I have always considered myself to be a person to whom statistically improbable but optimistic things happen. Like the time I absentmindedly dropped my college backpack – containing priced possessions such as my science journal and my newly made driving license – from my moped at the petrol pump, realized it too late yet managed to recover it by the end of the day, thanks to a good Samaritan. Or the time I almost forgot my fairly new smartphone in a Swiss train that was about to pull out of the station, but fortunately managed to retrieve it by signalling frantically to the guard who had the sagacity and generosity to let me into the coach. Or quite recently, when my flatmate and I forgot our house-keys and had the building staff unlock the door to our flat within which our foster cat – that had no business being there owing to strict building regulations – went unnoticed.
And so it came as a mild surprise to me when I realized that I had indeed escaped a pandemic – the phrase sounding tad unfamiliar as I mouthed them – since it can be safely concluded that this country has, in fact, done a commendable job of managing the first wave of Covid-19. Whilst we have had our fair share of lockdowns, the impact of the virus has been lessened by rigorous testing and aggressive contact-tracing methods employed by the government. I am grateful and I mean it sincerely, with every bone in my body.
Barely had I begun to get over my homesickness and explore the city when the first lockdown struck. Fortunately by then, I had found myself a small circle of friends within Unilodge (the university accommodation) and we stuck by each other through thick and thin. Besides sharing our meals and playing board games together, I spent the remainder of my time juggling work-from-home (nope and nope) and cleaning. Yes. I realized that I am indeed my father’s daughter and hence, a self-certified neat-freak. To top that, my favourite childhood game – kitchen-kitchen – began to acquire a real touch with each passing day as I began to sharpen my culinary skills.
My first tryst with deep-cleaning occurred when I realized in dismay that the minuscule freezer in my mini fridge was prone to heavy frosting. As a result, the fridge door wouldn’t shut and upon consulting the reception staff, I was advised to defrost the freezer. Now, I hadn’t prepared myself for the copious amount of icy water that is a by-product of the process. Don’t panic – I told myself and began to assiduously wipe off the water that had pooled in and around my fridge. I also owe to my old friend from Toronto, who gave me company through a video-call whilst I grumbled my way through the task.
My cleaning regime, quite naturally, also involves vacuuming carpets – an activity that makes me groan at first but immensely satisfies me with its results. The vacuum-cleaner at Unilodge was an annoyingly heavy entity that had to be lugged from another floor into my studio. But now we have a lighter and more convenient version of the same that makes me groan less.
Moving on to my experiments with food- I’ve become quite the meat consumer now as vegetarian cooking tends to be limited by a bleak but pricey selection of vegetables, especially in winters. Plus, there’s a thrill in exploring cuisines that had been denied to me back home due to kitchen restrictions. Perhaps, the most exciting thing that I learnt to cook first (meat-wise) was chicken curry, thanks to my enterprising coworker and friend (if you are reading this, here’s a shoutout!)
However, comfort food is not replaceable; for example, sambaar and curd rice, khichdi, roti-sabzi and dosas.
The first weeks of being alone in a new country may have been daunting but I always did keep faith in my ability to cook for survival. There were instances of impulsive shopping and food spoilage but over time I devised weekly meal plans and menus to prioritize ingredients as per needs instead of wants. Here’s how I began –
My food ordering habits have drastically reduced. I would call myself a lazy chef at times but a good one alright. The best part about cooking is sharing what you’ve cooked with your loved ones. Though I didn’t mind dining alone, my motivation to cook did waver. Ironically, the lockdown reversed this for me. It brought my current flatmate/friend and I closer, and we began to share our meals on a daily basis which in turn helped us to economize. My friend is a fantastic cook – lucky me! This mouth watering spread has been brought you be us –