More people are turning to cooking and baking at home as a form of therapy amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s a luxury some can’t afford.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people are self-quarantining at home or are under lockdown. “Stay at home” has become a war cry and people have turned to hobbies and pastimes that bring them comfort in these uncertain times. TRT World takes a look at people who have taken up cooking and baking to offer solace to themselves and their family.
Zeynep Azizoglu, a conference interpreter, says she has been cooking more than she ever has in recent years. “We used to eat out so much!” she says, “A waste of resources all around. Spoiled behaviour. Unjustifiable!”
Azizoglu says she has realised that most meals can be prepared at home, at least half of what they used to eat out at restaurants. She says when life returns to “normal”, whenever that may be, she won’t eat out as much. The whole pandemic has made her feel ashamed about her eating habits.
She says she went to work for one last job on Monday, but for a week she has been venturing outside only for grocery shopping. She plans to step out when her food stock dwindles. The market she shops at, she says, is huge and sparsely populated, and she doesn’t feel as if she’s in danger.
Azizoglu is 58. “I can go out food shopping for another seven years if this situation continues,” she laughs. Turkey has issued a lockdown on senior citizens 65 and older to protect them from getting infected with Covid-19.
She prefers to cook vegetable dishes at home. “I washed and cleaned spinach for the first time in years,” she tells TRT World. “I washed it so many times.”
“I mostly cook vegetable dishes with meat or in olive oil. I bought fish and cooked sea bass in the oven. I cooked celery with quince and mandarin juice which we will eat today. I stocked up on beans and pasta. I boiled chicken for chicken soup, and now that we have no more chicken, we have to go out and get some more.”
“I enjoy cooking,” Azizoglu says. “Life teaches you to enjoy things,” she muses. “It becomes the highlight of the day when you’re jailed at your house.”
She says that she has also learned that cooking doesn’t take all that much time. She has always cooked, but now she cooks more at home because of Covid-19.
Zeynep Nisanci disagrees. “In all honesty, I’d rather be reading a book,” she tells TRT World. “But I have always cooked the meals in this house, and I will continue to do so,” she says, determinedly.
Nisanci is 73, “74 next month,” she adds, part of one of the demographics who are banned from going out. “It bothers me that I can’t pick out my own fruit and vegetables in the market,” she says, having to rely on delivery.
She says she is happy to cook for her family and tries to incorporate a serving of protein and a serving of vegetables with each meal.
During the quarantine, she has watched films, listened to music, checked her WhatsApp messages, exercised and made Skype calls with her two adult children who live in the UK and the US.
Dilan Sungur, 43, a consultant, says she checks her work email regularly, receiving a couple messages a day. She says she is quite worried about the pandemic, and that she’s been in quarantine for a week.
“Before that,” she tells TRT World, “my boyfriend and I have been very careful. About eight of us gathered at a friend’s house, but because we had heard about Italy, we were already practising social distancing guidelines.”
Her father, who has diabetes and heart disease, stays home in his own apartment, and she checks up on him via phone.
“This may be a bit paranoid,” Sungur says, “but I have been trying to figure out how self sufficient we are. I bought flour, yeast, pasta and canned goods, things that won’t spoil in a week. I started baking my own bread.”
“I also didn’t want to change our routine,” she adds. “Every night, we sit at the dinner table, eating a full meal with soup, salad, and a main course.” She says they haven’t been ordering food at all and prepared their own meals for the last two weeks, maybe more.
She thinks cooking together is good for couples, and that she’s seen more men setting foot in the kitchen, traditionally seen as a woman’s reserve, during the quarantine.
“I’m not a big lover of cooking,” she says, “but I got tired of sitting around and picked it up as a distraction. I also clean the house more.” She enjoys stepping out for fresh vegetables and fruit, saying they’ve been trying to support local businesses that have remained open, such as the green grocer’s.
Sungur also plans to become a vegetarian again, having practised it for nine years before. “I watched a video by a vegan Turkish doctor,” she says, “and it convinced me that animals mass-raised in crowded pens are no good for us or the environment.”
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Sociologist Alev Erkilet tells TRT World that while the crisis the world is facing is unique, responses will not be. “We are all trying to convince ourselves that we will live our lives like we used to in ‘normal’ times,” she says. “This is an effort to keep ourselves balanced. But when we look at the details sociologically, different people will react differently. There is no one single response.”
According to Erkilet, one’s class, cultural or occupational position will determine his or her response to the pandemic. “Whether that’s fear, or having faith in God, or resistance, it depends a lot on the individual’s ethical codes, his or her norms.”
Erkilet points out that a cashier who has to sit at a register all day, making transactions and handling cash too may rather want to stay at home with her children and bake with them. But her life, her class, does not allow it as she has to work, ironically, to put food on the table.
“One needs to be at least middle class to enjoy cooking and baking at home during this pandemic,” Erkilet says, “without having to worry about loss of income –– thanks to savings or an ability to work from home.”
She gives another example about children staying home from school. “There are a lot of graduate students who are mothers around me,” Erkilet observes. “They have all started baking cakes to keep their children happy, to offer a semblance of ‘normalcy’ in an uncertain time.”
She says if the child were at school, the graduate student mother would probably be working on her thesis, but is now spending more time in the kitchen because she wants her child to perceive everything is OK with the world. “This is something that all mothers who are staying at home with their children are talking about,” she concludes.