Dining during a pandemic can be a drag. The world is different, but you still have to find ways to eat. Maybe you’ve been cooking the same dishes over and over again, or you live alone and have grown tired of solo meals. Perhaps you haven’t yet been able to tap into your inner Julia Child, or you’re surviving off the sardines and other random items you panic-bought in the early days of the covid-19 crisis. All the while the dishes are piling up faster than you can clean them.
But feeding yourself doesn’t have to feel like a chore, says French chef Dominique Crenn, the first woman in the United States to be awarded three Michelin stars (for her San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn).
(Courtesy of Jordan Wise)
“Food is so essential for any society, but it should be fun,” Crenn, author of the upcoming memoir, “Rebel Chef: In Search Of What Matters,” said over the phone. “I just want people to wake up and reengage with their community, eat well and cook.”
The pandemic has changed our dining experiences profoundly – meals are no longer shared with friends and family, eating out is practically impossible – which is why we turned to the experts for tips to revitalize our dining rhythms and routines.
(Courtesy of Hulu)
Studies have found that eating the same food makes people feel closer, and it’s still possible to do that with a little digital help. Padma Lakshmi, the host of “Top Chef”and the upcoming Hulu series “Taste The Nation With Padma Lakshmi,”has started sharing recipes via Instagram.
“My main therapy/activity has been to cook meals and film them,” Lakshmi wrote over email. “Having this sort of exchange with people has been life-affirming during this time.”
(Courtesy of Edlyn D'Souza)
Priya Krishna, author of “Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family” and a contributor to the New York Times and Bon Appétit, has been self-quarantining with her parents in Dallas. Cooking with them on a regular basis has made her appreciate her mom’s ingenuity. “She’s an intuitive cook,” Krishna says over the phone. “She looks in the fridge and sees a meal. I look and see nothing.”
Crenn, Lakshmi and Krishna offered tips to make eating easier, more inventive and more personal. Here are a few nuggets of their advice.
Craft your own recipes
As anyone who has watched the Food Network series “Chopped”knows, the odds and ends from your pantry could lead to culinary magic. “I stopped measuring,” Krishna says. “I’m learning to trust my instincts.” After all, recipes are just an outline that can be adjusted for taste and availability. Crenn’s word of advice when creating your own? “Less is more.”
Try making roti
Sourdough starters not your thing? Krishna suggests making roti, an unleavened bread from India that is easy to make with a little practice. Made of just two ingredients — wheat flour and water — roti is a sturdy base for scooping up the leftovers of a saucy dish, but Krishna’s favorite way to eat roti is slathered in ghee, or clarified butter. “It’s my family’s universal comfort food,” she says.
Lean into cookbooks
Trust the experts. Crenn calls on Nancy Singleton, the James Beard Award-nominated author of two cookbooks, for inspiration — quite literally. “A year ago, I was going to make pasta, and I called Nancy. ‘Can you give me a recipe for a good pasta dough?’” Crenn says. “And then she sent me a page of her cookbook.”
Know that simple meals can still be decadent
Instant noodles are quick and easy, but so is putting together a cheese plate. “If I have bread and cheese, I’m a happy camper,” Crenn says.
Make eating in an event
Crenn says it’s worth occasionally dressing up for dinner. “Set the table and it’s a feast,” she says. “Take a shower, put on a little makeup and just celebrate what you’ve done.”
Lakshmi suggests turning dinner into a game, like the “Top Chef” Quickfire Challenges. On the show, contestants are given a set of cooking parameters, such as using a certain ingredient or making a particular cuisine. Usually they are given a time limit, but Lakshmi suggests scrapping that. “Maybe not so quick,” she notes, “just a friendly contest.”
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A moment in history
(Courtesy of PanAm.org)
During the Vietnam War, Pan Am, an international airline, had a contract with the Department of Defense to provide rest and relaxation (R&R) flights for soldiers on leave. The crews on those special flights — including female flight attendants, known then as Pan Am stewardesses — flew into war zones and the planes regularly took ground fire. The pilots, all of whom were male, got hazardous-duty compensation when flying into combat zones, but the women did not. While trained to be first responders and maintain safety, the flight attendants also served as big sisters, therapists and friends to the soldiers, Sarah Rose writes in The Washington Post. Some of the women even used layovers to visit the wounded in military hospitals.
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Until next time
But before we part, some recs
(Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
Nneka McGuire Multiplatform Editor, The Lily
What I’m reading: Depending on your outlook, it’s either the worst time or the best time to read a dystopian novel. Sign me up, friends. My hellscape of choice is the apocalyptic world in Ling Ma’s 2018 novel “Severance,” which describes a society leveled by an illness that spares few. I just started “Severance” days ago, but I’m already hooked.
What I’m gazing at: I’ve long wanted to own original art, so I’ve been browsing works from artists around the globe via Saatchi Art, an online gallery. I’ve yet to pull the trigger and buy a piece, but gazing is a gift in and of itself.
What I can’t stop thinking about: “Undone.” The Amazon Prime series, which I recently finished, is unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It employs a dreamy form of animation called rotoscoping and grapples with mental health, family ties and the possibility of magic.