When we returned from India in January, it took a bit of time to adjust to our new normal. For starters, we had gotten our bodies used to having four meals a day in India, thanks to my parents. Also, between then and the lockdown that started on 18 March for us, we celebrated Valentine's Day and Shane's birthday, completed the onerous task of applying for and acquiring Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, prepared for and passed the Life in the UK Test, and got up to something fun, exciting, and time-consuming before getting sick with "Adult flu-like illness", which could have been Coronavirus for all we know. Bring on the antibodies test!
During this time of sleeping less and constantly being on the go, we cooked at home maybe about twice a week. But between 18 March and now (11 weeks), we have ordered take-out exactly three times and have obviously not eaten out as we, along with the rest of the UK, are left to hunt and forage for ourselves.
And can I just take a minute to gloat about the fact that we never, not even once, brought home a frozen pizza or a ready-to-heat meal from the grocery store? Ooooh, yeah.
Modesty is definitely my strong suit. My friend Louise recently commented on it while we were discussing how being at home most of the time does not bother us at all and how personally, I don't even miss eating out because I've managed to bring my restaurants home. Literally. I have cookbooks from some of my favourite restaurants and now that I even know how to not botch a recipe, I'm good.
During this period of lockdown, cooking has gone from being that overwhelming, suffocating, even oppressive (remember those comments from men at the beginning of Part 1?) chore to a calming necessity. Granted, I only started cooking because I craved the flavours of the amazing food offered by some of our favourite restaurants, but being able to spend close to an hour each day creating something with my hands, using all of my senses to make out whether something's just right, while also being lost in thought or an audiobook, has been therapeutic for me. This is time I would have ordinarily spent gritting my teeth and internally screaming at tourists who blocked my path on my way home from work or being annoyed at Shane for making me wait for him at his office.
The better I get at cooking, the easier it is to tweak a recipe or just come up with my own. It's often my me-time and when it's not, it's the time when I share a glass of wine with Shane to unwind after a long day.
The lockdown has given me some gifts that undoubtedly helped ignite this spark. If you're overwhelmed by cooking yourself, I hope some of these points will help you. But remember to take things at your own pace. Lawd knows I took my own sweet time to get here.
Time: As much as I enjoyed walking to and from work, this lockdown has gifted me about an hour and a half of my time that I can now spend experimenting in the kitchen.
Tools: It's all about having the right tools to do any job well. Unlike our infant selves back in 22 Nelson Street who just used all the (mostly worn out) cooking utensils that came with our fully furnished flat, Shane and I used up some of the money we've saved during this time (by not going on date nights every week, for example) on good quality tools for cooking that might actually last us a lifetime. Let me know in the comments if you'd like me to share an inventory of these tools that make our lives in the kitchen much easier :)
Ingredients: Now more than ever, there's nothing more frustrating than not having that one ingredient in your fridge, pantry or spice rack that will make a dish perfect. To avoid this, one of the first things we did when lockdown started was to reorganise our spice cupboard and make a list of canned staples that we need to replenish as we go. I've talked a little bit about how we plan and shop during the lockdown here but if you'd like to know more about our entire planning process and what we consider to be essentials for our food cupboard, let me know.
Using the freezer: I always considered using the freezer (for anything other than ice for my cocktails) to be a very adult thing to do. I've hardly ever had leftovers in the past, and even if I did, I always tried to finish everything by lunch the next day. Cooking four-six portions in a two-person household, freezing the leftovers, and treating ourselves to a successful dish from weeks ago has been life-changing!
Flipping off the patriarchy: And last but not least, I have to address the point I started Part 1 of this post with. For as long as cooking was expected of me because I was a woman, I refused to do it. One thing I will always remember about this journey to becoming a Quarantine Chef is that I learned to cook for myself. I'm a foodie married to a foodie and we have spent a significant chunk of our monthly earnings being patrons to some of the best restaurants in our city. But once they (and the tastes I'd become accustomed to) became unavailable, cooking offered a way to bring them right into my home.
When something I cook turns out great, I not only enjoy the dish but also the big 'fuck you' that my tasty food is to the people who made it sound like I was failing at life if I didn't cook. People like Annie. I'm sure you know the type.
Remember, what happens in your kitchen is your business and if some piece-of-shit-asshole tries to tell you what to do in it, be better than me and actually ask them to fuck right off.
Man, that last point ended up being long. Should've written about driving instead.
If you have any suggestions to add to this list for beginners, do share them in the comments. Also, let me know if there could be any future blog post related to things we've discussed above that might be useful :)