It’s February 2020, and, on the popular Chinese recipe site, Xiachufang, a search for new recipes brings up something curious. Instead of the usual picture-perfect cakes and complex broths, there are thousands of simple stir-fries, experiments in baking and survival food. Many don’t even have instructions. They’re diaries, blogs, musings on life under the COVID-19 lockdown. As more than seven hundred and fifteen million people are under some of travel restriction, Xiachufang has become a kind of life journal. The kitchen has become a place for solace. The question “what and how do you cook under quarantine?” is being answered from millions of isolated dorm rooms, apartments and houses across China and a new cuisine with its own tastes, norms and rules is emerging. Call it quarantine cooking.
The post-nineties generation that uses site like Xiachufang is not one that usually cooks. Their lives are defined by an arduous work culture and precarious carreers. They rely on cheap and convenient food delivery apps for meals, making only occasional trips to the kitchen. Yet eating with friends and family is central to their idea of a good life. When restrictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak take that away, quarantine cooking is the response rebuilding that lost social connection with what’s at hand and what’s possible. The whole concept is built on an an overabundance of time and scarcity of ingredients. Many quarantine cooks are first-timers in the kitchen. It is trial-by-error cooking but also out of sociality. Sharing its preparation online is as important as the food itself.
Quarantine cooking has flooded not only China but also iMiMatch. The outbreak of the Coronavirus has limited the social outings and interactions of immigrants on iMiMatch. Forced into isolation, most of these immigrants on iMiMatch have turned to entertaining and helping each other get relief from their COVID-19 anxiety by exchanging simple and easy-to-do food recipes. Through these exchanges, they re-create the conviviality of sharing a meal and being together. It’s a response to boredom and a salve for the constant anxiety of following updates on the outbreak. Looking up these recipes online has become like a trip to the supermarket for immigrants on iMiMatch. They write their list together, walk to the stalls together and pick their fruits and veggies together. All these on iMiMatch!