Who could have guessed I'd ever be writing a blogpost about lockdown lessons? The very word lockdown made me uncomfortable for a while, it sounds (and is) so dramatic! But here I am, and in the past forty days, I've only left the house once (for groceries). If you've been following along with my newsletters you'll know a bit more about the ups and downs I've experienced personally and professionally these weeks.
Forty days in, here's what I've learned:
1. Everything is relative
Late last year I went to the hospital with some light pain -- I was 30 weeks pregnant with twins and just wanted to make sure everything was okay. It turned out I was in pre-term labor and was put on strict hospital bed rest for as long as I could last. Two weeks later my water broke naturally and my babies came into the world.
But those two eternal weeks were extremely difficult, physically and emotionally.
So even forty days into quarantine I don't feel claustrophobic (yet). The freedom to walk around the house, use the restroom, type on the computer, cook... these were all taken away from me for those two weeks, and I'll never forget the frustration and anxiety I felt.
Even on my worst days here in lockdown, I give thanks for
- Waking up healthy
- My family waking up healthy
- Waking up to smiling, squirming babies (even if it's at 5am!)
- Seeing the sky (extra points for the sun)
- The flowers starting to bloom on my terrace
- Being able to "take a walk" on the terrace
- Being able to take a hot shower
- Being able to eat (almost) anything I want (our local supermarket has been out of chocolate a couple of times!)
- Being able to work from home (even if not as much as I'd like...)
- Being able to cook delicious food for my family
This is not to say it's been easy. It hasn't. I've had some real downs, I've argued with my husband, I've gotten annoyed with my mother-in-law... but I am keeping in mind that this is only temporary and it's out of our control.
2. Cooking is therapy
Speaking of cooking, I've come to realize it's my therapy. The first few weeks of lockdown my husband and I were having a really hard time balancing childcare and work. Even though my mother-in-law is staying with us, we still struggled to take care of both babies and get anything else done. Not to mention that personal time doesn't really exist. I haven't worked out or opened a book in over half a year.
We now take work shifts each day, and it helps enormously.
But I needed something for myself, and realized that blocking out one hour of cooking a day (8pm-9pm) was a healthy way to disconnect and enjoy the process of preparing a homecooked meal, all while achieving the essential task of feeding the family!
What I've been cooking:
From Spanish classics (my mother-in-law has been showing me some of her traditional recipes) to my go-to family favorites:
- Antonia's Cod, Potatoes & Eggs (one of my favorite MIL meals!)
- Antonia's salmorejo (a trusted classic)
- Antonia's chicken in garlic sauce
- Lot's of tortillas -- like this one with leeks and cheese
Lot's of pasta -- like the Carbonara recipe from the Devour Tours cookbook (info below!)
- Lot's of cakes (who isn't?) like the delicious apple olive oil cake here
What I want to cook:
The following things are on my lockdown wishlist -- we'll see if I get the time to try them!
- Caesar salad
- Marble cake
- Skillet pizza
- Dulce de leche
- Cinnamon rolls
- Southern fried chicken
- Buffalo cauliflower
What's on your wishlist? Any great recipes I must make? Please leave me a comment below!
3. Business is people
If you read my newsletters you'll know that the business I spent the past eight years building has been hit extremely hard by Covid-19. We went to zero sales overnight, had to return hundreds of thousands in refunds, and had to lay off most of our 26 person staff team. We've also seen the people we care about and who make our business great suffer -- our tour guides, restaurant partners, and travel partners.
It is truly heartbreaking and surreal to find ourselves in this situation, and we are working really hard to survive and adapt to the new reality in front of us.
The silver lining is that crisis spurs creativity, and in the past few weeks our small team has embraced the fact that we need to change and try new things.
- Written a cookbook
- Started an online shop
- Offered online tours & experiences
All of what we are doing is possible because we are surrounded by amazing, talented, passionate, and simply GOOD people. Our staff, guides, partners, travel agents, tour guests, writers, videographers, marketing specialists... everyone in our orbit is special. And that's what makes Devour Tours so great.
Check out a video our amazing videographer sent over as a surprise for us!
Here's what our team has been working on, in spite of the odds stacked against us!
Introducing... Recipes From the Devour Tours Kitchen!
It is with great pride and excitement that I present the
. Devour Tours Cookbook
We knew from the beginning that we wanted to fight to keep the lights on. We knew that the future would look different, but as long as we could unite people around our mission to share food and culture we would be okay... and we decided that the first way to do that would be a digital cookbook with our favorite traditional recipes.
My team and I have put together a truly special compilation of recipes in order to share our cities with you, wherever you may be.
The final digital book includes 52 of our favorite traditional recipes from our tour cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, San Sebastian, Rome, Paris, Lisbon, and London. You'll find things like my favorite spinach and chickpeas recipe, and the famous carbonara recipe I've been perfecting in my own kitchen.
Fun Foodie Merchandise -- Perfect to Gift
We've had requests for our signature Devour Tours t-shirts and tote bags for years now, but it was a project that always got pushed aside. We finally went full steam ahead and created
our very own online shop, complete with not only our signature items, but also fun food-themed shirts from each of our cities. We ship worldwide and they make a great gift!
Online Tours & Experiences
I'll admit - at first I was skeptical of bringing our experiences online. The in-person connection is such a huge part of what we do!
But once I started thinking about these experiences as something completely different than our walking tours, it clicked.
Wouldn't it be great to take a crash course online experience before you travel and ask a local expert all of your questions? What about keeping up with the culture, food, and language of a place you've visited by taking online cooking classes after your trip?
Whether you are dreaming of travel again and craving discovery, or simply want to reconnect with a destination and your local guide after loving a past trip, our new Devour Tours Online Experiences are the perfect way to escape and continue devouring, keeping you connected no matter where you are.
We started by offering a free daily live event, including things like a tortilla masterclass, a Semana Santa lesson and torrijas cooking demo, and a French cheese masterclass.
This week (April 20-25) we have:
For now, all of our events have been free and informal, hosted on Facebook or Instagram Live. They've been super successful and fun, and we will continue to offer them weekly. You can also see replays here.
But we're also about to launch some paid classes, tours, and seminars.
These will be valuable, expert-led cooking classes, food and wine masterclasses, tastings, and more. We'll organize these experiences for open sign-ups, private groups of friends and families, and even teams working from remote. Our own passionate team of guides and tour partners will be featured, and these experiences will help support us all during these difficult times.
Have an idea for an experience you'd like to take? Send me an email!
Keep up with our latest online food and drink experiences here.
4. Scrappy is fun
Eight years ago Devour Tours was born in a recession, in large part to help support and showcase local businesses that were struggling. It was born from a need to be creative and think outside the box when I had no other options, and from long nights of figuring things out, learning new skills, and a bit of a "fake it til you make it" attitude.
And now in many ways, I am brought back to that time. A time where the future is uncertain and risk is essential to make big things happen.
And that's exciting. I wouldn't wish the current situation on anyone, but another silver lining is the creativity and innovation that will emerge. The scrappiness of a startup is something I thrive on, and I look forward to making an impact with my work, even though it will be very different than what I had in mind at the start of the year.
How are you all coping with the lockdown situation where you are? I hope everyone is well. Please take care, eat well, and stay safe!