IT connects us all and has a way of bringing us together, but right now food and eating with family has never been more important.

As lockdown enters its fourth week, with families having more time to sit around the dinner table, it’s the perfect chance to share our memories, even our hopes and dreams.

And no-one knows just how well food can bind us more than restaurateur and deli owner Giovanna Eusebi.

Eusebi and her brother Eddie took over the running of the Glasgow business after their father’s death more than a decade ago. Eddie senior started a fruit and vegetable shop in the east end of the city, which grew gradually into the business now based in Park Road in Woodlands in the west end.

The walls of the restaurant are covered in family photos, and Eusebi talks warmly about her grandparents, who instilled in her a love of good food and the importance of family.

Read more: Recipe: Fabulous Focaccia by Giovanna Eusebi

She has built up the deli which has been recognised with many accolades and awards. However, when lockdown struck it meant all restaurants, cafes, and bars had to close – and there was nothing she could do.

“Closing the restaurant was like ripping away my heart and soul. On the last day seeing the shop boarded up was heartbreaking, but health had to be prioritised,” said Eusebi.

She made her own preparations for lockdown as, with family living through the crisis in Italy, she had some idea of what lay ahead for us in the UK. Eusebi took the decision to move her and her family into her mum Gina’s house for the duration of lockdown.

Her overriding desire to cook for people didn’t diminish just because the restaurant was closed, and it wasn’t long before she found a new way to reach people with her cooking – it meant helping the city’s most vulnerable at the same time.

Eusebi said: “When we closed I ended up cooking for homeless people through a great group called Kindness Homeless Street Team Glasgow. We were being told to stay at home but for some people that wasn’t an option as they didn’t have a home to go to. To begin with I was cooking 60 to 100 meals a day with my mum in a domestic kitchen. I can cook for big numbers but this was a different set-up at home.

“We were given supplies and still had some food left over from when we closed. We had staff asking what they could do so our general manager Michael Prior came up with a rota. We even had customers offering their help and one lady has been making soup and sandwiches once a week. It has been about trying to find positives out of a negative situation.”

Lockdown has thrown families together who may have been leading busy lives, but Eusebi believes this might be a time that people will look back on differently.

She added: “Cooking brings families together round a table. Even in the restaurant you feel it with people coming round tables to connect. And I think as a family we have been given more time to connect. I have been working nights, kids have been at school or college, but I am now with kids for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We are having every meal around a table together.”

Creating meals together and getting the children involved has also been important.

Eusebi added: “My daughter Sophia has been getting involved with squeezing oranges for breakfast and we have been making simple things together such as brownies or pasta. We made a couple of trays of pasta and I dropped one off for a customer.

“I thought I’ve been given the gift to cook so I might as well do some good with it. I dropped a hamper off for one lady and she was so happy as she hadn’t seen anyone for a while and there are so many people like that.”

The Eusebis still have relatives in Italy and had been hearing of restrictions in place before the UK had reached lockdown stage.

Eusebi added: “We have family who run a bakery and they had been operating with social distancing in place and wearing masks before it reached here. And it has made me think how are we going to be to run things when restrictions are lifted.

“The most important thing is to make people feel safe and how we are going to tackle that. What will our place even look like, will we have to have fewer tables? If we are to reduce the number of people who are working at any given time then our menus may be different as well. It is not going to be back to normal for some time so we have to have a safe environment for our staff and customers to come back to. Rethinking things is not a bad thing – it is almost like opening up again for the first time.”

Read more: Coronavirus in Scotland: Nutrition tips and what to eat and drink during lockdown

Eusebi said this experience has also made her think about sustainability even more than usual, and how she can approach things in a way that’s better for the environment. She has even taken to outdoor cooking, setting up a bin-lid barbecue outside.

She added: “In a way we have become disconnected with things like having milk delivered to your door, going to the local fruit shop or fishmonger, and this time is having to make people that bit more resourceful when it comes to food.

“We are quite lucky that most things are available and right now it is the simple things that are the big things and all you really need to start making things is flour, water and yeast.”

* Don't miss Giovanna Eusebi's exclusive lockdown store cupboard feasts in The Herald on Sunday

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