Cooking in quarantine: making family recipes that hit close to home
Much like you, I’ve spent the last month and more at home. My schedule has been wiped clean of plans. Visitors are forbidden. Visiting? Banned. I’ve rediscovered the luxury of time but not necessarily by choice. The nights when I’d fight my way back home after work and campaign for takeout suddenly turned into logging off around 5 PM and transitioning seamlessly into my kitchen by 5:01. This surplus of time awakened a new love of cooking. Cooking in quarantine.
With more time to try new things, I challenged myself to make family recipes I had never attempted before. Social distancing means I haven’t seen my parents in a while and, though I miss them most, a home cooked meal is a close second. I’ve learned many things over video calls with my parents: one, my mom can’t hold a phone camera still for more than 10 seconds, and two, my dad rarely manages to stay in frame. But aside from that, I’m learning two crucial factors to building confidence when trying new recipes on my own: do not panic and use what you have.
Do not panic
Listen. I have never made bread before (yes, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, too). So, when I called my mom, mid-panic, because my freaking dough was still too sticky, she simply said, “Just add a bit more flour until it’s less gummy.” What? “A bit” is not a measurement, Ma! Cooking far away from the pro wasn’t easy, but her advice to chill in a situation I thought was doomed to fail was important. No recipe is perfect, and it will always come out differently. Also, you will rarely need to scrap the whole thing; just because the final product deviated a bit from the expectation does not mean it’s a total write off.
Use what you have
Voluntary social confinement has introduced me to the fabulous world of meat! What use to make me gag at the touch, now regularly makes an appearance on my table. However, when it came to preparing a huge slice of salmon, I turned to my dad for help with a glaze. He gave me a few ideas, but I was missing ingredients. Finally, he suggested I use Asian salad dressing. Dressing… for salad… on fish? Genius! He added that that was how he and my mom made it all the time. The result: a tangy, sweet oven-baked salmon that I plated over brown rice. It was delicious. And I was able to use something I already had in the fridge.
Is it over yet?
We’re living through strange times. My mom can’t taste the Greek-style lemon oregano roasted potatoes I made. My dad can’t exactly show me how he makes his special spaghetti sauce. My brother can’t taste test the vegan chocolate chip cookies I baked. My boyfriend, on the other hand, has proven to be the most enthusiastic taste tester and quarantine buddy. For now, I’m cooking not only because it’s something I love to do, but it also helps me feel closer to the people I’m away from.