Cooking at Home During COVID-19

My late father used to teach me that crisis creates opportunities. The COVID-19 crisis provided me an excellent opportunity to set up my cooking blog – something which I had never imagined I would do, as I am a legal professional, not a chef!

How did This all Start?

During the start of the work from home set up, it was my younger daughter who cooked the meals as my children had no school and I was busy with my job. We were spoilt with all the scrumptious meals which she prepared for the family for weeks but, following her usual school timetable, her online classes started. I decided to take over preparing our lunches and had also started posting my dishes I cooked on my Facebook page. My Chicken a la King became so popular. I did not anticipate the requests for the recipe as I had been cooking that dish since secondary school and I did not have a recipe for it. So, when two of my friends then invited me to do a live show for their social media channel, I decided to share how to cook my Chicken a la King dish. After the show, requests came flooding. I was asked about simple cooking ideas and I received messages from people saying they haven’t cooked for a long time but were all inspired by my live demonstration and started cooking again. A lot of people (most of them unknown to me) even sent photographs of their Chicken a la King dish sharing how happy they were as their family enjoyed their cooking. I was touched by the responses, inspiring me to do more.

Why Start up your Cooking Blog?

Many people from my generation and later generations were brought up with domestic helpers so we did not have to cook. When we then start our careers, we can’t find a time to cook and once we start our families, rely on domestic helpers to prepare our meals.

With the effect of COVID-19 pandemic, meetings and appointments got cancelled, and we seem to have a lot more time on our hands. We then start thinking about our basic needs at home, like food. It dawned on me that perhaps many people would like to start cooking but did not know where to begin. So, I decided to set up my blog to share cooking ideas with easy to follow recipes and simple ingredients so that those who are new to cooking could find a place to start. I also hoped to inspire more confident home cooks to share their cooking ideas so we could learn from each other. We don’t know how long this crisis would last and ideas will run out, so it makes sense to share.

On my blog, I also share basic video tutorials: like how to fry an egg and how to marinate meat. My students know that I usually adopt a building block approach in teaching – start with the basics, then move on to more complex ideas. The same approach is applied on my cooking demonstration videos, breaking down everything into small steps so the viewers would find it easier to follow. I hope that I can combine my teaching and my cooking skills to do something positive to motivate others.

What have you Learnt From Setting up your Blog?

What started off as an ad hoc idea generated into a more routine pass-time for me during this period. I started to explore dishes that I have never cooked and shared before on my page. I cook together with my mom so I could learn more Shanghainese dishes from her, and I spend more time with my daughters in producing the videos. I not only learnt new cooking skills, but I also had to think about planning and hosting a video demonstration, editing photos, editing videos, learning how to do voiceover and adding English subtitles to my video clips. I thought a lot about audience engagement, and I believe this will, in the long run, enhance my teaching and my experience with audience interaction through the different types of media that is available nowadays.

I guess the most important thing that I have learnt is that relationships can be strengthened through engagement in the simplest things in life, as long as my family stayed together. Although we were all stuck in the same place for a long period, which could be a recipe for disaster, my family worked together on a project where we all contributed our skills, with my husband as the food critic. It was a great opportunity to work together as a family and, I suppose parenting experts would agree, this is an ideal situation for deeper bonding. I do encourage families to find something to engage in together to create good memories for what might otherwise be a distressing period.

How do you Juggle your Time?

I am used to juggling commitments which is all a matter of priority and planning. I try to plan our meals and cook something new now and then so that I could take photos and videos while cooking. Everything is stored on my phone, and if there is an idle time, I edit the videos. I do video editing during breakfast and would stop by the time I must start working. As the late Professor Michael Wilkinson had taught me – it is all about discipline and setting aside a fixed time as a routine for what you are working at.

What will Happen Next?

I do not know whether I would still be able to continue with my blog once the social distancing period is over, but I do plan to carry on with it. Maintaining this blog is a big challenge for me but I will try my best. I have made a big step out of my comfort zone and tried many new things and have also improved myself in the process. During this COVID-19 social distancing period, why don’t you also step out of your comfort zone and try something new? Perhaps you will also find that you have gained something afterwards.  

 

Jurisdictions: 

Principal Lecturer, the Faculty of Law,  University of Hong Kong

Julienne Jen is a Principal Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong. She teaches on the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws course where she coordinates the subjects of Civil Litigation, Commercial Disputes Resolution and Employment Law & Practice. As a solicitor, she practises in the areas of medical and professional negligence and commercial disputes resolution.