Cooking In The Time Of Corona
Let’s get straight to it: these days it seems that eeeeveryone thinks they’re a chef. I can’t open my Instagram without seeing stories of my friends, acquaintances, influencers and even celebrities showing me what they’ve been cooking or baking in the kitchen that day – whether I like it or not. Some people are turning to religion in these hard times for guidance… and some are turning to their local supermarkets and essential delivery services.
Who knew that cooking would be such a great coping mechanism, not just for me or my housemates, but to what seems like the world. I can say with confidence that I have seen at least five Instagram stories today alone of people showing their followers what type of bread (spoiler alert: most of them are banana) they’ve baked. Does anyone care? Not really. One can argue that we are in a state of denial but I rather be blissfully ignorant with a full tummy, distracting myself in order to escape the seriousness of this global pandemic.
Cooking Is The Move
Before I made the move to my boyfriends house to lockdown with him, I would sit on the couch with my housemate as she would scroll through YouTube to find the next best Bon Appetit video. We would mindlessly watch in awe at what the test kitchen chefs were creating; simultaneously coming up with inspiration and ideas on what we were going to cook next. It was a cycle that would just repeat to the next day. Wake up, do a 10 minute yoga stretch, fire up the Nespresso machine, turn on my computer and make sure that slack shows I’m online, work till “wine time”, and finally melt on the couch and watch cooking videos to my heart’s content.
Why is cooking helping not only me during corona but the rest of the world? I’ve come to the realisation that cooking is one of the only things during these trying times that is bringing order and structure into people’s lives. You have to follow a recipe whether you’re cooking or baking, of course you can improvise but at the core of everything you’re still following a guideline to come to an end result. In these unsure times, it’s comforting to have something that brings not only structure to your everyday life but also pleasure – cooking and baking offers both.
Food is also central to individual identity and directly correlates with what we think is socially acceptable. We are not only thinking of the nutritional value of the food we are consuming but we are also, subconsciously or not, thinking of how food reminds us of home, cultures, past experiences and of places we long to travel to. Just last Friday, I saw on Instagram that a friend of mine, who just so happens to serendipitously live next door to my boyfriend, had baked challah. I popped her a comment and within five minutes she was outside our door ready to give me a freshly baked loaf. I cannot begin to describe how this simple act of kindness has impacted me.
I connect challah with family, eating this bread not only fills me with the obvious pleasure of it being delicious but reminds me of important moments in my life that have brought me joy.
WARNING: Unstylised Photos Ahead.
I’m Not Watching Unless It’s Food Related
Food and cooking shows in the same vein, are a great vehicle for sharing various cultures with people from distinct backgrounds. Apart from the Bon Appetit YouTube videos, I’ve been watching a lot of foodie shows on Netflix. Watching the second season of Ugly Delicious which it’s main premise is that food is embedded with culture and tradition, has brought up my own food connection to memory and tradition. My boyfriend and I have this “tradition” where we go to one of our favourite Italian restaurants and share a margarita pizza and a chicken alfredo pasta at least once a month. If it weren’t for lockdown and the boredom that comes with it, he would have never made the chicken alfredo from scratch he cooked last week.
We realised that a lot of the food we have been making at home has come from past fond memories and memories we crave to make.
We made Pad Thai the other night with a kit that my housemates brought back as a gift from Thailand. Shakshuka has also been made a couple times, not just because it is easy to make but because this dish reminds me of a time when I was travelling throughout Israel. Quinoa is another dish I have beat to death since lockdown has started. It reminds me of my family and my Peruvian roots and since my family is far, the quinoa will have to do. We made a whole Mexican spread last night because we were craving those delicious flavours, and since we can’t travel to Mexico for the foreseeable future making it at home is what brings that culture to us.
As lockdown continues and the stress of it all increases, I find myself looking at recipes that I would have never made otherwise and intently writing down a list of ingredients I need to buy next time I venture to the shops. Like I said above, the structure of cooking and baking is something that I desperately need at a time like this, without any type of order I am sure to give into my deepest thoughts of the pandemic and succumb to overthinking about my worst fears that corona could bring to our society. But for now, I have cooking, cooking shows, and everything in between.
Because I have literally nothing better to do I’m going to try my hand at making Pasteis de Nata this weekend. Will it be good? Probably not. But these tiny delicious desserts remind me of a happier time when my boyfriend and I were carelessly gallivanting around Lisbon last September, which now sadly feels like an eternity ago.
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