Cooking has always been my happy place. I switch off to create something nice, possibly have some good groovy music on and very often embark on a little jive in the kitchen, MY KITCHEN. But over the past 10 plus weeks or so here on lockdown. My happy place has become an odd discombobulated mix of frantic baking, live Facebook feeds, a classroom as well as a curious mystery of what groceries might or might not arrive. The pleasure of cooking has gone haywire and I might be following suit. Yet this is a great time for bloggers, vloggers, and food writers to put themselves out there and reach a captive audience. Or have we possibly missed a golden opportunity in the frantic hunt for self-raising flour and live yeast? I’m a seasoned home cook and housewife but even I’m a bit “over ” this baking business and yearn for something different, something I don’t actually have to cook myself. I genuinely feel for the poor parents out there juggling homeschooling, work, and trying to keep up with the endless pressure of those fab photos of friends recent bakes, while jogging along to PE with Joe what’s his name? (Which by the way I gave up after 8 minutes coming close to needing one of those ventilators everyone is talking about. )
In the beginning, I thought this is great. Sure its great fun, people are cooking together, sharing their family favorites, etc. Everyone will get back to basics, appreciate being at home, cook something nice, do some baking with the kids, etc. And for a while it was going fairly well I’d say. Facebook was awash with new cookery classes, the tried and tested Vloggers and Utube channel cooks didn’t have their fancy teams of people around them and really got back to what cooking in real-time at home is. So those of us giving it a go were slightly less intimidated. Sure now we are all just using our phones and dealing with the handshake or leaving it up against a candle holder to stay in place. Bad camera angles, vacant stares into the camera wondering is it on or not are all commonplace. I’m the biggest culprit. Although some of the best live feeds are total newbies, whos friends are watching so they are having the chat while making the dinner or a cake. They could be the new cooking heroes.
But has the enthusiasm begun to fade as the sugar rush from endless baking leads to our sugar crash? Are we fed up with banana bread? Do we really want to be stuck in a house on lockdown with the stench of fermenting yeast? And how much fun is it REALLY baking with the kids for the 10th time while juggling emails from work? As the novelty starts to wear off. Is it going to turn us off cooking for a very long time after all this? These are valid questions, maybe not crucially important in the scheme of things but valid all the same. When New Zealand lifted its restrictions a large portion of people didn’t dash for a fine sourdough or a slice of perfect carrot cake. They went for quick, no fuss junk food from McDonald’s and take out coffee. All that food appreciation went out of the window at high speed.
I have been quiet up and down about cooking in this lockdown state. I can’t get the ingredients I might want. Groceries are done every two weeks for example. I sit up into the small hours just to press checkout in the hope of getting a delivery slot within two weeks. The joy of all cooks of grocery shopping or picking up fruit or veg and imagining what you might make is gone for now. Items might or might not arrive. Silly things like that are kind of frustrating for me. So I can only imagine what it’s like for a new cook or a parent waiting to do fairycakes with a 6-year-old and only the sugar has arrived in the grocery delivery. Now the child is losing it because the said cakes are not getting made.
I started doing live feeds, not so much to cook, more to connect with family and friends around the world. And it is really lovely when you see their names pop up and give you a wave. But even I have questioned and wondered if all this cooking isn’t going to actually turn people off cooking for a very long time. Everyone in the house all day means the kitchen really never closes. And how many different ways can ya watch banana bread being made? When you see the funny posts about people cooking like crazy you know deep down its been overload. What began as a great distraction, a bit of fun has possibly morphed into a form of madness. Adding a certain level of stress into an already stressful situation. I’m hoping my disastrous efforts at bread are at least keeping some sense of imperfection as normality in a kitchen.
In recent days I have been chatting to people and get a real sense that the cooking frenzy is starting to take its toll. Whether its lack of ingredients, little time, kids losing the plot mid whisk or parents trying to juggle more pressure with work, family, school, etc all happening within their home at once. The corona cooking madness has caused a level of panic buying baking ingredients. Flour is almost impossible to get. The social media & group chat cake posts are a real thing, along with all the pressure that comes with that. Its no longer peer pressure about how skinny you are. It’s how pretty are your fairy cakes or how big your sourdough rise looks. It’s like bake-off gone global which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And can really take the good out of such a simple pleasure.
This week’s nirvana moment was instead of cooking I’d make a picture out of the veg on the counter. I was just staring at the ingredients without much intent and I drifted off into some strange calmness happily playing with the vine tomatoes as my son’s maths class was happening next to me. I’m calling it art, you can judge for yourself. I think I just wanted to do something different with it. Not to cook it, not to eat it, not to tell someone else what to do with the ingredients. My space isn’t really my space at the moment. Add the constant feeding as everyone is at home and it’s taking the good out of it at the minute I think. I’m sure its the same for other housewives and home cooks. So much so I have been doing other creative things like art. Jeepers maybe I’m going all arty and the tree is just the beginning!
Don’t get me wrong, some of the stuff online is brilliant and a great way to get connected. I am enjoying it for sure. But the creative cook within is avoiding it like a sneeze in the face. When my kitchen becomes my space again and groceries are slightly more reliable. I’ll want to cook something nice and try something different eventually. However, I think if we are honest, we have to admit. Take-outs and restaurants are going to do a great trade as people shakily put down their whisks, dump the sough dough mother in the bin en route from the kitchen to the couch deflated and mentally drained from live cookery classes. The question of “what do ya fancy ?” or “where will we go?” will be answered wearily as follows. ” I don’t care as long as I don’t have to cook it or tidy up after it”. And so the madness will ease, the pressure will lift and the mind will clear all memory of how to make banana bread. We will all be sane again.