Food

Hope from the kitchen in the time of a pandemic

In those days, old recipe collections would be brought out and, in the quiet of the kitchen, experiments conducted to the delight of the family gathered at the table at night.

In those days, old recipe collections would be brought out and, in the quiet of the kitchen, experiments conducted to the delight of the family gathered at the table at night.   | Photo Credit: @growingchefstudio on Instagram

Recipes shared across continents and time spent cooking with little ones — corona culture is embracing social distancing through food

As the world grapples with a virus that threatens all its fundamentals, it is inevitable that despite the grimness, humanity should attempt to assert itself. Perhaps through snatches of music, twirls of dance... and by creating foods, the basis of sustenance, yet something more, which offers us hope, joy and bonding — even if socially distanced. The emerging “corona culture”, as it is being dubbed, has been most visible on social media.

Nostalgic endeavours

The most endearing way in which I find friends reaching out is through food and drink. Someone in Singapore sends me a picture of Amarone from his collection. He will be drinking it in contemplative solitude but not before we have exchanged thoughts on life. Vino has that effect, whether you drink it, or merely see it!

There are friends in Orvieto, a tiny town perched on a mountain near Rome, who post pictures of six-year-old Maria Luce, their daughter, cooking up a little treat. The last time I had seen her in December, she had sat at a restaurant eating truffled pasta, drawing me a picture. Now, she has progressed to baking, and that’s how we keep track of lives.

Maria Luce baking for her family

Maria Luce baking for her family  

In London, my friend Namrata, a professional in the travel trade, has seen all her business crumble. We exchange recipes amidst our respective fears and she sends me pictures of fantastic Tamil meals she is learning to cook, food that she enjoyed at her in laws’ place in Chennai. Now, in bleak London, these are dishes she is cooking for her husband and herself, plating them on banana leaves; a bit of excitement, a bit of nostalgia.

Stories and meals

This is privilege, of course. All of us who can sit at home, cook fantastic spreads, fix ourselves “quarantinis”, and post about these on social media must spare a thought to that restaurant worker whose establishment just shut and who has had to go not just on leave without pay but is now denied even his two meals a day that he ate in the staff kitchen. Or those who do not have the luxury of sitting at home with enough in the bank to tide them through self-imposed isolation. Yet, even amongst those with privilege, there is loss of occupation as the wheels of the global economy slow. Highly-paid influencers, whose travel and food stories generated fantastic views, and thus, endorsement deals, must now keep alive those accounts with the minutiae of their lives. What else is there to do but share recipes on online?

Throwback to the simple life

In isolation, the slower rhythm of the day is reminiscent of how we would spend time when schools shut, social media wasn’t a reality and there were fewer options of staying connected. In those days, old recipe collections would be brought out and, in the quiet of the kitchen, experiments conducted to the delight of the family gathered at the table at night.

This is what strikes me as I see the Instagram account of restaurateur Aditi Dugar, whose path-breaking Masque celebrated its coming of age on the World’s 50 Best “watch list” just about a fortnight ago, but who has since shut operations of her restaurant and highly-successful catering business. Assisted by her son, she made sweet potato dim sum in her home kitchen one afternoon, the process for all of us to see on Instagram. It reminded me of summer afternoons working with chachi, my aunt, making ice creams and cakes, cutting vegetables to be fried with noodles and learning to handle ovens, setting agents and mixers. Inside our bubbles, that is the life we must lead once more — and count ourselves lucky.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 4:17:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/hope-from-the-kitchen/article31117706.ece

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