Pan view of pandemic

Pan view of pandemic

The pandemic has taught us to remember all those things that really matter in life, writes Deepika Gumaste

food

Food is beautiful. It sustains us and is central to our evolution. Despite the vastness of India, the love of food is a common thread connecting people. We use food to celebrate, mourn, seek comfort, and shape our family identities. The message, “a family that eats together, stays together” is drilled into us. So, when Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic earlier this year, a billion Indians suddenly went under an indefinite lockdown. Cooped up in their homes, family gatherings put on hold, and house help inaccessible, several people took comfort in the closest thing they could think of — food!

Everyone in my circle started discussing cooking, herb gardens and how to grow fresh vegetables. Social media was flooded with posts about loaves of focaccia bread, breezy mango salads, elaborate traditional meals and spicy simmering stews. Even at work, co-workers offered treasured family recipes, helping novice cooks and bonding over the creative use of ingredients at home. In the background, the virus continued to rage.

In the middle of all this, I was forced into a moment of reckoning. As someone with an emotional eating condition, I have had a love-hate relationship with food. I have taken my meals as a chore. I have swung between binge-eating and, “skipping food because it makes me fat.” I had to introspect on my relationship with food, and what it meant to me personally. Also, I was forced to cook!

I pored over recipes online, searched for podcasts on cooking techniques, dusted my old mortar and pestle to crack peppercorns, and buried my head in a book on how to use cornstarch as a thickening agent. Swapping tips with my mother for the efficient management of meal waste became a daily pastime. I joined online cooking support groups, collected non-perishable food items, and tweeted to popular chefs, sharing my adventures for feedback.

Prepping for my daily meals, I discovered the joys and comforts of cooking — the unmistakable aroma of chillies and making the soft roti dough — just like in my ajji’s kitchen. I renewed my relationship with food. I reconnected with my senses and emotions. I delighted in my childhood memories and picked up the broken pieces of my past. I realised that life is too short to dwell on the bygones. Instead, I should use my memories to move forward in life with hope.