One thing the pandemic revealed was the strong sense of community amongst WSA’s staff and PGRs. Below, Noriko Suzuki-Basco (then a PhD candidate and now an alumna) reflects on her Covid-19 project with Lesia Tkacz (currently a PhD candidate), The Lockdown Larder Cookbook Challenge.
2020 has been the year of the Covid-19 pandemic. We have experienced two lockdowns so far, with the first introduced at the end of March. Many tried to remain resolute and hopeful despite the uncertainty and growing anxiety. People commented on the renewed sense of community as the disease brought people together in different ways. But the pandemic also drew attention to the ugly side of human nature as people began to panic buy, emptying supermarket shelves and causing food shortages for those in need. Shoppers were limited to 3 of each items and police had to be brought in to monitor the toilet roll aisles.
Common food items such as flour, yeast, dried pasta and eggs suddenly became difficult to find. Store cupboard recipes (such as ‘40 ways to use up potatoes, tins of tomatoes, tuna and more’) began to appear on the Internet. People either had to make do with what they could get hold of from the shops or be creative with a dusty tin of chickpeas that they managed to find in their kitchen cabinet; it became clear that food shopping, cooking and eating was going to be very different during lockdown.
The Lockdown Larder Project
As the world grappled with the global pandemic, the PGR community at WSA also found themselves having to adjust. PhD research can be a lonely journey at the best of times, but for many the lockdown created restrictions and challenges that impacted not only their research but also their everyday lives.
In order to keep morale high and stay connected while having fun, Lesia and I organised a cookery challenge for the PGR community at WSA that involved creating innovative and ridiculous dishes from four categories: ‘Pasta Dessert dishes’, ‘Hybrid dishes’, ‘Lockdown Classic dishes’, and ‘1970s Dinner Party Disaster dishes’. Staff and students participated, entering a category by submitting an image of the finished dish, details of the ingredients and methods, and a short description of how the dish was conceived.
The culinary challenge produced some amazingly creative and mouth-watering dishes. The imaginatively named dishes included Jelly Brains, Forbidden Rice Ball, Air Soup and Wind Pudding, Scarlet, and Order 42 #7EE9F2—each were entertaining as well as visually stunning, with a ‘dish biography’ that provided intriguing insight into how and why the dishes came about.
The project demonstrated how much we can express through food and the joy and sense of connectivity that it can bring even in challenging times. The collective efforts of the PGR community at WSA has resulted in the Lockdown Larder Cookbook, which can be accessed here.
We have recently come out of a second lockdown, which was put into place to stem the rise of new Coronavirus infections. We wondered if there would be panic buying again, but supermarket shelves remained pretty well stocked. We don’t know whether this was due to people being simply ‘Covid fatigued’ or were still working their way through hoarded dried pasta and tins of food. Maybe we have just gotten better at coping with the pandemic. [AGD notes: at time of writing, Covid restrictions over Christmas were due to be considerably lighter than they ended up being. But still once new restrictions for Christmas were imposed, people didn’t seem to be panicking as much as they might have done.]
Once WSA campus fully reopens, we can produce printed copies of the Lockdown Larder Cookbook. The digital version allows for easy access but there is something satisfying about being able to hold a physical book in your hand. The book can also act as a reminder that even in difficult times, a lot can be made possible (and fun can be had at the same time) with a little imagination and creativity. There are also ambitions to create a Lockdown Larder Cookbook Kit so that anyone who wants to start their own cookery challenge can do so in the event of another lockdown.