Queen’s Eats: Cooking through social distancing

Coping with self-isolation by nourishing yourself

You can always find solace in comfort foods.
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We’re about two weeks into social distancing orders from public health agencies, and while a lot of students are figuring out how to finish up final assignments from home, others are already fatigued from binge-watching YouTube videos for the tenth day in a row.

Facing an advisory to stay at home as much as possible, it’s easy to get cabin fever. While you’re taking the precautions to take care of others and prevent further spread of COVID-19, it’s also important to take care of yourself in self-isolation.

Cooking can be an outlet that nourishes both physical and mental health in a time when isolation takes a toll on both. Here are some of my favourite cooking projects you can take on to practice self-care and combat boredom while social distancing:

Just dough it

With classes going online, many of us may suffer from lack of daily routine. Working from home, I’m not nearly as productive as I am when I have classes and clubs to work around. To add structure to my day, I’ve employed bread-making.

Mixing, kneading, and rolling out dough act as study breaks, and I work while my creation rises and bakes. I highly suggest trying your hand at pizza dough, as it only requires flour, water, oil, and salt. Additionally, if you prep your dough during the day, you can look forward to a gourmet pizza dinner.

Alternatively, my favourite recipe—Bon Appetit’s Best Morning Buns—requires the brioche dough to rest in the fridge overnight to be rolled out in the morning. Without a schedule, my laissez-faire morning routine usually beings at noon. Knowing that I have fresh pastries to bake in the morning is great motivation to get out of bed at a reasonable hour. Subsequently, I set myself up for a more productive day.

Stock up

Going to the grocery store, even with precautions for social distancing and sanitization in place, can be stressful.

To reduce the number of times I have to shop for things in person, I’ve challenged myself to make my own cooking stock instead of purchasing it. This way I get more out of my food and avoid panic-buying. As a bonus, this helps reduce my overall food waste.

I started saving bones, vegetable scraps, and odds and ends forgotten at the back of my fridge to make homemade stock. Over St. Patrick’s Day, my boyfriend and I stayed in to make a fleet of festive chicken wings. Afterward, I used the leftover bones along with onion skins, celery, and parmesan rinds to make a rich umami broth. The pot of bubbling bones looked like a horrifying witch’s brew, but after a quick strain, it made a hearty vegetable soup perfect for a day of self-care.

Desserted

I’m eternally grateful that I don’t have to social distance alone, and me and my housemates can support one another through self-isolation. Baking a sweet treat to share with my friends has been my go-to to make a dull day feel special. As we finish up our fourth year, surprise desserts have helped us find little ways to celebrate our last few weeks as housemates.

I made a batch of sticky toffee puddings the other day, and the act of pouring bubbling caramel over the mini puddings added a little excitement to the day. It brought everyone together in a time when we all needed it most.

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With major events cancelled and local hangouts closed, it’s hard to find comfort during this pandemic. Fortunately, you can still find solace in comfort foods.

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