Prize of Pandemic: Covid and Cooking

Illustration credits: WSJ

By Neha Sheikh

THE shutting down of our favorite eateries and the clawing of our not so undisclosed paranoia during this pandemic has forced our hand in cooking to satiate our voracious appetite. For most of us this aided in the satisfaction of our fifth deadly sin, gluttony! The realization that cooking can also serve as a cheaper and sometimes even healthier substitute to buying fast food has got us indulging in cooking, which goes hand in hand with frantically searching recipes on youtube. But with the evolution of cable TV, streaming platforms and social media entities, cooking has also extended to the entertainment field. One does not have to cook in order to enjoy cooking. From watching famous cooking channels, whether it be our local favorites or international treasures, to savoring reality cooking dramas, cooking has now become a passion enjoyable for all.

Watching cooking shows during the pandemic can definitely motivate one to better their cooking skills or try a hand at cooking. This has led to an increase in people turning to their stoves at home rather than going outside. A new Acosta report states that 55% shoppers now prefer eating at home than outside. Similarly, another survey conducted by Hunter reveals that 7 in 10 customers intend on continuing to cook food at home, post pandemic. Subsequently, this has also led to an increase in the viewership of  cooking shows, either for entertainment or learning purposes.

It is also a known fact that cooking in tandem with the entertainment world cannot be complete without Gordon Ramsy. A name not privy to the cooking world, Gordon Ramsey is a renowned celebrity chef known for his short temper, impeccable swearing and heavenly cooking. Occasionally, we might get intimidated by his persona but that doesn't stop us from binge watching his alluring cooking dramas. From ‘24 Hours to Hell and Back’ to ‘Hell's Kitchen’, much like popcorn during movies, Ramsay's shows are a staple. We often find ourselves empathizing with him, especially when we pick the spatula up for ourselves. Our inner Gordon Ramsy, much like the real life British cook, doesn't shy.

‘24 hours to Hell and Back’ is a show fueled with thrill, anger, humor, distress and most of all the feeling of belonging somewhere. In this show, Chef Ramsey travels across the Unites States of America and visits failing restaurants to help them ‘get back on the map’. The only sitch? He has 24 hours to do so. In the first episode titled Bella Gianna’s, Ramsey visits a family run Italian restaurant in the lakeside community of Congers in New York. With dreary decor, mediocre food, scarce customer satisfaction and below average servers, Ramsey succeeds in changing Bella Gianna’s within a day.

Such a transformation is not only seen in reality shows but in real life too. With the pandemic creating more time on our hands cooking is a safe haven most of us have chosen to confide in.

“The covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown has been a time of discovering new hobbies and passions for those of us privileged enough to economically survive the pandemic. Before the lockdown, I never fancied Cooking and would only go to the kitchen to eat food. The lockdown has helped me change that, I can now cook anything from perfectly round rotis to a 3 layered cake, complete with fondant decor. My pink sauce pasta that I accidentally made has now become my go to comfort food. The humble 3 ingredient barbecue paneer that I learnt to make during the lockdown is also a hit among my friends and family. Cooking shows and cooking reality TV have definitely played a role in shaping my new found passion!” - Sanya Reza, Student.

“I have always loved watching cooking shows but had never really attempted to cook at home before the lockdown was announced. Apart from an occasional bowl of maggi and cup of garam chai, I wasn't really fond of actually cooking food. But, staying at home with nothing much to do got me interested in trying new recipes that became popular during the initial quarantine period. I started with small desserts and drinks like cakes and the dalgona coffee using minimum ingredients and eventually began cooking various dry chicken dishes and pasta on a weekly basis”- Teeza Rehman, Student

“Life before covid was busy and bustling with activity. But due to shelter in place orders everything seemingly came to a standstill. With more time in hand and less to do, staying entertained during quarantine became harder. Cooking is an activity that I had never explored before but looking up recipes and testing then became a source of joy and an outlet of stress."- Appu Tashfaq, Student

“During the course of the pandemic, both mine as well as my workaholic mother’s interest in the simple joys of cooking were piqued. We covered the basics, with the pure joy of enjoying a simple dish that took us perhaps a little bit too much time to make. We both consume a lot of food content on the Internet, and I in particular cannot go a day without watching soothing cooking videos, somewhat vicariously satisfying my cravings.” Harveen Kaur, Student

“With lots of free time at hand, I returned to cooking for the first half of the pandemic. This I realized, would not only help me engage in something but the end result would be worth the time consumed. Cooking also, as exclusively as it has been imposed on women, is a way of carrying forward the secrets and hacks that have come from our female ancestors. This drove me closer to my Kashmiri culture and the women of the family and brought a sense of beautiful oneness” Aayilah Ahmad, Student

“The kitchen became my best friend the moment the masks went on and roads were shut. Seeking comfort food that was safe to eat filled the void in me and led me to the decision that I would finally put my instagram scrolling to good use and whip up tasty treats.The kitchen was always my mothers kingdom but as time wore us down, we struck a deal and decided to share the load! If it wasn't for videos by Nisha Madhulika and Ranveer Brar, I wouldn't have the wonderfully silly memories the both of us made huddled over the stove, being tortured by onions. Another day, another bout of gratitude for the internet!” Kath Harvindar, Student 

“Cooking is a very important life skill and Being a fan of the Kashmiri cuisine makes you want to learn it. I’m a Kashmiri and I’ve huge passion for cooking. My cooking skills however do not stand at par with my passion for it. And so, the pandemic gave me a great opportunity to get better at cooking. Watching cooking shows and tv series has been more than beneficial for me to get better at it. Now, I am aware of different techniques, ingredients, cuisines and can use all the knowledge to enhance my skill. Cooking shows are a boon for someone who wants to learn cooking or like me get better at it” Vaneesa Munir, Student 

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