This article is part of our series ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women in the creative fields to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in India.
By Shradha Singh
I know that I am a little bit of this and a little bit of that but my heart knows that I am good at one thing. Cooking, be it a story or a dish! And this quarantine I cooked more than I wrote. I am an absolute food enthusiast and am using my lockdown to create and to cook.
My muse this time is aloo, the humble potato. Actually, I am very fascinated by YouTube sensation Clara Cannucciari, a 94-year-old grandma chef, famous for her recipes of the Great Depression. During those years, potatoes and hot dogs were inexpensive, so all the meals included either or both the ingredients.
Potatoes have always been a true saathi (friend) in bad times. Do you know why Kolkata biryani has aloo included? When Wajid Ali Shah, Nawab of Lucknow was exiled to Calcutta, he needed something filling and cheap for his rather large household. And so aloo came to the rescue. Similarly, in times of this COVID-19 pandemic, potato recipes come handy in my household.
Over-optimistic as I am, I did not hoard veggies and groceries before the lockdown was announced. On the eve of the lockdown, when I stepped out to get things, I could just manage to get a sack of potatoes! And the idea of experimenting with the most valuable and trustworthy vegetable came to my mind.
Now, I am an erotica writer and I like putting a sexy spin on the most mundane of things. Potato being the boring but trustworthy vegetable needed a makeover and bang came ‘Fifty Shades of Aloo‘.
I started making aloo recipes and posting them on my social-media sites and was delighted to get such good engagements. People also started messaging and inboxing me for my aloo recipes. My birthday fell on April 14th, and people who called to message me made sure to ask me about my aloo recipe of the day.
I live in Mumbai and I am lucky to have an apartment on the 23rd floor with lots of sunshine and breeze. Lockdown feels like a summer holiday with cooking instant dishes, preparing meals, enjoying high tea with a beautiful sunset, ludo games, scrabble, carom, hair packs and face packs. We even managed to distance ourselves from Netflix for the first two weeks.
Though my husband and I are ‘happy-to-work-from-home’ kind of people, it was difficult juggling the household work and managing my daughter’s online classes during the initial days of lockdown. My mother, who is with us these days, was restless as she is a mall addict. She has already made her ‘to-buy list’ post-lockdown. Amidst all the settling in with the qualms of quarantine, I really found my bliss in cooking.
My whole family participated and we all had fun with potatoes. On my birthday, my husband who is a reluctant cook, made yummy aloo chops, which is my favourite since childhood.
Geeta Dutt songs, fifty shades of aloo and board games filled up my home with sunshine, love, warmth and gratitude during the coronavirus lockdown. And yes, aloo is the synonym of hope that keep us going!
Shradha Singh is a media professional and author of the erotica, The Guilt Pass (Juggernaut).