Marie Benoit’s Diary: Gee’s Jams make life sweeter during Covid-19 and beyond
“In many ways my life over the Covid period remained as it always was. There was very little change considering the events going on around me. I have been working from home for quite a few years on a portfolio of activities with a few days of travel every month. My first visual indication of the pre-pandemic era was the numerous mask wearing travellers I met in Saudi Arabia in March 2020. I recall in the initial days of 2020 that it was very difficult to get my head around the fact that we were in the initial stages of a global pandemic, which would be felt every bit as much in Malta as everywhere else. Very quickly it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to see my parents who were in lockdown for 10 weeks at Hilltop Gardens in Naxxar, except through the bars of the front gate. It was a surreal experience and I guess we just got on with it.
I’d been looking forward to the start of the local artisanal season where a couple of times a month my wife Becky, the kids and I would participate in the many opportunities provided to the artisanal community by Malta Artisan Markets & others to sell our award winning jams and marmalades. I had decided to use the time that would otherwise be spent travelling, to work on the creative side of Gee’s Jams and to perfect my preserving and bread baking skills. I remember clearly that for the first 6 months it was impossible to find any yeast for bread baking and eventually remembered that a sourdough starter solves that problem.
I took advantage of this time to immerse myself into the world of preserves. Since my time in the military, this has always fascinated me. I did a lot of research into the different techniques used to preserve the great tasting fresh fruit and veg we get locally and was inspired to incorporate both jams and marmalades which I had been working on, into many of the plant-based food recipes we eat at home. This was a revelation because it was clearly possible to eat daily recommended amounts of fruit and veg and introduce a new ‘twist in the taste’ with particular preserves from the Gee’s Jams range. I discovered that the food combinations with fruit and veg from my favourite local suppliers at Ta’ Qali and elsewhere, were endless. No one dish tastes the same. I also learnt that some preserved foods are also key to restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut after a course of antibiotics for instance.
My weekly grind at Gee’s Jams results in preserves that are 100% handmade, including quality checking, labelling and packaging. All raw ingredients are sourced locally. Typically on arrival fruit needs to be sanitised, in many cases hand chopped and weighed out in the right quantities and prepared for cooking. My wife Rebecca (who is a nutritionist) verifies the labels are correct prior to going to print and if I’m lucky my daughter Emma helps with the labelling a day or two after the products have been cooked and sealed.
Due to the initial disruption of Covid 19, I now try to dedicate time every weekend to ‘fly the week ahead’ so that even though no one day is the same I generally know what I should be doing with more conviction. I divide my time between my energy efficiency and environmental work, food prepping and cooking, and last year I qualified as a professional coach after a six month ICF accredited coaching program. As a professional performance coach I spend some of my time each week on Zoom with clients. This has been a very rewarding ‘give back’ experience for me.
What has really brought a strong association between food, giving back and Covid is that we have been able to set up a collaboration in aid of the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation with whom Gee’s Jams has launched a limited edition homemade marmalade and strawberry jam, aptly named ‘H.O.P.E.’- after the Foodbank’s motto of Helping Other People Eat. Gee’s Jams has pledged to donate half of the proceeds from the sale of products in these campaigns as a donation in support of this wonderful organisation.
I hope readers of this article will support this worthy cause by purchasing a pack of jams or marmalades via the Gee’s Jams website geesjams.com/shop to help make the post Covid period that bit sweeter!”