Food is the only thing keeping me sane right now

A love letter to cooking at home in the time of Corona.

It’s a crazy, mixed-up world out there right now. Shops are shut, we’re all hanging out in chaotic group video chats instead of seeing each other in real life, and there’s no telling when things will go back to normal.

On a personal level, our London life came to an abrupt end last month as it became clear Covid-19 wasn’t just going to blow over. I think up till that point, we still hoped things would settle – but with borders closing down, we decided to get out and go home while we still could. The whole process of deciding to leave, packing up our flat and getting on a plane took less than two days, and the strangeness of that experience only added to the general feeling that we are in the end times now.

We touched down in NZ on the 21st March, just in time for Jacinda Ardern to put the whole country into lockdown. Since then, we’ve been trying to get used to the new normal – except things don’t feel very normal at all.

We’re all living in what is surely the darkest timeline right now. While I know I’m extremely privileged to have my health, a house to be quarantined in, and a job that allows me to work from home, I’m also a creature of routine – and all the dependable routines I relied on to knit together the fabric of my life have been ripped apart.

In these uncertain times, food – and the joy of making it – is a bright spot to look forward to. I might not be able to decide when I can see my family and friends again, or when I can go out, but at least I can throw things in a pot and make something delicious to eat.

It hasn’t always been like this. As a 19-year-old moving out of home for the first time, my cooking skills were … terrible. I arrived at my first flat equipped with a rice cooker, an Edmonds cookbook and not much else in the way of knowledge or experience in the kitchen – thanks to a devoted mum who spoiled our whole family with home-cooked Filipino food every day and never made a fuss about us kids helping out (so of course, we never did. Sorry, mum!)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been doing my best to make up for my lack of skills in the kitchen. I’m no chef, of course, but I can now confidently whip up a meal without having to rely on packet sauces and cup noodles.

What I didn’t realise before I got into cooking was that while eating food is obviously great, making it from scratch can be just as enjoyable. As someone who’s constantly thinking about her next meal and/or snack, getting to plan what I cook for the week is an extremely satisfying exercise.

Episode 9 Eating GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

There’s also something incredibly soothing about the process of cooking itself – prepping your ingredients, throwing in whatever herbs, spices and flavourings you need and watching it coalesce into something delicious like some sort of modern-day alchemy. And unlike baking, cooking is generally more forgiving – so if you don’t have the right ingredient, or you add a little too much of something or not enough, it’ll still come right in the end (mostly).

So whether it’s a cheese-laden pasta swimming in a deliciously silky sauce, umami-loaded noodles or a curry that makes the whole kitchen smell like heaven while it’s bubbling away, cooking has been my self-care saviour in this lockdown period. It lets me focus on one task that keeps my hands and head busy without stressing me out. It gives me a degree of control over my day that my routine-loving brain craves. Most of all, there’s a sense of quiet achievement when you get to sit down with something delicious that you made with your own hands.

In case you’re looking for some cooking inspiration of your own right now, these are a few reliable favourites I turn to when I just need a big ol’ bowl of comfort:

What is keeping you sane in these surreal times?

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