The world under coronavirus has become a tad lonely. Because social isolation is key to containing the virus, schools, gyms, colleges, cafes and restaurants, museums and theatres have all been shut, leaving people home-bound for days. It’s a funny thing when people joke about wanting to avoid social situations, but when forced, the reality is kind of melancholic. Across the world, people are striving to find new connections with one another, especially using social media.
Food is an equaliser. No matter what the differences, gastronomic desires are shared by all. Self quarantine has led people to the kitchen, creating new and innovative recipes with the limited ingredients available at grocery stores (fear has led people to stock up on goods). Many even share these recipes online, building a virtual community of people cooking during quarantine.
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This trend has inspired some artists to give two-dimensional lives to the recipes and the stories surrounding them. Krish Raghav, a Beijing-based comic artist and journalist carved out a rather touching comic ‘Cooking in the Time of Quarantine”. The epicentre of the virus, China has seen the most severe lockdowns. People have been homebound for weeks. In grocery stores, shelves have run empty as people have bought up things in bulk. That's when the innovations kicked in. People were forced to use whatever they found after the staples were grabbed. They began creating their own versions of popular meals. Raghav’s comic reveals that even packaged noodles have become a star ingredient in elaborate meals. He also mentions that the youth in China so far accustomed to ordering food, are learning to cook. These recipes are also being shared on popular social media platforms in China.
Under quarantine, Iranians cook, share recipes, find joy in food and flavors, mixing and discovering.— Alex Shams (@seyyedreza) March 14, 2020
"The kitchen, heart of our homes, is the heart of the quarantine these days."
World just waking up to corona but in Iran we've been quarantined 20 days.
Artist: Golrokh Nafisi pic.twitter.com/QJGBK2KG50
In Iran, Golrokh Nafisi, a Tehran-based artist, has documented portraits of her friends in the kitchen under her project, “Quarantine Kitchen”. Iran is in a precarious position with the virus, and with existing US sanctions. People have found a sanctuary of sorts in culinary practices. Her comics, simply sketched in black-and-white with an exaggerated look, show her friends experimenting with various dishes. Iranians now spend hours on the phone, discussing healthy practices to avoid the virus, and also sharing kitchen tales and suggestions. According to an article in Ajam Media Collective, she says “Cookbooks that have been collecting dust on shelves for years have been taken out, and page by page we are reading them again.”
Amateurs were showcasing their recipes to the world and soon, professionals followed suit. Antoni Porowski, better known for his role in well-known Netflix series Queer Eye has now brought out Quar Eye ('Quar' is derived from quarantine). The cooking series shows simple recipes on Instagram’s IGTV, sprinkled with his quirky commentary. His first recipe is described as "an omelette served with a black bean salsa made with whatever was left at the grocery store", and is cleverly named ‘The Keep Calm-lette’. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, inspiring even the most novice chef to try it out. Other celebrities such as Food Network star Amanda Freitag, chef Tom Colicchio, chef Michael Symon, TV chef and host Alton Brown, and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi are also using their social media presence to share tips and advice when it comes to food and storage.
YouTube has an impressive bank of shows and videos that encourage and showcase cooking in isolation. The shows follow the typical format of cooking videos, however the ingredients are now more consciously picked out, keeping in mind what may or may not be available to people in their local shopping centres. Instagram, as well, has pictures and short videos of meals under the #cookinginquarantine hashtag. From simple pancakes to crafted sandwiches, the hashtag unveils how people are spending their time in isolation. There is also a specific account called 'cooking.in.quarantine', that dedicates all its posts to this trend.