Food&Drink Editor Beth Sadler discusses the highs and lows of cooking at home during the lockdown period
Twelve weeks later and the nation is officially bored. Having baked 50 banana breads, attempted to learn a new skill each week (despite what you may think, yoga is actually extremely difficult) and bought far too many useless kitchen gadgets on amazon, I have now run out of ideas. Even the scenic country walks I am blessed to live close to are getting repetitive, and after finishing Friends for the third time, I feel I’ve hit ‘the wall.’ As a self-professed foodie my first port of call was baking, and I decided to use this time to get out of my cooking comfort zone. As the kitchen cupboards began to fill up with cookies, cakes and delicious baked treats, I realised how much enjoyment I get from being in the kitchen. This period of lockdown really has taught me so much about my relationship with food. Now that normality is starting to creep back in, and my fresh-egg pasta is close to perfect, it is important to reflect on the lessons we have learnt, which we can carry through to the next chapter.
The first lesson that I will take from being in lockdown is that food is a comfort, and not in a negative way. For many people, food and guilt are intrinsically linked, and therefore the idea of food as comforting becomes extremely negative. We often eat delicious, indulgent and satisfying foods when we are feeling low or stressed, only to feel extremely guilty afterwards. Dealing with such extensive restrictions on our everyday life has meant that many methods of relaxation and enjoyment are unavailable to us, with food being one of the only aspects that has remained constant.
My family, in particular, cherish mealtimes and we look forward to our evening meal throughout the entire day. The entire process of cooking and eating together is extremely relaxing, especially when the food is nourishing and delicious. Twelve weeks of lockdown has taught me that food brings me a great deal of comfort, and that is great. Feeling guilty about eating the things we love, especially during a global pandemic, is not being kind to ourselves and our bodies. If, like me, your idea of heaven is an evening in the kitchen preparing your favourite food with your favourite music playing in the background, then don’t let diet culture convince you that your time would be better spent otherwise.
Another enjoyable aspect of being in lockdown is experimenting and getting creative with food. Despite spending all my time reading, watching, and absorbing food-related media, I often let fear prevent me from attempting new dishes. University life can be tiring, and after a long day of lectures the last thing you want is to spend all evening cooking something new, only for it to go wrong. There is no greater satisfaction than preparing a meal to perfection and soaking up the congratulations of your family, who are extremely impressed with your culinary skills. But often this means we stick to what we know, as trying and failing is not as rewarding. Over the past three months my fresh pasta has been too chewy, my summer rolls too sticky, and my cookies too crisp. I’ve failed more times in the kitchen than ever before, but all the while learning and improving. With the opening of restaurants on the horizon, I want to carry on the drive to keep to learning, even if it means failing too.
The last lesson I will take away from the period of quarantine is that doing nothing is as important as doing something, and that applies to cooking. Whilst cooking can be a form of therapy, it is not always enjoyable. Being productive in lockdown has often meant simply getting out of bed, with anything more being an achievement. It can be easy to beat yourself up if you don’t feel like cooking, or label yourself as ‘lazy’. Every day is different, meaning not every one will involve a three-course meal. This period has taught me that pesto pasta really is the best, and if that is all you can manage today, that is okay. Listen to your body, and if it is saying order Indian food, then you know what to do!
Whilst the past few months have been extremely challenging, there is a lot we have to be grateful for. I have learnt that food is an essential, enjoyable and enriching aspect of our daily lives, and we should celebrate that.
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