Lockdown Lemons

(by Marnika Stander)

Lockdown first started last March here in South Africa. The world became quiet, and no one was around anymore. It was eerie to realize that the streets did not have cars, and workspaces did not have people. A lot of families were stuck at home in small, confined spaces. My family was one of the luckier ones.


My mother owns a school not far from where we live. If you exit through the back gate, you barely have to walk a kilometer in the street to stand before the school grounds. The street is surrounded by vegetation, with only a few buildings and homes. The path we would walk twice every day did not bring us in contact with people. For the purpose of entertaining the dog, she too went along. This was how we breathed fresh air and escaped the interior of the house we had memorized.


The school uses animal therapy with horses. Our job was to ensure that the horses were fed and their paddocks were cleaned. My sister is a horse-riding instructor who made sure they got their exercise. (Just because we were in lockdown, it did not mean they were too.) My father would make us breakfast before the walk, and lunch was up to my mother or me. Everyone played an important part. Even my sister's fiancé helped with the garden work.


Our backyard has a lemon tree. During the earlier times of lockdown, the tree was almost completely yellow—an amount too much for us. That is when my mother suggested an idea that eventually led to a series of memories I would treasure forever.


We would run around the yard trying to catch the falling lemons as my mother and father knocked them from the tree. It was a hilarious sight since we were under constant threat of receiving a lemon to the head if not careful.


When the tree was relieved of its bounty, we would get the hose to clean each and every lemon. And while we cleaned, my mother started Googling. A recipe. A recipe that would require a decent number of lemons. Before long, we had made packages, each containing ten to 20 lemons, and a card with the recipe for a lemon pudding. Off we went in the neighborhood. Videos and photos were taken of us prancing down the street, with masks, of course, long after the sun had set. The street lights and the flashlight of our phones were the only sources we had of actually seeing anything.


Our makeshift trolley was noisy as its wheels struggled to keep up. The game was simple: Knock at the door, leave the package, and hide. Or at least try to. Neighbors were smiling from their doors and windows, happy with the small, kind gesture of fresh lemons and a simple recipe to go with it. It was not long after that we received photos and comments from people who tried the pudding and were pleased with the outcome. Of course, we had to try it too.


A short time later, my father received ecstatic news about a job with the United Nations in Switzerland, and before we knew it, he was on the plane, saying goodbye for a while. In January, my mother moved to Geneva to be with him. Her role at the school is still big; she just works from home now instead of in the office. Over the years, everyone there became a family, making it easier for her working alongside people she has known for a very long time.


Now we are a family with two homes, constantly divided and yet never far. Video calls and funny pictures shared among the family became the new norm, and social distancing was taken to a whole new level. Even birthdays were celebrated virtually; every family member had his or her own cakes, snacks, and drinks. There was always room for smiling and laughing—led by my mother, one of the most creative people I know. (The cards, scrapbooks, and memory albums she makes are quite special.) Not a day goes by that we don’t have tears in our eyes from laughing together, even if she is far away, and there’s always singing in the house or the car. In our family, if we are having a hard time, we work through it together. If you want to be a part of us, you must be able to joke. After all, laughter is the best medicine.


I am sharing this memory so that you can walk along with us in the street and drag the ridiculously loud trolley. So that you too can pet a horse and run around trying to avoid a lemon to the head. Try to avoid the water of broken sprinklers that need fixing. And now with this recipe, you too can now taste the pudding that became a new entry in our cookbook.

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Marnika Stander is a post-graduate of Environmental Design, currently doing freelancing work, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. She can be found on Instagram.

Lemon Pudding


3 1/2 T. cake flour

3 oz. lemon juice

2 t. finely grated lemon zest

4 eggs, separated

6 oz. caster or superfine sugar

7 oz. milk

2 T. butter, melted

additional softened butter for ramekins


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine cake flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl.

Set aside 1 oz. sugar, adding the rest to the flour mixture.

Mix thoroughly.

Pour in milk and melted butter, and mix thoroughly.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Add the remaining 1 oz. sugar, and whip together.

Fold egg whites into flour mixture.

Butter 6 heatproof ramekins, and set on a baking tray.

Pour batter into buttered ramekins.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Serve warm.

Serves 6.