Saturday 22 October 2016

Home work still work

Working from home is quite a splendid thing, according to Sophie White, until YouTube holds you to ransom and you can't stop compulsively snacking as 'research'

Published 22/06/2015 | 02:30

Fresh basil leaves
Fresh basil leaves
Sophie White

I worked from home for most of the past year and a half. I'm not going to lie to you, it was great. People who work from home tend to try and claim that it's not. This is a natural response to the rampant scepticism people invariably express when you tell them you work from home.

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"I work from home," is usually met with a scoff and a "yeah . . . 'work'." This is why home-workers go to such lengths to pretend it is in some way bad or horrible. We say stuff like, "It's hard, you feel isolated" or "I'm working in a vacuum, I just wish I had someone to bounce ideas off." Total bullshit.

Working from home is not hard. Twice weekly, I could declare the day to be a research day. I write about food, so you can imagine what such days might entail. As for feeling isolated? Bah, I felt protected. Offices are rife with politics and people we don't like. My house is full of soft furnishings and snacks.

The 'working in a vacuum' bit is kind of where the danger lies. We get our inspiration from our interactions with others, so when one is alone for eight hours a day, one has to seek inspiration - or 'inspo' as some irritatingly insist on calling it nowadays - from other sources. For this, we have the internet. A quick dip into the web can throw up grist for anybody working from home.

However, we all know that no dip into the internet is quick. At this stage, we've all lost years of our lives, cumulatively, to that thing. Everyone has their own deep web weakness. Himself can rarely escape the grasp of without being physically rescued. While I often fall prey to YouTube movie-trailer binges.

For anyone who hasn't succumbed to the YTMT binge, here's how it starts. Someone says the trailer for the new Jurassic Park is out and, obviously, you rush to YouTube to view it. Just a satisfying two-minute interlude before getting back to work. At the end of the trailer, YouTube, in quite a presumptuous move, just starts playing the next trailer it thinks you will enjoy. So you watch that too. Then it is six hours later, and you're late for the childminder.

Sadly, people don't acknowledge the fact that, when working from home, you have to exert a monumental amount of self control. You have to refrain from eating round the clock. You have to resist watching endless clips from SNL and episodes of New Girl.

For a time, listening to the radio and audio books was an acceptable form of procrastination - I could do it as long as I still made the appearance of being productive, ie cleaning or testing recipes - but then the This American Life podcast made listening too much fun, and the work I was doing suffered.

Himself recently witnessed me working from home. I could see he was struggling to reconcile the image of me - in bed, sans any kind of formal attire or even a bra, typing away on the laptop - with the fact that I was working. All day, a low-level resentment simmered from downstairs while he minded Yer Man and cleaned the house.

So when I asked him to put the broccoli on for this pesto recipe, he was not happy. Of course, what he didn't realise was that his resentment was totally justified. In my time working from home, I have perfected the appearance of working, and was, in fact, up there listening to Amy Poehler on headphones and fake typing.

Broccoli Pesto with pasta

Serves 4.

You will need:

1 small head of broccoli

300g (11oz) dried pasta shells

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

100g (3½oz) walnuts

20g (¾oz) fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Zest and juice of a lemon

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

Parmesan, to serve

Chilli flakes, to serve

Cut the head of broccoli into florets and put them in a covered pot steamer or colander over a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove them and submerge them in cold water. Add the dried pasta shells to the pot of water with a pinch of sea salt flakes and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Put the walnuts, the fresh basil, the crushed garlic, the lemon zest, the lemon juice and the olive oil into a food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender a couple of times to make sure everything is well combined. While the blender is still running, add the steamed broccoli florets and mix in about five tablespoons of the cooking water from the pasta pot and the honey.

Check the seasoning and add some sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, if required.

When the pasta is ready, drain it, then return it to the pot and add the pesto. Toss everything together and serve with the Parmesan and the chilli flakes.

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