Astha Sirpaul
Jun 03, 2021

Blog: Chore to therapy - how food has helped us fill in the gaps during the pandemic

The author states how creativity and experimentation with food and cooking have helped stoke satiation for different people in different ways

Photo by Kevin McCutcheon on Unsplash
Photo by Kevin McCutcheon on Unsplash
I must admit that the foodie in me has never been too thrilled with the idea of cooking. Simply because I’ve felt that hard work for good food is an opportunity cost one can skip. Especially when there are other ways to get it.
 
And so while I would have imagined myself incessantly cribbing about the fact that cooking has consumed this past year and a half, I’m not. Something has changed.
 
Cooking and hence food has moved away from being a chore to something more spiritual and therapeutic. As I’m sure is the case for many others. It has filled in the gap created by the absence of other acts that added meaning to life before the pandemic; acts such as traveling, socialising and even going to work.
 
This has unlocked certain dimensions of my personality that have helped me cope with this absence. Dimensions which I feel are universal, even though their expressions may differ for different folks, their essence is common.
 
Some of them have been explored here. Hoping that they would resonate with others just as much as they have with me.
 
Meditative stillness
 
Our appetite for screens and social media has grown even more during the pandemic. Shocking stats like 75% jump in smartphone usage, 59% jump in OTT consumption and 55% increased time on social media have been doing rounds in different reports. All indicative of long days, tired eyes, and minds with little or no control.
 
For those who’ve decided to stand against these patterns and detox, cooking has been a creative alternative to practice mindfulness. It has helped in silencing and focusing the mind while engaging in it.
 
We’ve experienced the calm and the focus of immersing into the present moment while cleaning veggies, chopping them slowly, stirring them in the pan and waiting for them to transform into a bowl of comfort.
 
An important shift from either avoiding all of this or doing it on autopilot previously.
 
Productive resilience
 
The monotony of living the same day every day during the pandemic has taken its toll on our productivity. We’ve often felt desperate to prove that we are still doing things differently from the usual - big, or small.
 
And this is where experiments with food have come to our rescue.
 
Take DIY, ‘Start from scratch’ recipes for example. That loaf of home-made, multigrain focaccia bread with home-grown parsley and herbs’ butter may have taken us half a day but has so been worth the effort. The description about its detailed and zero shortcuts process have helped us shine as budding home chefs on our social feeds. Reassuring us and cheering us on days that have been especially difficult.
 
‘Distanced’ togetherness
 
Even for the most intense introverts among us, Covid has been an eye opener. The need to be surrounded by ‘our people’ has never been stronger. However, sadly, we’ve all had very little other than Covid to talk about. While Zoom calls and FaceTime have gone up, we’ve been struggling for new things to bond over because we’ve all been restricted by a hard, shared reality.
 
To break away from this pattern, food has stepped in as a fun topic to bring us together as a digital group. Take TGIF style Zoom parties over food and wine for example or the cook along videos that have comforted us on days we’ve felt alone.
 
Artful sublimation
 
Most of us would agree that the pandemic has given birth to unrelenting hunger pangs – either due to anxiety or due to boredom. We’ve given into them as well and found newer ways of nursing them. Sometimes it has been that big of chips. But other times it’s also been a healthier, home-made granola bar or low cal snacking options like jaggery caramel popcorn that is a more sustainable fall back option.
 
Creativity and experimentation with food and cooking have helped stoke satiation for different people in different ways.
 
Creative re-creation
 
Food has become our passport to travel ever since the lockdown happened. A passport to travel back to cheerier times – treasured childhood memories and epic travel sojourns.
 
Reliving memories through food has been reassuring when there is nothing to look forward to, at least on the travel front. We’ve experienced our kitchens turning into time ports, giving our own creative spins to happy memories.
 
Be it a creative recreation of mum’s gajar ka halwa or Hong Kong’s Street Noodles’ desi version. Preparing these dishes at home have made room for joyful visualisations of happier times. 
 
These different dimensions have helped us navigate through a never-before-experienced reality with a sense of purpose. They’ve helped us discover the quiet in the chaos, the focus in the distracted and creativity in the boredom. Thanks to this, we have been able to find meaning even in the toughest of times.
 
(The author is cultural anthropologist, TBWA\ India)
 
Source:
Campaign India

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