My phone calls to family and friends have become chats about grocery availability. I message my area Indian grocery store to see if they have the roti flour I need. My local grocer advises me to buy enough to last my family for the next few months because dals and flours are not coming from India. The wheels in my brain are churning overtime. What will happen? What should I stock up on? Should we ration certain food? What we took for granted has become an anxiety generating issue. Food has become the main topic of conversation. My mother unhappily tells me there will be no homemade pickles this year because mangoes are not coming in! I sit thousands of miles away and think about a summer without raw pickling mangoes. My childhood memories of drying mangoes on old cotton saris in the sun and mixing pickle masalas with raw mangoes rush forward and my mouth waters. I feel sad that this tradition has been impacted by COVID. And then, on a phone call one morning, I could hear the excitement in my mom’s voice. The mangoes have come! I smile. A small comfort in these difficult times.
Food is an ultimate comfort provider. Like a lot of people during this unusual time, I am cooking more. A need for that comfort made the kitchen my escape room, my calming space. I love cooking and find it meditative. Evening meals are my favorite to cook. I play music on Pandora and lose myself in the process.
My children are living with us for now. After being empty nesters, suddenly our home has gone back to the good old days with our children at home. My husband has joked a few times that he has lucked out because, with the children at home, I am cooking a greater variety of foods. In the good old days of BC (I heard the term BC as the time “Before COVID-19 ”) he got only traditional meals! My daughter loves to bake. Between us, our kitchen has transformed into a foodie’s haven. For the first time in my life, I have become more organized about meal planning, grocery shopping, and making sure nothing is wasted. I can’t justify throwing away anything when I see hundreds lining up for food
During this time, I have explored a few cookbooks and food blogs based out of England. I have also enjoyed livestreamed cooking lessons over Instagram. Lately it has been one of my favorite things to do. Here, I have compiled a brief list of books and Instagram accounts I have enjoyed while staying home.
One of my favorites! We have been eating at this restaurant in London for the last few years. When I saw the copy displayed on the hostess desk, I had to have it. I love the food there. The opportunity to cook Egg Kejriwal exactly as it’s made at the restaurant shouldn’t be passed up. Apart from the recipes, it also includes stories about Mumbai (Bombay) and the food journey the authors took of the city. Certain culinary charms are unique to Bombay. The quirky Iranian cafes serve the food influenced by Parsi culture in the old-world ambiance. Dishoom interprets this food and the ambience in London for our pleasure.
Meera Sodha’s Fresh India
Meera Sodha’s cookbook gives recipes for vegetarian dishes which are not easily found in Western countries. Some are traditional vegetarian recipes from Gujarat, some are from other parts of India and from Sri Lanka. There are some recipes where she has explored the combinations of traditional dishes with locally available vegetables in England. One of my favorite recipes is for Sri Lankan Kottu Roti. In Sri Lanka, it’s always cooked with meat. I was so happy to see the vegetarian version of it. I have interpreted that recipe to suit my family’s taste and have made it several times.
Bread Ahead Bakery, London
I enjoy watching Bread Ahead Bakery’s livestreams on Instagram. Since we have been stuck at home, I have spent many hours drooling over the recipes cooked by Matthew and the videographer Erica. It’s as if I am sitting in their baking school at Boroughs Market with a few hundred people from all over the world. The lighthearted, nonprofessional video shoots are relaxing and charming. Be prepared for major drooling for the doughnuts and palmiers cooked by baker Matthew Jones. The cookbook Baking School is available as an ebook all over the world. I have already made my daughter, the baker in the family, download it. Thanks to Bread Ahead, my kitchen smells of freshly baked bread nowadays.
Padella, and its sister restaurant Trullo, are one of my favorite places to have freshly made pasta in London. We have stood in line for 45 minutes at Boroughs Market, just waiting to try Padella’s fresh pasta. The wait was totally worth it. So, after catching a livestream from chef Siadatan’s home during the early days of stay at home, I started following him avidly. The video of Pici Cacio e Pepe he and his daughters made was so sweet that I was hooked. In case you want to check it out, chef Tim Siadatan’s cookbook Trullo is available.
Recently I read somewhere about a Korean word son-mat. That means “taste of food cooked by one’s hand.” Some say it also means “food cooked by your mother’s hand.” However you want to interpret it, it’s a lovely word. When food is cooked by your hands it has a unique favor. I made sure these tough times become a journey through food for comfort and pleasure for my family. My son-mat.