Living in the time of a pandemic is a myriad of things, relative for different people. For many, it means being a front liner, while for some it means being a fundraiser. But for most, it means doing your part by staying home, socially-distanced from our closest and dearest. It has been a harsh mental undertaking to be confined as you watch the daily news. The place we used to seek refuge in has morphed into a prison wherein we are somehow blessed by having no other choice but to be. As human beings, we are creatures of habit and we function on routine–in what we believe as “normal”. Now in the midst of a global crisis, it makes sense for confusion, fear, and insecurity to fill us. House chores aside, everyone has their own way of handling the stress. To cope, I have read three books, watched all six seasons of Sex and The City, and have grown respect for TikTok, among others. But nothing quite compares to how I now perceive the art of cooking, and how that fondness grows recipe after recipe.
I’ve familiarized myself with the freshness of fish, the lifespan of vegetables, and nutritional benefits. My diet now consists of more veggies, a bit of fish and chicken, and a lot less pork. I now appreciate freshly squeezed gata, genuine Italian olive oil, pure curry powder, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my life is nothing without garlic. And, butter. Butter makes everything better.
They say there is great value in knowing what goes into your food. In cooking, not only do you have full control of your ingredients, but the process requires your full presence as well. Give and take. We often overlook the source of our goods, yet when we learn where and who they come from, we connect to them more deeply than we initially imagined. Personally, I get around to more creative recipes with freshly harvested goods because it’s how I pay homage to the farmer’s hard work. It’s a small gesture, but I like to exert effort into turning okra and sweet corn into something like…fritters, farm-to-table style. The experience becomes more meaningful this way, when you enjoy putting food on your table and simultaneously doing the same for others.
Lately, I’ve been daydreaming of preparing a feast for everybody. My rule is to cook like how you treat a friend. Be generous–don’t scrimp on your ingredients. Be kind to the body–what you cook is what you feed your soul. A life lesson cooking prompts me with is when things are uncertain, trust your gut. What doesn’t feel right, probably isn’t. Taste and season accordingly. If it doesn’t smell great, your mom won’t like it. Choose good (not canned), always. Choose better (fresh), when you can. Such trying times has peeled back layers and has revealed our new selves, to show us that we’re growing stronger and wiser as a result. Perhaps this is a time to finally clean something old and dusty, a time to unearth hidden personal needs, or a time to come undone in things we’re truly passionate about. From a simple coping mechanism to a hobby, I’ve found joy in cooking, in how the right taste brings me to the better things headed our way. I’m grateful, day by day. Often, the brighter days are looking to be behind us, but it’s our new routines and our positive outlook that feed our soul, nurture our spirit, and give us even the slightest glimmer of hope. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, but know you can always find your way back to peace, through whatever is keeping your spirit alive. May your thoughts be good as the soul eats what you feed your mind, too. After all this, I look forward for surf, for coffee with the whole crew, and to shop for a new saucepan. See you soon.
About The Author:
A writer born and bred in Manila, currently resides in San Juan, La Union, where she’s the People Operations Manager for El Union Coffee. In her spare time, she’s at the beach either for surf or sunset, grabbing dinner at the night market, and maybe taking naps. She's on instagram as @aalyssacastillo