Kids have necessitated their own set of pandemic adaptations. Robinson and her husband, who also works from home most of the time, have two kids who attend school remotely. Despite a rough first few months and plenty of ongoing stresses, Robinson says the at-home life has also given her more opportunity to cook with her kids and teach them the basics. Lately, her 12-year-old son has begun to enthusiastically pitch in during the family’s meals. “He makes a legit great omelet and delicious scrambled eggs, and he makes himself grilled cheese,” Robinson said. “Sometimes, when I am really busy, he will make me lunch now.”
With younger kids, things can be a little trickier. Scott Hines’s sons, 4 and 5, aren’t yet old enough to manage many cooking tasks for themselves, but they are old enough to seek out munchies. “I swear there are days where they’ve eaten snacks and no meals,” Hines, an architect based in Louisville, Kentucky, told me. “The days that they’re doing online learning, it’s impossible to control that, just because they’re bored.” On the upside, Hines, an enthusiastic cook who runs a newsletter for sharing his favorite recipes, said that working from home for part of the week has allowed him to try more types of cooking projects this year. Before, he often relied on foods that could be microwaved or otherwise prepared quickly. Now, he said, “I can make a soup; I can make something that goes in the pressure cooker or sits in the Dutch oven for hours, because I can start it at lunchtime.”
For people without kids, and especially those who live alone, the pandemic’s impact works out a little differently in the kitchen. When it’s just you, there’s no bugging your partner to wash the dishes or trading off cooking duties with a roommate or letting a budding teen chef chop the vegetables. It’s all you, every time you’re hungry. “The amount of effort is immense,” Ashley Cornall, a 30-year-old project manager in San Francisco, told me. “It’s spending my entire life washing dishes, or in my kitchen, prepping something.” Before the pandemic, many of Cornall’s meals were social occasions, or something quick picked up from the zillions of restaurants built to feed the Bay Area’s office workers in their offices. She still orders takeout occasionally, but often feels bad about asking a delivery person to ferry food to her. Because constant Zoom meetings during the day make it hard to slip out to pick something up, she tends to find herself cobbling together a meal out of snacks.
Even so, Cornall told me she has grown to enjoy cooking when she does have the time for it. “There is something kind of nice about putting on music and cooking a meal in the evening and having half a glass of wine, taking a moment to enjoy it,” she said. Having more control over what’s in her food has also helped her get closer to a longtime goal of switching to vegetarianism; she’s not totally there yet, but she eats a lot less meat than she used to.