Cooking in the Time of Lockdown

by Carilyn on March 27, 2020

Like many others, we have been on lockdown for the past week, trying to stem the tide of the tsunami that is Covid-19. Fear, sadness, helplessness, and rage seem to have taken over the internet. For the first few days of captivity, I followed the news almost obsessively. But as the days marched on, and the predictions only became more dire, I knew that the only way to preserve my sanity to was to tune most of it out and go back to what I do – run, walk, write, and cook.

Cooking for many of us has always been about more than the food. It is the way we take care of people, the way we show love, the way we interact with the bigger world around us. Right now, all of those things feel monumentally important to me as I have one son that was required by his boss to vacate D.C. before the pandemic invaded, and elderly parents who I don’t want spending more time than is absolutely necessary in public spaces like the grocery store. Taking care of the people I love feels like something I have a little control over when everything else feels so out of control.

I know we are all approaching this scary, and limiting, time differently. Many of us are trying to work from home. Others are using the time to learn new skills, or tackle long overdue maintenance projects. I have list of about thirty-five items on it that I would love to get done (weed my flower beds, frame a puzzle my son and I worked on over the holidays, clean out the garage, clean out the hall closet – again), but the projects just seem to slip from my mind. Instead, I keep finding myself drawn to the kitchen, looking in the pantry, wondering what new thing I can make from the orphaned pieces of pasta left over in boxes. Surely a good creamy mac and cheese doesn’t require ALL the noodles be uniform. In fact, it might be kind of fun to serve an elbow, fusilli, linguine mash-up, right? And what about all those cans of tuna I’ve been hoarding? Maybe it is time to introduce my family to creamed tuna on toast. I could jazz it up with a homemade white wine mushroom cream sauce and fresh fennel, and serve it on a good toasted sourdough.

I start making lists of all the “new” things I can make with my pantry stash. And I feel a little better. Something about knowing that I can keep feeding people, even if I can’t sew masks, or save a life, helps me know that things will get better, eventually. People need to eat. I need to cook. Sometimes, especially in a crisis, we can help each other the most by bringing our best selves to a situation, whatever (or, whomever) that may be.

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