Muses of the Lockdown

Six things that the stay at home circuit may have brought forth, especially with food

By Madhulika Dash

Let’s face it; the last few weeks have been an eye opener of sorts for many things, but most importantly it is of how acutely tiring (and irritating) a forced stay at home can be. And while we all pray for the uncertainty of COVID 19 to come to an end – sooner if possible – the close to two months of home boundness has given enough time for many of us to mull over things that could have skipped our minds before. Like cooking at home for instance and reviving old favourites. And, a few more likes these:

A Pantry is An Essential
Yes, we missed a lot of things in this period. But the one aspect of good housekeeping that revived was a pantry, its need, and how well a small but efficient pantry can be worked upon. In fact, a good pantry like Chef Sabyasachi Gorai puts it could be your key to planning a Sunday meal everyday for at least a month with the need of replenishing the fresh produce only, once a week – and that too not beyond a kilo of two.

Everything can be repurposed
Well, we as Indians already know that. We excel in the art of using stale lentil to create some of the softest parathas, turn chaptis into delicious rolls, bread into improvised pizza and of course, that bhaji, which will pair well with the ladi pao made at home. But the true lesson went beyond with many using spinach to make pesto, tomatoes to make sauce that could be used in any number of dishes and most importantly using stems to flavour meat. One such lesson was in stock making using skins, peels and others that often found their way to stash.

Art of making the winter stash
Yet another learning to revive was the old style of storing food and growing a few like herbs. With chefs taking on the social media to help people and share knowledge, most of the masterclasses came for free. One such class was how to make your stock last – especially of the fresh produce that could be either be steamed and vacuumed or sun dried in the oven for a longer stay. Of course, bonus was the trick on using it again.

Baking isn’t that technical after all
Of course, baking is fun and rewarding. It is the western version of the traditional ladoo making at home that our grandparents would have us do to kill time during our summer holidays. In fact, it was the one activity that many happily indulged in, even boasting of the success on social media (our true versions of socialising these days). From chocolate cakes, to easy atta cookies to pizza on a pan, the last few weeks has seen all forms of baking – and in all kinds of tool, and with pretty delicious results. The result: now bakers would need to up their offering.

Pressure cooker and rice cooker – the finest kitchen essential
Once considered to the lazy cook’s ideal tools, the stay at home circuit has elevated the two into somewhat of a gourmet tool legend. These innovations of the 70s and 90s are not only effective cooking tools but amazing time and energy savers as well. In fact, forget home cooks even chefs rely on these appliances when you have to cook a one pot meal that is delicious, gourmet and mess-free, literally. So next time you want to cook a Muradabadi Biryani and have reason to procrastinate,invest in a rice cooker instead.

Pizza, pasta, burger is fine... but we are Indians
Don’t get us wrong; a mark of being a reader of this articles makes you an ardent lover of food of all kinds. But the one thing that is undeniable about us is at the end of everything we need our paratha, chole kulche, biryani, pakora and even the simple dal and chawal with pickle and papad. A notion reasserted when every single chef in the country resorted to finding traditional culinary gems in his food legacy to share. And the beauty, even in their most tasteful self, each of the dishes were minefield of goodness that built the immunity. If there was a time that reaffirmed our love for Indian food, it was these past 40 days.

Chaats and sweets are an emotion
As Indians we are obsessed about our chaats and our sweets – both of which are customised to our taste. And yet, for us, these two chapters of the Indian culinary ledger isn’t just food, they are our emotional connect. In fact, ‘nostalgia’ is a word that in the Indian dining space was singlehandedly created by the Chaats and Sweets we have. The prove is that even today a single picture of a dahi bada, vada pav or even a bowl of halwa is enough to get the slap-wake the endorphins in our body – and bring back the smile. Little wonder that wellness science and nutritionist now suggest them as part of taking care of our mental care.