One of the strangest impacts for us of the Covid-19 pandemic is the rapid change to our trading pattern. One minute we are a traditional country inn serving real ales, pub food and fine wines. Then overnight we have morphed into a takeaway/ delivery outfit.
We realised very early on that many in our local community were struggling to source basics like flour, yeast, pasta and rice (also not forgetting the dire initial shortages of loo rolls!). After checking with our own suppliers that they could provide us with these items (at least in bulk), we decided to step in and add them to our inventory of 'take away' items. This was not as simple as it first seemed. For example, the strong bread flour arrives to us in 25 kg sacks. There are probably very few Oddingtonians who can get through 25 kg of strong bread flour (though now I say that, some are coming close!), so we needed to pack into smaller bags for onward sale to our customers.
Many evenings you might find either Norman or me lugging big sacks of flour from the store room to the kitchen, weighing 500 g or 1 kg bags of 'white stuff', sealing and labelling the bags and packing them into brown paper bags with other staples such as milk, eggs, sugar, fruit and veg, snacks, wine and - not forgetting - fresh ale in 2 pint milk bottles. Norm has even taken to making his own sausages!
This change to our activities has, at times, led to some quite funny and furtive telephone calls, such as the one from a caller which went something like this..
- "Hello, I hear from a, ahem, friend, that you have... strong bread flour and yeast. Is this true? I've tried to find it everywhere but can't get any. Can you help me, I've an urgent need and I can travel to collect it from you today"- (the caller was in Banbury!)
I now know how a drug dealer feels! Yeast has literally become like gold dust. We've sold kilos and kilos of the stuff in 35 g pots. Our supplier has now got suspicious of our motives and is trying to cut off our supplies! If they do we might need to go into serious rehab! We've had people travel miles to collect it from us, and I've been asked to post pots of yeast to far-flung reaches of the country. I'm paranoid that at any moment we will be busted by the drugs squad following reports of 'white powder' being dealt to the public from the pub under the cover of a takeaway food service.
All I can think of though are the mountains of bread and cakes that have been created by folk around here as a result of all this flour, yeast, eggs and butter that have passed through the pub doors into the local community. We'd love to see photos of the results (successes and failures). We may even include the best ones in our next blog...
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