Kitchen novices get their cooking game going with some help from online groups and live videos on social media
Aparna Sharma, an IT professional based in Hyderabad says her online shopping preference has taken a 360-degree turn. Books have been replaced by pulses; clothes by knives and shoes by ladles.
There have been errors, thanks to which she now owns one kilogram of whole cumin seeds, several packets of turmeric powder and two kilograms of black salt. But Aparna is not upset: in fact, she is rather amused about her absolute ignorance of what is needed in a functional kitchen.
“I usually depend on food from outside. My cooking is limited to making myself toast, coffee and, maybe, fried eggs,” she says. Before the lockdown, whenever she desired something fancy at home, she relied on DIY kits of pasta or noodles from the supermarket.
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With the lockdown pushing people to tackle chores normally left to the house help, almost everyone has been exploring ways to balance cooking and grocery shopping with running the household, and WFH. In the process, more people have developed an appreciation for cooking, while improving their skills.
Kondo the kitchen
Freelance photographer Sanjay Borra’s first task was to set up his kitchen. “If I have to start cooking, I might as well have things the way I like,” he says, explaining why he began with a Marie Kondo inspired detox of his mom’s kitchen. Did he manage? He laughs, “Not really, I ended up replacing the old things with new. Now I know which container has what ingredient.”
Rajani Jain with the Ghewar
Sanjay then started cooking different types of dals and perfecting the art of making rice. “For recipes, I asked my friends who cook everyday.” He also took tips from chefs and checked out YouTube channels for simple dishes. “I wasn’t looking at anything fancy and wanted to try all seasonal local vegetables and greens.”
Believing that there is a solution to every problem, many turned to social media. A quick online search will not just surprise you with the number of options on easy everyday cooking, but also teach a lot more.
Upamoni G, a Delhi-based consultant accessory designer says she turned to Facebook looking for rajma chawal recipes and ended up learning how to make sabudana vada and chicken rezala as well. Upamoni says “I am a big fan of the Get Curried page and cook Smita Deo’s recipes. With pages like those, I can sort out a list of dishes that sees me and my brother through the week.”
Home cooks like Smita Deo break down recipes and ease the cooking process. Says Smita, “My inbox is always inundated with basic queries like what is the right proportion of ginger and garlic to make the ideal paste, or what’s the easy method to make brown onion paste. Uncomplicated recipes are best for people who are new to cooking. First-timers should be able to look beyond dal-chawal and aloo ki sabzi.”
Smita says her inbox is flooded with DMs that request easy non-veg videos. “Chicken and dal makhani tops the requests,” she added. What is more, first-timers say cookalongs are of great help and it has made them more confident of cooking skills.
Zoom lesson and live sessions with chefs from restaurants like La Folie and The Bombay Canteen have made the kitchen less intimidating.
Mohit Balachandran of Eazy Diner says, “Before calling in our Eazy diner chefs, we ask people what dish they want to learn. Suggestions vary from easy Mexican to Chindian dishes.”
In April this year, Bengaluru-based Zelish, transformed itself into an app service for food and grocery needs. It doesn’t just custom-make weekly recipes (keeping in mind food allergies and preferences), it also delivers kitchen essentials and suggests basic masalas that need to be handy.
Saakshi Jain, co-founder of Zelish, says, “We felt there was a strong need, and once the app was launched, the numbers confirmed our belief. Within a few weeks into the lockdown, we’ve had 25k subscribers and it’s happened only by word of mouth.”
A close network of strangers
Blogger and journalist Peter Griffin admits he could not cook to save his life. He, however, started cooking when he decided to self-isolate himself owing to co-morbidities such as a heart condition. Peter says, “I decided to resurrect my mother’s electric rice cooker.” Realising that there would be many others with cooking experience as limited as his, he started a Facebook group called ‘Simple recipes for complicated times’.
“I was awed by the varieties of recipes and suggestions that came in when queries were posted and the generosity of absolute strangers guiding and helping each other! I thought more men would need such a group, but sadly, the demographic is 80% women who seem to have the burden of thinking up ways to keep an entire family happy.”
A very active home cook on Facebook group ‘Chef At Large’, is Delhi-based Rajani Jain. Rajani actively posts atleast one demo of a dish and is a favourite in the group because of her detailed recipes. Rajani says, “I have had people asking me to show how to make chapati/phulka right from the kneading process. My ghewar, and dahi wali dal videos did very well. The DMs for ghewar were exhausting. But it felt good helping others.”