I want to start writing about food and knitting again. A lot has changed over the six years since I started writing this blog--I moved to a new city in 2016, graduated with my PhD and got a permanent job in 2017, ran my first marathon in 2018, came to the end of a five-year relationship in 2019, and finished the first draft of the book that my thesis has become in 2020. I don't need to tell you what else happened in 2020, of much greater import than all of that: the coronavirus pandemic.
At the start of the national lockdown in the UK, I began writing down what I was eating every day. I don't even remember why I started to doing it--as someone who can get very anxious, I find activities like counting coins and organising books soothing, so its origins may lie in that impulse to impose order. In those first few weeks, my sister told me about the short story 'So Much Cooking' by Naomi Kritzer, which I read in delight, half-disbelieving that a story told in the form of a food blog could be published speculative fiction, and half-terrified how much it didn't feel like science fiction at all.
After fifteen weeks of recording what I ate for every meal, I stopped. It had started to feel like a chore rather than something that interested me, and chose to record only the new recipes I cooked. Here's the list!
Week 1 (23 March 2020)
- chocolate granola from Bosh!
- a red cabbage soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
- masala chai from Masala
- sticky mushrooms from Bosh!
- dry-tossed broccoli from Chicken and Rice
- Brownies from Heartland
- Rutabaga casserole, also from Heartland
- Beet Hummus (I had made this the week before)
Week 2 (30 March 2020)
- Spicy parsnip soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
- Homestyle-Tofu from Food of Sichuan
- Bean salad with herbs from Mamushka
Week 3 (6 April 2020)
- Buckwheat Mushroom Broth from Mamushka
- Piyaz (Turkish Bean Salad) from Persiana
- Korean Carrots from Mamushka
- Spice-perfumed shoulder of lamb from Persiana
- Gluten-free sponge cake from Food 52
Week 4 (13 April 2020)
- Tahini Cookies from Jerusalem
- Lamb and sour cherry meatballs from Persiana
Week 5 (20 April 2020)
- Tadka Dal from Masala
Week 6 (27 April 2020)
- Lentil-chickpea salad, origins forgotten
- Chicken roasted over vegetables from Cooking in the Moment
Week 7 (4 May 2020)
- Open Kibbeh from Jerusalem
- Vegetable Kurma from Masala
Week 8 (11 May 2020)
- Custard-filled cornbread from Orangette
- Mapo Tofu from Food of Sichuan
- Tadka Dal or Vegetable Kurma (my notes are a bit confused)
Week 9 (18 May 2020)
- Homemade wheat thins from Smitten Kitchen
- Zucchini tofu koftas from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant
- Cuban Black Bean Soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
- Spiced Root Vegetable Cakes with Date and Tamarind Sauce from Persiana
Week 10 (25 May 2020)
- Beet and Chickpea Salad from Good and Cheap
- Crumiri Cookies from Classic Home Deserts
Week 11 (1 June 2020)
- Chickpea and carrot burgers, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- Stir-fried celery with minced pork from Food of Sichuan
Week 12 (8 June 2020)
- Baked German Potato Salad from Cooking from Quilt Country
- Oatmeal Cake from Cooking from Quilt Country
Week 13 (15 June 2020)
- Rhubarb Cake from Chocolate With Grace
- Red Bean and Rice Soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
Week 14 (22 June 2020)
- Rajma Galouti Kebab from Masala
Week 15 (29 June 2020)
- Schwenkfelder Cake from Secrets of Saffron
- Simplest Spaghetti al Limone from Smitten Kitchen
- Yogurt Drop Scones (Oladky) from Mamushka
Week 16 (6 July 2020)
This was the week where UK lockdown restrictions eased significantly and I stopped recording what I ate every day. I continued to note down the new recipes I tried!
- Greek Breads with Spring Onions from Mamushka
- Fennel and Carrot Pot Pie from Food 52 Vegan
Week 17 (13 July 2020)
- Lamb Shwarma from Jerusalem
Week 18 (20 July 2020)
- Smoky Black Bean Chili, adapted to feature the vegetables I had on hand, from Food 52 Vegan
Week 19 (27 July 2020)
- Mr Xie's Dandan Noodles from Food of Sichuan
- Stir-Fried Pickled Mustard Greens with Tofu from Messy Vegan Cook
Why and How
Forty-seven recipies over nineteen weeks, an average of 2.47 new recipies a week, feels like a lot. Particularly during lockdown, when I was cooking just for myself. If I had to pin down the reasons I bothered, they would be:
- I like to eat.
- It was something to do.
- It was something nice to do in the middle of a global health crisis.
- In early March 2020, I purchased a meat share from the local university's farm, something my former partner and I had talked about doing but never actually did. I had a half a lamb in my freezer, and the dinner parties I'd hoped to have weren't going to happen. Might as well do something with all that food.
Lastly, and most importantly, prior to the start of the UK lockdown, when my workplace had switched to a schedule of alternating work from home with work in the office, I hit up my local library to stock up on reading material.
My local library has a good cookbook section and prior to the shift towards lockdown I had checked out the following food related books:
And as you can see in the picture, I also picked up Chicken and Rice by Shu Han Lee and Bosh! by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby. Having new cookbooks around helped motivate me to try new things.
Secondly, about a year and a half ago I signed up for a fortnightly delivery of fruit and vegetables from Eden Farms, which has been an absolute godsend during the pandemic--it means that I am able to limit my grocery store trips to about one a month. The vegetable boxes in particular are seasonal and change weekly, so one of the reasons to try new recipies is to figure out how to use up what arrives on my doorstep.
So in sum, I had the privilege of the time, motivation, and opportunity to try new things, and the resources to make that happen. It has helped me cope with the current situation, and if you are in a position to cook new things, I hope it is helping you too.