Food, family and homesickness

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When I was a kid, the chore I hated the absolute most was getting the rice cooker going. We had an ancient model that my mum had had for yonks, all yellowed plastic peeling at the edges and an industrial-sized bowl that was just about enough for our rice-mad family of four. I would have to crouch down to the floor of the pantry, open up the giant container that held our household supply of rice grains, and methodically count out 8 or 9 cups to be ladled into the cooker. It usually took a few goes to get it right, mostly because I would lose interest somewhere around the third or fourth cup and muddle up my count, and then have to start all over again.

Objectively, there were (of course) worse chores that could be dished out, but there was something about the monotony and the repetitiveness of that job that conspired to push it to the top of the most-despised list. But there was no getting around it – in our Filipino household, rice was the foundation for most of the meals we had together as a family. There was always rice in the cooker ready to go, (whether dished up by me or someone else) and somehow the grains stored in our cupboard never seemed to run out.

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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.

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