Embattled professionals from various lines of work cash in on the popularity of home-style food during pandemic

As soon as her boxes of Goan pork sorpotel are delivered to different homes in Kochi, Latha Pottamkulam begins cooking the next batch. She also prepares Sindhi kofta curry, shaping the mince into evenly rounded balls. “I prepare and refrigerate them in advance, as these dishes get better by the day,” says Latha who began her food service, Stir Crazy, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The name is a reference to people’s lives being turned topsy-turvy.

“I had to shut down my designerwear boutique. Since I was at home, I began wondering what to do,” recalls Latha. “I sensed a need for homemade food and decided to make Sindhi curry and Goan sorpotel to start with.” She is not alone: home-made food catering is one of the most visible and paying entrepreneurial activities to have sprung up during the pandemic. It is not only providing a source of income for people from varied and unrelated career lines, but has also been therapeutic in this crisis-riddled time.

For instance, cooking the classic Italian dessert tiramisu by order from “morning to night” has provided the healing touch to Chennai-based model and freelance artiste Tanitha Periera’s lockdown routine. In Thiruvananthapuram, businessmen Mohammed Razik and his brother-in-law Mohammed Mirza set up MareenaFood.Co, a home-delivery service, recreating mutton/chicken biryani, chicken fry, porotta pothi and kinnathappam, all prepared according to their “mother-in-law’s recipes”. Abbas Rizvi, bass guitarist of Hyderabad-based metal band Cordless, set up Fork& Pork with a small menu made up of his lockdown-experiment recipes.

Embattled professionals from various lines of work cash in on the popularity of home-style food during pandemic

Abbas is not the only one experimenting. Last week, Latha added a pan meatloaf with garlic bread and potato wedges as a weekend special. Having grown up in Mumbai, she is familiar with pan-Indian cuisine and has noticed a growing interest for different kinds of food.

These enthusiastic amateur enterprises are finding plenty of takers, too. Tanitha describes how, after she posted about the dessert on social media, the orders have not stopped coming. “The pandemic has left many people dealing with uncertainty,” she says over the phone from Chennai. “I struggled with anxiety. Food has been my way to beat the lockdown blues. After I put the post out, I was ready to hear people call and tell me it was horrible but was surprised at the response,” she says savouring her success as an artisanal dessert maker.

Embattled professionals from various lines of work cash in on the popularity of home-style food during pandemic

For Mareena, the co-founders garnered the help of a few women from the neigbourhood. It was when the shutters downed on his company that Razik resorted to testing new waters, but he seems glad. “I am happy that I am doing something I always wanted to do. I have many friends who are doing well in this business and I also hoped to enter the field at some point. But I didn’t expect to launch it like this,” says Razik.

The transition was more organic for Abbas. He finds himself in his kitchen daily post-lunch, preparing portions of pork sorpotel. “When it comes to pork, I am a fan of my own cooking. So, during the lockdown, I experimented and created my own recipes,” he says. “I work from my home kitchen so I am managing about 20 portions a day. Everyday I make one curry with a rice or paratha. I am open for self pick-up only. One portion can suffice two moderate eaters and is priced at ₹250, ” adds Abbas. Along with writing more music, and continuing to helm his music logistics company, he has plans to add pulled pork sliders and crispy pork to his menu.

Artistes in the kitchen

Bengaluru -based playback singer Sneha Hegde has used this time to give expression to her other love: cooking. Sneha does all the cooking herself and offers a wide variety of non-vegetarian dishes, including lemon chicken, Andhra style chilli chicken, mutton curry, Kerala prawn curry, seer fish masala fry, nati koli saaru, and of course, chicken biryani. While orders given a day in advance are preferred, she says that even an hour’s notice is sufficient. Sneha decided to name her food service Homely because it is all home-style food.

Kochi-based film producer and distributor Suraj PS along with film editor Lijo Paul started Biriyani Box that home delivers biryani prepared by their wives. The menu is posted on WhatsApp groups the day before, and food is prepared based on orders. This maybe their plan B, but they intend to stick to it even after the crisis is over. “We intend to move our production unit to Kalady from where we can cater to larger orders. While we return to films, the women will handle the production. The food would still have the home touch,” says Suraj.

From travelogues to tastebuds

In Kerala, travel company owners, luxury cruise employees and hoteliers have also joined the bandwagon.

Limy Manish’s company Fortex Travels, in Kochi, was forced to down shutters thanks to the pandemic. Her husband, in the tourism sector, also lost his job. “Our earnings suddenly turned nil,” she exclaims. Limy’s friend encouraged her to start a home-made food service. She began with ready-to-cook beef cutlets and, as the response increased, added chicken, fish and vegetarian cutlets to the menu. The couple quickly took an FSSAI license and added kappa and meen curry and pork and beef preparations to their menu. They tied up with a friend who had started a platform to deliver groceries. “It started without planning but is going well. After things come back to normal, I think I will continue,” says Limy, who has a colourful board showcasing “Limy’s Home Made Food products”, outside her house in Kochi.

Nileena Sikander, an executive with houseboat luxury cruise service in Alappuzha, and her husband, a marketing officer with survey firm Nielsen, also faced a similar problem. “We have two home loans to pay and growing kids. With uncertainty over monthly income, we had to quickly find a way out,” says Nileena who began cooking traditional Muslim cuisine along with her mother-in-law, while her husband handled the deliveries. “We started with one WhatsApp group and now there are three. We get regular orders,” says Nileena.

Embattled professionals from various lines of work cash in on the popularity of home-style food during pandemic

Nileena’s family runs the well-known Hotel Blue Park in Kollam. “The recipes are all from there. The hotel’s origins are similar to this,” she says, narrating how her grandmother began cooking and retailing when the family faced financial distress. “Cooking has been our way out and, by God’s grace, it is helping us tide over this situation.” Her specialities are whole chicken stuffed with eggs and rice, erachi puttu (steamed rice cake layered with meat) and adukku pathiri (layered rice flour crepes).

(With inputs from Shilpa Nair Anand, Athira M, Prabalika M Borah, Aparna Narrain)

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 5:50:36 PM |

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