TikTok trends and Baking Lessons: What food has meant during Lockdown
By Smriti Nambudiri, ASP'23
From TikTok food trends like dalgona coffee and sourdough-making, to people simply deciding to use the days spent in their homes as an opportunity to finally get to know their kitchens, the relationship we have built with food over the course of the pandemic has definitely been an interesting one to observe. During the past couple years of lockdown, anything resembling our routine before the pandemic was completely rewritten, and that included food. It doesn’t seem that obvious at first thought, but it’s true. The fact that grocery stores were running out of food due to people panic buying, to food trends being all the rage on TikTok, and people simply trying to do something different in terms of cooking, food is an omnipresent lens through which we can view how people dealt with lockdown and the pandemic as a whole.
TikTok has anyway seen an increase in usage during lockdown, where all the time one would usually spend outside the house was suddenly freed up, but the food trends that were prevalent most notably in the first few months of lockdown were almost everywhere. Everyone knows and remembers the hype surrounding dalgona coffee, the whipped coffee that was suddenly in everyone’s kitchens (including mine). Plus, the new free time led many people to start exploring baking, and more specifically, bread-making. I for one, remember a week of lockdown near its very start, where I baked something new every single day, learning new recipes and making my family test them out. My mother too, picked up breadmaking, making sourdough, focaccia, and the likes. Sourdough seems to be the aesthetic individual’s bread of choice during lockdown, with the starter becoming a staple in many kitchens. There’s no surprise in the rise of these kinds of food trends, in a time when the world has become something unusual and scary. Food has always been a constant in our lives, we need it to survive. Mixing up and inventing new ways to imagine this stable part of our lives is an effort to deal with the larger changes around us that take more to truly wrap our heads around. It’s something we can play around with but can still rely on as a source of comfort. Besides, with all that free time, why not spend it trying a new way to cook pasta, or to crack open that cooking book you bought on impulse 6 years ago? You have the time now.
But this connection to food in the lockdown can also be framed in a different way. It can be seen in the way communities and neighbours send over food to the houses of those with COVID-positive members. It’s rarely ever because that family asked for it as well, it’s mostly just a symbol of support and comfort, a reminder that they’re not alone in hard times. My family experienced this too, when all of us tested positive for COVID recently, and some of us were quite sick. Every day, different neighbours would send us food, saying they purposely made extra to send to us so we didn’t need to spend time cooking and can rest. My mother even joked, “Most people lose weight because of COVID, we’re gonna gain it!”
This all ties into the idea of food being a constant, a support in our lives that we can use as a symbol of reliance and comfort, for ourselves and for others around us. People use food as a love language, a way to show caring. So it’s no surprise that, in a confusing and unusual time where people can feel more separated from each other, people are using food as a way to care for themselves, their families, and those close to them. It’s something we all share in common as a need to survive, so what better thing for us to hold ourselves together with?