In the Before Times — approximately pre-March 2020 — my dinners were either out with friends or not much of anything at all. I bought frozen dumplings and pasta from Trader Joe’s and heated them up, or I fried some eggs. On occasion, I’d even make a dinner my childhood self could only dream of: a bowl of Reese’s Puffs or Ben and Jerry’s.

I didn’t think anything of this routine then. I simply “didn’t have time to cook” — or actually, I was much too tired to cook! After a long day of staring at a screen and coming home to stare at a different screen, how could I possibly have the energy to prepare an elaborate meal? 

I liked cooking, I told myself. I just didn’t have the time.

This is a lie. 

The coronavirus pandemic is showing society’s ass in many different aspects, like gross inequality, racism, and lack of empathy for others. But it’s also shown our own asses in (hopefully) less harmful ways — how we live and what we care about the most. 

And the coronavirus pandemic has taught me that I hate cooking.

Sourdough starters? Pass. Pantry recipes? Blah. Hell, even mini pancakes that TikTok told everyone was “pancake cereal”? Looks tasty, but I haven’t had the gumption to make it. I did bake banana bread once and it… didn’t turn out super well. 

These days — especially because I can’t even make it to a Trader Joe’s anymore — my meals have consisted mostly of snack food, quick fixes like oatmeal or eggs, and instant ramen.

Lots, and lots of instant ramen.

While this realization seems small, it has shaken part of my self-identity. In the past, I’ve described myself as a “foodie” before we all agreed on how embarrassing it was. I’ve had issues with distorted eating in the past and have come out the other side being someone who often speaks about how much I love food and eating, even if it sounds a bit ridiculous to love something that keeps me alive. But I do, and I love the vast majority of foods (scallops are kinda meh).

In addition to actual food, I also love food personalities and cooking shows. I seem to know how to win every episode of Chopped and was riveted by Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child. I feel Claire’s frustration during Gourmet Makes and I binge with Babish

When the realization hit that I was going to be home for the foreseeable future, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to hone my cooking skills. To prepare delicious stews and casserole bakes and fried rice and maybe even make my own pasta instead of heating up pre-made pasta from Trader Joe’s.

I soon realized this was a fantasy. I haven’t glanced at online recipes let alone cracked open a glossy cookbook. Now, I couldn’t care less about what I eat. I could, and probably will, live out the rest of New York City’s quarantine rotating between the same five things I’m preparing for myself. 

I haven’t glanced at online recipes let alone cracked open a glossy cookbook.

I never imagined I’d feel this way, but I never imagined the wide array of emotions the neurons in my brain have fired off in the past couple months. Now I’m afraid for the restaurant industry, especially small businesses. I worry about delivery people and other essential workers putting their lives at risk so that people like me can get deliveries and take-out orders. I fear my beloved spots won’t come back, and that their employees will have nowhere to go. 

But if this experience has taught me anything positive, it’s that it’s OK to hate cooking. It’s OK to rotate between the same five meals. Not only are we living through a global crisis, but we also may have levels of PTSD after this — which is to say, if my coping mechanism is eating instant ramen five nights a week then goddammit, I’m eating instant ramen five nights a week. 

By now you’ve probably read enough about why you don’t need to be productive during the pandemic, but it didn’t hit home until I realized I also don’t have to bake bread or cook “the stew,” and I certainly don’t have to make it aesthetic for Instagram. 

The “joy of cooking” seems like a complete farce to me, but I’m finding joy elsewhere. I’m practicing yoga and writing. I’m watching 90 Day Fiancé and then listening to 90 Day Fiancé podcasts during my morning walks. 

And sometimes, my joy comes in having a bowl of Reese’s Puffs for dinner.

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