year-old Los Angeles-born cookery star Alison Roman (pictured)
Roman is my current best lockdown friend – as everyone knows you can only have one bestie at a time – but there’s also author Marian Keyes, who’s been giving matey fiction classes on Instagram, and psychological counsellor and grief expert Julia Samuel, who offers an almost daily chat, overflowing with empathy and practicality, from her cosy sitting room.
The common thread is that while these are, of course, professional performances, they feel warm, human and fallible, just like a FaceTime chat – only without the bad video link and you can always switch them off. Something most of us have often wished we could do with a real friend.
The vaccine is well worth sweating for
As a lucky postcode winner, I got my AstraZeneca jab a week ago even though I am under 65. Straight afterwards, I headed off for a walk with one of those real-life friends who asked me how I was feeling.
I said I was absolutely fine. Nothing to it. What a brilliant experience the whole thing was. I was even a tiny bit thrilled that a man in army fatigues wielded the needle.
My friend answered that she’d thought the same when she had hers and then a few hours later was in bed, feeling awful for 48 hours.
I smugly thought no such thing would happen to me – side effects are for losers – but, hey-ho, by midnight I was in the grip of a nasty fever and spent the whole of the next day shivering and sweating.
I only mention this because had I not been warned, I probably wouldn’t have known what was happening and might have been worried. The briefing note I was given warned of possible side effects but then so does a packet of Nurofen, which I pay little attention to.
We’re all so delighted to be vaccinated that the prevalence of side effects is definitely downplayed, and though I’m definitely not a member of Sage, anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that the younger you are, the more likely you are to have them.
Still, a tiny price to pay for a return to normal life.
It’s not all gloom among the tombs
A curious consequence of the pandemic is the popularity of cemeteries as favoured alternatives to the parks.
My boyfriend is a fan of our local, Paddington Old Cemetery. The other day he came across the tombstone of Cuthbert Ottaway. Who he? Turns out he was the devilishly handsome first-ever captain of the England football team as well as an excellent cricketer and barrister.
But he died aged 27 of a respiratory disease. Not an early Covid victim but instead never recovering from a chill he caught one night dancing with his wife.
Anne will drive you to an early grave…
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: Anne Robinson (pictured) will no doubt carry out her duties as the first female host of Countdown in her usual indomitable way
Anne Robinson will no doubt carry out her duties as the first female host of Countdown in her usual indomitable way. Very little fazes her.
Annie came to stay with us a few years back in Italy and, after a week where she added greatly to the gaiety of nations, she volunteered to drive one of the cars back to Naples airport.
I will never forget the sight of Annie, huge sunhat pushed down over her huge sunglasses, her face only appearing a few inches above the dashboard of the tiny Fiat, bravely setting off to do battle with the notoriously combative Italian traffic.
Nor will her passenger – as she revealed to him on a hairpin bend that it was the first time she’d driven a manual car in decades.
The poor chap was convinced he was breathing his last every time the gears ground into yet another terrifying stall on each autostrada interchange.
Regency romantic who really had a ball
As anyone worth their horse-drawn phaeton knows, Bridgerton is an 18th-rate version of best- selling English novelist Georgette Heyer, so I’m delighted to see Heyer’s Regency romances getting true recognition this week. Heyer: A Century Spent Having A Ball is being sold as an online event to celebrate the centenary of her first book, The Black Moth, and 50 audiobooks of her stories are being released. Gadzooks!
I’ve no tea towels – but I iron dishcloths
QUESTION: Is a dishcloth the same as a tea towel? I only ask because Kirstie Allsopp, in her inimitable way, has managed to stir up a debate on whether you should iron the latter.
I have dishcloths, at least that’s what I’ve always called them. And yes, I do iron them.