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Quarantine Content: Thoughts on Food Writing and a PSA|Wine and Wasabi™

Hi!

Hope you’re safe and at home as you read this.

Things have been changing rapidly around the world and it’s taken us at Wine and Wasabi™ a while to process what’s happening and get to a place where we’re comfortable writing or talking about anything. Everyday there’s new information to process and accept, and it’s all a little overwhelming. We’re slowly getting accustomed to our new way of life but it’s still work in progress.

Last night, during a phone call with my partner, I was struck by how the two of us have been struggling with our mental health. And how, although we weren’t bothered by distance at the beginning of this unplanned lockdown, it has managed to take a toll on our relationship as well. We were feeling rather smug about it all after our first online movie date this year, but wow, what a departure it has been, all in the course of a few weeks.

Being stuck at home has not been easy, there’s a lot to do but the uncertainty of our current situation is proving to be more of a burden than the endless list of chores. Even as we’ve tried to wring out every ounce of productivity and positivity from within (like we’re hardwired to do) it’s been a fruitless endeavour for the most part. As the lockdown keeps extending, we’re being forced to keep repeating the same cycles and there’s only so much motivation you can derive. And that’s… probably been the hardest part for us.

Yes, we’re both extremely aware of our privilege and keep oscillating between feeling grateful and guilty, but it is what it is.

There’s also the dilemma of seeing a lot being written, in terms of food and stories around it, and we’ve had a hard time understanding, like a few others, where and in what capacity we’d like to add to the noise, or if at all.

The presumably unplanned Indian lockdown and its effect on the socio-economic situation of the nation as well as its impact on the spread of the disease is varied and complicated. I believe that this state of affairs along with the popular blogs, articles, lists, recommendations and recipes being produced around it panders to a specific section of society. It continually leaves larger, marginalised sections unaddressed even as they face more risks everyday. What’s worse, there’s very little useful communication from the central government addressing issues the majority of the population is facing as a result of an extended lockdown.

The rest of the developed world is worse off as it struggles with a higher rate of afflictions from the virus that shall not be named. But this is a global pandemic that is burning out the best public healthcare systems in the world. Considering the state of our public healthcare system and the government aid being provided, it’s all a bit bleak, even as friends and journalists try to shed light on the daily positives.

As tweet after tweet from David Chang, chef and owner of the Momofuku group of restaurants, comes through –

I become more anxious at the irreparable damage these times are causing to the service industry. In our country, with all its employment loopholes and unorganised workers, even as a large percentage of the population is engaged in various service sectors, many smaller businesses are looking at major losses they may not be able to recover from. Jobs are being lost and unemployment is rising rapidly at rates comparable to the Great Depression.

Food is political, and it is clearer than it has been in a century, as stocks keep dwindling in markets even as the PM keeps putting out videos reassuring the public that there’s no need to hoard. Trains full of food have been stopped due to communication errors between the state and central governments. Food is an expensive commodity at this time which only the richer classes seem to have proper access to. With rising prices and scarcity the urban economic divide has made the failure of the capitalist system worldwide clear as day.

There’s another reality one can’t ignore: this lockdown is extremely gendered. With everyone at home, suddenly women are finding themselves back in the kitchen, churning out meals and doing the dishes as others (mostly men) sit around, doing nothing but complain. Even if help is provided, and chores are divided, it’s ultimately the woman who functions as the manager, on whom the responsibility lies. In such a situation, cooking no longer remains the fun, creative and fulfilling activity that our Instagram feeds often advertised it as being.

But cooking is an art, and we’re true believers of that. Simple or complex, cooking is an activity that is helping so many discover themselves and keep anxiety at bay bringing joy to our lives. It’s helping maintain structure in our days and giving us a sense of accomplishment.

There’s so much going on, it’s dizzying.

Everyone’s upset and tired and feeling anxious and #covinfluencers trying to make the most of the situation, have come into existence promoting health advice and calm in these alien times, adding to the confusion around how to prevent the disease.

A little respite comes in the form of phone calls from frenzied friends who’re being forced to manoeuvre life in isolation but don’t know their kitchen beyond instant noodles and have the barest pantries I have ever had the misfortune of trying to navigate. Those half hours of panic are actually quite fun for us.

#quarantinecuisine is slowly gaining a massive following across nations and cultures and is an unlikely creative activity bringing the world closer together even as we practice #socialdistancing and navigate a lonely new world.

So, what’s this post about?

The truth is we don’t know.

There’s two of us, and there’s a lot around food we’re passionate about. So we’ll try and tackle everything we think and feel and see, that you might find useful, and that might make you smile or help take your mind off things or engage you, through recipes, lists, news and posts on life under lockdown from our little corner of the world.

Sulagna (and Arunava).

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