Cooking in quarantine


by MEERA DAS

AS THE whole world learns to slow down and stay at home during these challenging times, I found myself returning from an adventure fuelled holiday and taking on an immediate, self-imposed quarantine, just in case I was a coronavirus carrier. My focus was shifted in an instant.

I was homebound with all my plans cancelled and priorities suddenly different. I had to ensure I was stocked up with necessary sustenance ready to brave two weeks indoors; my wings were clipped! Luckily, my mother and siblings ensured I had everything I needed on my return.

Ordinarily, I would fill my time with work, sport, meeting friends or travelling. Many of these are themed around the main ingredient of food, glorious food.

During a pandemic (luckily, we don’t have them very often) you can’t fuss about what to eat, but have to make do with what is available on supermarket shelves or the local grocers.

It was difficult to sit back and watch sad news unfold on a daily basis, so I decided it was a good time to step back and focus on what I could control. I decided to channel my energy in doing things I said I would do, but didn’t always make time for, with learning how to cook from my mum and aunts, being one of them (the women in our family are pretty good cooks)!

It gave me a good reason to be in communication with the elderly relatives, sharing our common goal of being stuck indoors, ensuring I could use this opportunity to check in on them while being set a challenge of learning to cook a new dish every day, albeit traditional Punjabi cooking, certainly a more sustainable food source, especially when batch cooked.

The aim was to try out one recipe a few times before moving on to the next. So far, I have mastered the art of making a nice tadka base, with and without ghee, aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower), spinach and chickpea curry, pulses, lentil dhal, aubergine mash, sweet potato chaat and even semolina pudding, just like grandma used to make. As for any left overs, we of course can’t be wasteful and need to find a resourceful use for that extra potato.

So far, I am thoroughly enjoying the daily telephone/ video calls with my aunts, teaching them how to use new technology applications like Zoom, getting to know much more about them as they regale me with stories of their childhood.

Making that quality time – something I normally would not have much time for, while also churning out some delicious food – has proven a fruitful outcome despite the circumstances around us.

While we all take on the advice of staying safe at home, I would highly recommend challenging yourself to cook something new. It’s a great topic of conversation and helps build a beautiful community  bond. May you all stay safe and well and enjoy cooking.

Meera Das is an IT professional, who is enthusiastic about fitness and nutrition and loves adventure travel.

Twitter: @ MeeraDas