Spending time in the kitchen is no longer a chore, it's a chance to escape

The pandemic has rekindled Sanet Oberholzer's love of cooking

02 August 2020 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
'Cooking has become a kind of solace during a time when we're very limited in what we can do.'
'Cooking has become a kind of solace during a time when we're very limited in what we can do.'
Image: 123RF/rawpixel

The other day I spent about five minutes wondering why my arms were sore - as in, workout sore - when I hadn't done anything remotely physical. Then it hit me: I had spent 15 minutes kneading an impossibly tough pasta dough the day before. In fact, it was my second attempt at making my own ravioli that week and I was determined to do it right the second time. I didn't. 

Normally I wouldn't be caught dead in the kitchen on a Wednesday afternoon rolling out pasta dough. But we're no longer living in normal times.

I've always considered myself to be someone who likes to cook but in the days pre-Covid, cooking became something I seldom did. I had to pencil it into my calendar over weekends - as you would a date - and during the week, it was nothing short of a chore. After battling through traffic on my commute home, it was the last thing I wanted to do.

Then the pandemic hit and working from home became the norm. A little over four months later it's something I'm still getting used to, but if there's one thing I'm grateful for it's that working from home has renewed my relationship with cooking. Where the kitchen was previously a space that demanded energy that had already been drained after a day in the office, it is now an escape after a day spent at home with no distractions other than work.

I now have a folder of recipe screenshots on my phone. I have perfected a few of my favourite dishes and have mapped out reworked recipes that are almost there but not quite. I've even managed to finish reading a book on the Mediterranean diet that I've had for almost a year, and bought vine leaves to get started on the recipes it contains. I will sell my soul for good dolmades - so I might as well make some.

Working from home aside, cooking has become a kind of solace during a time when we're very limited in what we can do. Restaurants are open again but going out is not the same. Outside, the air is charged with uncertainty, but at home I can relax and connect with my husband over a bowl of rogan josh and a small mountain of poppadoms.

And because we're spending less on going out (I can hardly remember what it was we used to do), I don't feel guilty about buying exotic ingredients or heaps of spices or, before uncle Cyril pulled a fast one on us, a good bottle of wine to enjoy while I cook.

Sure, we've ordered takeouts, but very seldom, and usually on nights when I've felt very lazy or worked a little later than usual. When it wasn't an option I didn't miss it, and given the choice I'd rather make a pot of Tom Yum soup than grab something from the drive-through.

Perhaps the thing that's surprised me most is how much I've been baking. The precise measurements and exact science behind baking have always scared me off but now all I dream about is cakes - and which one I'll try next. So far, the dark chocolate, orange and Earl Grey one has been the best. My husband regularly reminds me how expensive butter is and he almost always has to go to the shops mid-bake because I inevitably forget to buy something I need.

One of the biggest downsides to all of this is, of course, that gyms remain closed for the time being. I have promised myself to take out a contract as soon as they're allowed to open (for a change of scenery while I work from home, if nothing else). But while I wait, there's always pasta dough to get stuck into.

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