A Quarantined Culinary Education

Words and image by Olivia Adams

With the closure of many food eateries as a result of lockdown, and receiving the advice to stay at home, the desire to try new foods and recreate meals from my family’s favourite restaurants became a regularity in my household. Being a food lover myself, I did miss being able to eat out and order takeaways, however I’m glad that lockdown has not only improved my experience with cooking, but has brought more variety to what I can make. 

Although I’ve never minded making my own food, I’d always view it as more of a chore rather than something that I enjoyed doing – especially when rushing to get somewhere! Not only that, but I could only make a limited number of meals which I would just repeat week, after week, while at university. For example, my meal plan would consist of: stir fry, spaghetti Bolognese, fajitas, chicken curry, stir fry (again) …and so on. My intake of McDonald’s and other fast foods were getting a bit excessive, so in some ways, from a healthier lifestyle perspective, I admit I’m grateful for the lockdown period. 

“My intake of McDonald’s and other fast foods was getting a bit excessive, so in some ways, from a healthier lifestyle perspective, I admit I’m grateful for the lockdown period. “

Lockdown enabled me to have time to actually enjoy cooking and further my skills in the kitchen as there was no pressure or need to be anywhere else. I began to spend time reading and looking at various recipe books made by numerous people like: Mary Berry, Joe Wicks and Fearne Cotton, while also browsing online at different cooking websites. This search for a new culinary education meant that I could have a go at making meals that I wouldn’t usually try or, in fact, even know existed. It has opened my eyes to many more recipes, tastes, healthy options, and it has definitely made me realise that you don’t need to go out in order to be satisfied with food! 

In saying that, there were a couple of occasions where we did get a celebratory takeaway (e.g. for birthdays) and they were delicious! There were other times where myself and my family were craving these meals from our favourite restaurants, and could’ve easily given into the temptation – but we didn’t! Instead, we opted to make our own versions of these foods; which looking back I am proud of us for doing it as our versions were healthier and also saved us money. We ended up designating Saturday nights as curry night, where my step-dad would make a new curry from scratch every week. We also made home-made pizzas, which were just like Dominoes, and one night my brother made Katsu Curry using the Wagamama’s recipe. Even though we could not eat out, we brought the restaurant feel and tasty food to the comfort of our own home!

“Even though we could not eat out, we brought the restaurant feel and tasty food to the comfort of our own home! “

Another thing that I have started to appreciate more, to my own surprise, is vegetarian and vegan food. I’ve always been a meat lover and must admit that I’ve been reluctant to try foods that are meat-free. This isn’t because I dislike what ingredients are included in a veggie meal, but because I always assumed that I would prefer the meat alternative. However, I’ve actually proved myself wrong! My family and I began to make different meals like: chickpea curry, falafel, bean chilli, and we absolutely loved them! Now I don’t think that I’ll ever choose a chilli containing meat over the meat-free option again, something I didn’t previously imagine I’d say.  

Over the course of lockdown, there were seven of us staying at home, which meant having to make meals that suited everyone, and in a huge quantity. Although it may not seem difficult, when trying to adapt how many ingredients are needed for seven when the recipe is designed for three or the challenge of remembering not to include some foods due to allergies; you could say it was hard work at times! However, I’m happy that I’ve learnt to be able to do all of those things and I can confidently say I am able to cook for a larger amount of people, instead of just myself, which I can now apply in the future. In fact, since restrictions have eased, I’ve actually continued to cook for the family a few times, which I wouldn’t have done before due to not wanting to cook for more than two people! 

A few months ago, I never thought I would have a newfound love for cooking; however, lockdown has changed that. It has made me appreciate various foods and recipes, while also boosting my confidence in the kitchen. It has helped me to alter my lifestyle for the better as I now follow a healthier food path, while also allowing myself to greatly enjoy the unhealthy options once in a while. Now that many restaurants are opening, I’m definitely excited to eat out, but I’ll never dread having to cook for myself again.