Foodies in Isolation

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if not has dined well.”

This Virginia Woolf quote has been one I have vowed to live by throughout the past month, as I, like many others, have been pitted against some of the greatest challenges we will likely ever have to face. As a graduating senior, President of a hospitality club, and a server at Purdue University, absolutely every plan and celebration I have had planned for the remainder of my year have been torn away from me with little time to grieve or properly say goodbye. The restaurant industry, similarly to a multitude of other industries, have been severely devastated by COVID-19 and within a matter of minutes many of us went from having our entire futures in the restaurant industry laid out (in detail) ahead of us to having absolutely no plan of what is to come for the indefinite future. We have had to take our hospitality skills and knowledge to our own kitchens for our families and roommates, rather than to our establishments’ tables for others.

This global pandemic has sent us all into an indefinite period of staying at home, with industry celebrities included. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to technology, we can easily tune into IGTV videos from Antoni Porowoski (Quar Eye), Massimo Bottura (Kitchen Quarantine), José Andrés (#RecipesForThePeople), and a number of others in order to find inspiration in isolation. With my dull knives, half a spice rack, and groceries that are limited by the resources readily available during a global pandemic, I have set out to create recipes that are inspired by such videos and/or recipes I have read from a host of chefs like them in the past – except I try to make them from memory and with a personal twist. Attempting to remember bits and pieces of the meals without actually looking at the detailed outline has proven an exciting challenge that allows me to not only test my skills, but also to add spins to dishes that may not have been a part of the original recipes. Plus, having the additional obstacle of the lack of necessary ingredients, the meals have turned into my own little reality cooking show; no luck finding kimchi or mint for Korean BBQ bowls, so I was forced to make homemade pickled veggies (surprisingly easy) and use a light lime cilantro crema as a refreshing addition. Without a jar of alfredo sauce, I whisked together an almond milk, parmesan, and mozzarella sauce to top my spinach ravioli. Somehow, even a homemade sweet pepper sauce for Brazilian skirt steak was managed – without Worcestershire or parsley.

Luckily, I have not yet had a culinary catastrophe, but I have managed to come close with bagels that turned out ever so tiny and a Dijon marinated salmon that was too unbalanced. Little mistakes like those are never discouraging though, as they simply remind me that I am only trying to learn how to perfectly harmonize the flavors of a dish with salt, fat, acid, and heat (shout out to my girl, Samin Nosrat). I have begun to find joy in scribbling down what I think I could do better next time, or what ingredients could add a certain flair to meal that was missing. Whether you are a master chef or the designated quarantine cook in your home, remember that your meals do not need to turn out perfectly and that with each new kitchen experience you are learning more about your personal preferences, nourishing your body, spending time away from technology, and understanding how to inevitably dine well – on your own terms.


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