How One Woman Started Cooking And Sharing Recipes to Bond With Friends Under Lockdown
In this 10-part series, we explore how Indians are embracing digital connections under the Covid19 lockdown in the absence of in-person intimacy. Here, 26-year-old Vidhi Doshi explains how she became closer to her friends, family and even strangers under lockdown, all because of food.
I grew up on jalebis and gulab jamuns. But, until about three years ago, I wasn’t really into cooking. I barely entered the kitchen, unless it was to make Maggi. And before the pandemic, I ate six out of 14 meals outside every week. So it was very strange for me in the first month of the lockdown. There’s no help, and you’re doing everything by yourself. And with that drastic change, I learned to appreciate ghar ka khaana a lot more than super-fancy food from restaurants. Then in the second month of lockdown, I started experimenting with different cuisines and started sharing recipes, and my experiences, online. I think that clicked with people, and in a span of just one or two months, my followers increased by 10,000.
With my recipes, my goal is to always try to do something different, and not just stick to the basics. Doing that helps me connect with people. Instead of just sharing a final picture, I share the process step-by-step every single time I cook something. And so many people have messaged me saying that they survived the lockdown because of me … I’m sure that’s not true, and they’ve had other things to help them get by, but it’s a really nice thing to hear, and that kind of inspires me. I’m getting a lot of these messages under lockdown, it’s insane. I did not think that this jump would happen. These responses to the recipes I put out help me feel closer to actually feeding people, you know?
Nowadays, 90% of my conversations with people revolve around food. It’s very easy to connect over food. And, people I went to school with, whom I haven’t spoken to in over twelve years, have suddenly reconnected with me right now. A lot of them have come across the recipes I’ve put out, and we’ve randomly started talking. And, so many people I wasn’t friends with before, like, somebody starting home delivery, somebody who’s also writing their own book — it’s so nice to have conversations with them. I’ve made so many connections. I’ve also realized how a lot of my past relationships, romantic as well as platonic, were based on food — from having conversations around food, to cooking together.
Under lockdown, from random relatives, to even friends who don’t like cooking, tell me they are going to try my recipe. And often, I guide them through the process over a call. And, besides sharing my recipes on social media, I also share recipes with friends — from simple things we cook at home, to something as easy as mashed potatoes. And it’s strange, with some of them, the conversations are just about food now, and nothing else. It’s been six months of just constant exchanging of recipes. Around a couple of years ago, I’d matched with a guy on a dating app; nothing ever came of it, and we became friends, actually. He stays in the U.K., and can’t cook to save his life. So, under lockdown, I send him recipes, and I’m constantly guiding him about what to do, and how to cook, and directing him to food sites. And, we’ve never even met ever. It also shows that you don’t actually have to meet a person to become good friends, especially under lockdown.
I’ve been cooking for the past three years, but cooking under lockdown is a completely different thing. It has kept me sane. It brings back memories too. When I was younger, my grandmother used to cook a lot for us. Sometimes, she would make us sit in one big circle of ten kids, and she would hand-roll puris, and ask us to make tiny shapes with the dough balls. I was about five or six then, and this was my initiation into the whole process of cooking. I used to think it was so much fun — it was a ten-person group, tasked with the same thing, that we were somehow all doing in different ways. Now, my grandmother doesn’t cook anymore, but she watches us, and it’s kind of a role-reversal, right? She has fed me all my life, and now, I get to feed her.
This project was done in partnership with Tinder India.