Amidst the lockdown, many food bloggers noticed a spike in traffic to their sites as they look to create videos and content for the legions of people cooking at home.

Cooking with limited ingredients during the lockdown Food bloggers are here to helpCourtesy of Whisk Affair
Features Food Monday, March 30, 2020 - 15:08

When Richa Gupta first heard that India was going into a countrywide lockdown for 21 days, she began calling friends and cousins. She knew that many of them relied on restaurants for their meals and would be overwhelmed by the idea of cooking regularly for themselves. “They didn’t know what to do,” she said. “They usually live on takeout.”

Richa, who runs the food blog My Food Story, realised that there would probably be scores of people like her friends and family — those who were suddenly being thrust back into the kitchen for at least the next three weeks. Along with her husband Denver, she quickly decided to put together videos and content that would specifically help people get through the lockdown period.  

And she isn’t the only one. As young India gets back into the kitchen, while balancing working from home, family and housework, many are turning to online experts for guidance through this time. And they’re more than happy to help.

Many food bloggers, writers and recipe developers are using their channels to create guides for everyone from nervous beginners learning the basics to seasoned cooks looking for new ideas with the limited resources available. Some food blogs have also noted a spike in traffic in recent days following the lockdown. Richa saw a 35% increase in traffic to her site in the last week, while Neha Mathur, who runs Whisk Affair, said views to her site this month have increased by 50% as compared to last month. 

Experts also said they’ve been getting more and more questions from readers. That includes recipe ideas, substitutes for ingredients, and what to buy at the grocery store. Above all, they advise people to stay calm, experiment a bit and, for goodness’ sake, don’t hoard. 

“Don’t try so hard to stick to a recipe,” Richa said. “It’s actually really simple when it comes to it.”

Videos, Twitter threads and more

On March 25, the day the lockdown began, food writer and consultant Monika Manchanda posted a simple request on Twitter — tell me what you have in your pantry and I’ll suggest recipes for you to make. The questions came quickly, from how can I cook with curd (other than kadhi) to what should I do with leftover rice. 

“The biggest challenge for people right now is that they don’t know what to make with the limited things they have,” she said. 

Monika has also found that requests for recipes using staples, like legumes and grains, has increased, as has interest in one-pot meals to cut down on pans and utensils that need to be cleaned. She also advises readers to do double and triple batches of things like bhuna masala and pasta sauce so they can be frozen and used at a later time.

City dwellers are fairly used to eating out at least twice a week, so it’s not surprising that people are looking for new ways to use essential foods. Monika has been suggesting a few non-Indian recipes that don’t require hard-to-find ingredients, and is encouraging people to finally use those sauces and spices sitting in your cupboard that were purchased on a whim.  

She also started a recipe thread for cocktails so people don’t have to forgo their Friday night drinks just because the bars are closed. 

“Everybody is tired of eating the same daal-roti,” she said. 

Last week, Richa, who lives in Bengaluru and has been running her blog for four years, posted the first of a series of instructional videos on the basics of cooking, starting with how to make rice. She also eventually hopes to tackle slightly harder recipes, like homemade pizza and cakes, for people who may be craving sweets and fast food. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Richa Gupta (@my_foodstory) on

How to shop during a pandemic

Neha, from Whisk Affair, has been asking her followers to buy long-lasting vegetables and fruits like pumpkin, jackfruit, cabbage and sweet potato to avoid frequent trips to the store. 

“We should be trying to step out as little as possible,” said Neha, who is based in Pune and has been running her blog for eight years. 

Richa also posted a video on grocery shopping during the lockdown, when supplies may be erratic and residents are being asked to stay indoors as much as possible. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Richa Gupta (@my_foodstory) on

Reaching home cooks in new ways

Amidst the lockdown, some food enthusiasts have been encouraged to share their expertise, like Deena Sheshappa who started her own public Facebook page last week after years of posting recipes and food photos on her personal account. Focusing on dishes from Karnataka, she posted her first recipe — tomato gojju — a day after the lockdown began in hopes of inspiring more people to cook from home. 

Others are seeking out like-minded folks who are stuck at home and looking to share their culinary exploits with a food-loving community. Awanthi Vardaraj, a food writer, started a Facebook group called Pandemic Cookery, which currently has over 250 members from around the world. 

“I thought how many of us are closeted inside our own homes now, unable to relax, trying to catch the latest numbers and read the latest news on the pandemic, and how alone we must all feel. It's really just to bring about a sense of community and to remind people that we're all in this together,” she said. 

Almost all the food bloggers that TNM spoke to noticed that people had been sharing, and tagging them, in more and more photos and stories from the kitchen. 

“We're scared out of our minds but we're coming together to cook and comfort one another,” Awanthi said.