In this very bizarre time when it is essentially my job to stay at home and interact with others as little as possible, I am so glad that cooking is my main hobby. Besides literally powering my household, it gives me a concrete thing to do every day that doesn’t involve a screen. Meals can be as creative and complicated, or utilitarian as I’m in the mood for cooking (which I’m not always, so then there’s always an opportunity to eat Five Guys sitting in the backseat of my own car in a parking lot – a real quarantine happening). I’m also extremely grateful that I am quarantined in my own apartment, with all of my beloved implements and pantry items.
After doing this for a month now there are some definitely patterns emerging and things I’ve realized:
Cooking what I know brings me comfort. That’s not to say I haven’t been trying new recipes, but I have been relying a lot on old favorites I know I’ll have the pantry ingredients for. When I’m trying new recipes its from cookbooks I’ve used before from cuisines I’m familiar with, so I’m not trying to source a lot of new spices.
Ordering food online is a small joy. In the past I’ve been reluctant to order food online, so if I haven’t been able to find something in a store I’ve just gone without. With “online” becoming the most accessible version of most things now, that barrier doesn’t exist in my head anymore, so it has been fun to order a specialty products I’ve been eyeing (like yuzu kosho, dried chilis, heirloom dried beans, and fancy-ass pasta).
I used to grocery shop way too much. I love meal planning. I love grocery shopping. In normal times I would do both weekly – flipping through cookbooks, bookmarking recipes from Instagram, or getting recommendations from my mom to build a meal plan and making a huge list to fill it. I might do this without fully regarding what was in my fridge, or leaving open nights to improvise with what I have. I’d even suggested we should get a smaller fridge so I would be forced to pare down. I was also in the habit of putting things in the freezer but rarely using things from the freezer, causing for 80% of it to be full of mysteries and only the front 20% items actually getting used in a reasonable time (mostly stock, bread, and tomato paste). Now without other options I’ve actually used a ton of stuff from the freezer (The too-salty ramen broth I made! 3/4 of a pork butt! That random bread!) so I can easily find things AND fit new things in (WHO AM I?). The fridge is a similar situation, with there always being food but never to the point where I am wasting food because we just have too much.
There are many food experiences I am eager to have again: a leisurely shopping trip that includes a stop at the cheese counter, impulse purchases, and maybe a wine tasting, a cookbook club dinner party, eating in an environment that is not my own apartments. But maybe there are also some changes to my buying, cooking, and eating that will stick.
Photo at top is a Caesar salad with my favorite dressing, spicy chicken thighs seasoned with chili powder, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika, and croutons made from leftover foccacia.