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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

UC Davis students highlight their favorite quarantine recipes

With limited dining out and takeout options, students find new inspiration for cooking

While quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic limits many of life’s once-normal activities, it allows time to master skills that can be done from home. One such skill is cooking, providing students with the opportunity to explore new recipes and hone their techniques. From cheesecake to frozen foods, students shared how quarantine has impacted their cooking habits. 

Ananya Narasimhan—a fourth-year genetics and genomics major and a board member of UC Davis’ cooking club, Food for Thought—has developed a new approach to cooking due to the confines of quarantine. 

“Taking care of my health has been difficult with not being able to be outside and work out as much, so I try to stick with fresh ingredients and really keep an eye out for unhealthy ones,” Narasimhan said via email. “I put more time into my cooking than when I cooked before quarantine, and as a result, I enjoy the process and the meal much more.”

As Narasimhan continues to develop her cooking abilities, she said that flautas de pollo (chicken taquitos) was her favorite quarantine recipe. 

She also said that for college students, learning how to cook is essential as it is both necessary for self care and something that can improve everyday life. For students who are not passionate about cooking, Narasimhan shared the importance of starting with familiar recipes and gradually building skills to tackle more difficult dishes. 

“My advice to a student who isn’t too keen on cooking is—start with what you know,” Narasimhan said via email. “Just like any other hobby, skill or extracurricular, it will take time to explore your palate and cook recipes that you’ll like. Food can improve your relationship with your health and wellness, as well as provide a break from a hectic day. All you need to do is pick a starting point, and it’s all uphill from there.”

Devon Spina, a second-year civil engineering major, prefers her cooking to be as fast and easy as possible. While Spina stated that cooking is a refreshing break from school, her cooking habits in quarantine have mostly remained consistent with previous years.  

“It hasn’t changed too much since I was younger,” Spina said. “It’s been mostly just frozen meals: easy, quick, nothing too complicated.”

Spina’s favorite quarantine dish is pesto pasta. As her pesto recipe came from her grandmother, the meal is close to her heart. Despite her current familiar cooking patterns, Spina hopes to try out new recipes and expand on her meals in the future. 

One cooking tradition that she has developed over quarantine is baking with her roommates. Whether she’s baking cookies or muffins, Spina shared that it is always a fun and relaxing experience.

“It’s a de-stresser,” Spina said. “Because with cooking, it doesn’t require a whole lot of brain power, but it’s enjoyable. We tend to do it together, and then you get a nice treat afterwards.”

Dayton Harvey, a second-year computer engineering major, has broadened his cooking abilities this quarantine. Because restaurants have been subject to closing and ordering takeout is pricey, Harvey has realized the value in cooking at home and taken the time to learn more. 

He shared that his go-to quarantine cooking technique is creating recipes centered around a crock pot.  

“It’s a lot easier to throw chicken or pork or whatever you choose in the crock pot, let it cook for six hours, come back and saute some onions or throw potatoes on, and you have a meal,” Harvey said.

Another of his favorite techniques is using marination when cooking things like salmon or chicken, as it allows the food to fully absorb the flavor overnight. 

Beyond developing his cooking skills during quarantine, Harvey shared that it is generally important for him to cook for himself due to his many allergies and dietary restrictions. 

“A lot of meals my family would cook I wouldn’t be able to eat,” Harvey said. “So people with dietary restrictions: it’s very important to know how to cook on your own.”

He encouraged everyone to develop cooking skills, mentioning the potentially exploratory experience that awaits. 

“Cooking can be fun and enjoyable if you mess around with different recipes, different flavors, different spices and kind of tune it to what you like,” Harvey said.

Written by: Nora Farahdel — features@theaggie.org

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