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Hustle and bustle in the kitchen during the pandemic

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Hustle and bustle in the kitchen during the pandemic

The pandemic has had a huge impact on the way we live our lives. Our social commitments and interactions have been reduced, and we are spending a lot more time at home. Not surprisingly, many Canadians are finding innovative ways to unleash their creative side and are channelling their energies into hobbies and interests.

While some are identifying a new interest, others are taking the opportunity to rediscover existing interests, and some are even turning their passions into a business opportunity.

Cooking up new skills
Takshil Shah is one of the many Canadians who has been exploring his passion for cooking. Shah calls himself a “big foodie” and says that he is able to spend more time in the kitchen given that he can work from home and doesn’t have the same long commute to get to the office.

Takshil Shah with his family

“Things were different pre-COVID – we ordered in 2-3 times a week. Since March, we have started cooking more because we now have a lot more time. I would travel from Brampton to Scarborough every day for work, now I save two hours of commuting time,” he says.

Shah and his wife were also hesitant to order from restaurants because of the fear of the potential for the spread of the virus. “We were skeptical about ordering in because of COVID. You never know, with the number of cases rising even in spite of precautions – for instance, [through contact with] the delivery guy.”

Shah and his wife have taken the additional time available to them to experiment with recipes from other cuisines, and these foods have become a regular part of their cooking. “Things turned out well, we cooked more and hardly ordered out. We started trying recipes from different cuisines – Chinese, Italian and Mexican – and they got incorporated into our daily cooking.”

A YouTube Culture & Trends report, Watching the pandemic, found that there was a spike in cooking viewership in the first months of the pandemic with people watching more videos about making food at home.

According to the report, “Cooking up new skills in the kitchen is one of the most accessible ways a person can grow their idea of who they are and what they are capable of, and people flocked to tutorials on YouTube while restaurants were shut down.” The report also found that videos with restaurant-style cuisine became popular “because cooking and eating these foods is as much about the feeling they provide as the nutritional value”.

From their kitchen to yours
A number of food services like ready-to-eat meals for pre-order, DIY kits and family-style meals for home delivery are starting to pop up everywhere. Many with a passion for cooking and an entrepreneurial mindset are even starting to offer up home-cooked meals on online forums. A search for “home-cooked meals” on Facebook Marketplace now brings up an increasing array of options to choose from.

Those with a passion for cooking and an eye for business are offering up home-made meals that are delivered to your doorstep on a daily basis. These services are often recommended by others in the community who are using them.

Since August, Shah and his family haven’t had additional help in taking care of their daughter, which means less time to spend in the kitchen. “My mother-in-law was visiting us and went back home at the end of August. We have a 20-month old daughter, and [now] we hardly have time to cook.”

They have now started ordering home-style food: “We started using a tiffin service – they come and deliver every morning and  drop off lunches: fresh home-cooked meals instead of pre-cooked food and the person who cooks does it herself. This is working for us since we are more occupied now and have less time than during earlier in COVID,” says Shah.

Making healthier choices
Health and wellness are in the spotlight during the pandemic and there is a lot of advice about avoiding “emotional eating” due to the stress related to drastic lifestyle changes. Tips on grocery shopping, meal planning and healthy eating are available online including on public health websites.

While Indian couple Uday and Sheena Bhatia are watching more YouTube cooking videos, they have also been experimenting with healthier food choices. “We have always loved cooking and trying out new recipes. We are taking time to explore healthier options, especially now because it’s cold outside and we don’t even get that much exercise.” The Bhatias have been baking and grilling and are now considering buying an air fryer on Black Friday. “It’s definitely not the same taste but it’s healthier than deep frying and you get to eat what you desire: fried chicken, fritters, bread rolls, etc.”

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about spending additional time in the kitchen. While Polish-South-African-Canadian Ola Cukrowska has tapped into her creative side and sewn some beautiful masks during the pandemic, even ordering special fabric to do so, her time spent in the kitchen is pretty much the same.

“Absolutely nothing has changed. I use Uber Eats more. I have never baked bread and nor shall I ever. I think scrambled eggs are a perfectly good meal,” she says. “Sure, take-out comes with its own risks…but it’s less of a risk than walking into a restaurant and ordering food and taking it out; with ordering in, I will be only exposed to one person.”

“Popcorn and wine that’s my dinner,” she says.

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