The coronavirus outbreak has rattled our daily lives, and things seem to change minute by minute. But there’s one constant: we have to eat. How do we cook among the chaos? What recipes do we lean on? How can we use cooking to stay calm? That’s what we’re exploring in this series, The Way We’re Cooking Now.
I learned to cook for dinner parties. At thirteen, I would carefully plan menus and practice my best cursive on name cards. I’d agonize over Ina Garten recipes and my family (the only guests) would, in turn, hide any agony my attempts at dinner caused them.
My cooking might have been rubbish, but I’d caught on to the magic of a shared meal. Until recently, I crowded family and friends around my tiny dining room table as often as possible. And despite my commitment to social isolation, I’m still planning on breaking bread with my loved ones now—just not in person.
Each month I host a book club at my apartment. This month, we’ll meet online. While I’m sure I’ll miss the heated discussions, passed plates, and everyone’s various wine contributions in my living room, I honestly might be happy to have the hummus bowl to myself this go round. These Polenta Bites with Mushrooms and Fontina by our food editor Anna are one of my go-to recipes for these book club meetings; I’ll keep making them for myself, topped with garlicky roasted broccoli or cauliflower, or just a pile of crispy white beans.
Despite my commitment to social isolation, I’m still planning on breaking bread with my loved ones now—just not in person.
A Barcelona-based friend, confined to her apartment by government lockdown (and her own desire to keep her city safe) tells me over Instagram that she and her friends have been hosting virtual tapas parties, which inspired me to dig around in the back of my fridge for a carton of olives to warm with a few peels of citrus zest, and to pull out a few eggs and potatoes for a Tortilla Española. I plan on video-chatting a few pals when I sit down to eat. An added bonus: the Tortilla Española is sturdy enough to hold up for the next day’s lunch beautifully.
We aren’t the only ones with video gatherings on the mind: My colleague Kendra had a FaceTime dinner gathering with her parents and sister this past weekend. Her sister lives nearby, and her parents had intended to visit them both from California this week. When Kendra was telling me about her dinner, she mentioned that she had created a somewhat serious agenda, which included the following:
- Opening remarks
- What’s everyone eating
- Check-in with the family dog
Nowhere on there was ‘Stress Spiral about COVID-19’, which is perhaps why it’s most important to maintain the normalcy of joyous dinner parties. Read the news, stay informed, keep yourself healthy and others healthy by listening to the experts. But also give yourself a break by laughing over a shared meal—just make it virtual.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious