Tara Isabella Burton on Quarantine Cooking Gone Hipster is a Sign of Hope

Fresh fruits and vegetables. Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Creative Commons

As I write this column, my husband is cooking dinner. We have gotten used to this ritual, by now: One or both of us preparing something careful and elaborate, keeping a record of our recipes, day by day, on special writing paper to mark the time.

I almost never cooked in the “before times,” as we all call them now. I lived in a 200-square-foot studio with no counter space and no oven, living off corner-store bagels, supermarket rotisserie chickens and bodega coffee. My husband, though he cooked more than I did (he had a proper kitchen, for starters), still did not do so with the attentive regularity we have now. Work got in the way. Outside got in the way.

It is strange, and perhaps a little bit unsettling, how cooking has become a counterintuitive luxury in the time of coronavirus: at once a vaunted connection with authenticity in this age of increasing disembodiment, and yet also one made possible by the same privileges that allow us to be disembodied: the ability to work from home; the funds to have a week’s worth of groceries delivered.

So many of us now have taken refuge and even delight in a certain nostalgic vision of thriftiness that until recently was widely seen as a hipster affectation: storing up vegetable scraps for stock, using apple cores for syrup, making our own sourdough starters for bread. Something that has, for so much of history, and for so much of the world, been a necessity is now, also, a luxury good: costing not money but time, which more and more of us have now in spades.

Some of these reasons are, of course, practical: Those of us who have taken up cooking, or baking, or syrup-making, are minimizing exposure to the outside world by minimizing the grocery trips we need. We are passing the time, rendering distinct our days. What we eat for dinner is often the only way to distinguish a Monday from a Wednesday, a Thursday from a Friday.

But we are also feeding into a narrative, albeit a flawed one, of hope: that out of the chaos of the virus there might come some sense of order, or meaning, or beauty, that in the shattering of the status quo we might find renewal.

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Source: Religion News Service