Cooking For Beginners: I Started Cooking During The Pandemic — And Now I Love It

Before March 2020, when Covid-19 was officially deemed a pandemic, I was taking 1 to 2 trips a month. In January, I was in Goa, India. I skipped over to Playa Del Carmen in February. I traveled to Dominican Republic and Catskills New York in March. But for nearly 10 months, I didn’t leave New York City. For frequent travelers, the travel bug is real, and I had to find other ways to “travel” without getting on a plane or staying in a hotel. Oddly enough, the pandemic forced me to cook and not only do I love it, it brought the world into my home. In fact, cooking for beginners like me can be a breeze — and you’d be surprised with how inspired cooking can be.

I cured my wanderlust right at home because I started cooking. It’s now what I love the most. It introduced me to food and cooking shows I would never a million years watch, like Master Chef.

Cooking at home to travel during quarantine.
Cooking at home during quarantine.

As the late Anthony Bourdain once said: “I think food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.” I’ve always had the same way of thinking. No one truly visits a destination without exploring the culinary scene. Food is connected to a destination. It’s culture and history. It’s the extension of a region or province or beach town or city. In most cases, it’s a destination’s identity. You find the heart of a destination in its food.

That said, nobody goes to Italy for just the tourist attractions. No one explores Japan without diving into the noodle shops. Food is travel. Food tells a story, whether at a local food truck or a fine-dining establishment, and it’s that story that compels us to book a trip. It’s why cooking for beginners may be hard, but you’ll start to see reasons to be inspired.

During quarantine, the pandemic forced me to cook because I never did before. So I actually didn’t go out of my way to be a beginner at cooking. I decided to cook at home—but not how I normally would. I finally took it seriously (yes, I’m a newbie) because it was my way to “travel” during quarantine. I wanted to bring all these amazing destinations I’ve visited into my home, and there really was no other way other than through food.

cooking during quarantine
Cooking enchiladas.

Because I couldn’t travel to amazing places around the world, I recreated global dishes I loved, like dumplings in Hong Kong, enchiladas in Mexico, jerk chicken in the Caribbean. I spent hours going through recipes online, and I would buy groceries, then I would attempt to make the dishes.

I wasn’t always successful, but the dishes were close enough to conjure past vacations. Also, like many other Americans, I have a lot of time on my hands now. Cooking filled up a lot of empty time on my hands, and I love that the pandemic forced me to cook. Well, OK, force is a strong word, but I love thinking that it did, and cooking for beginners is a real thing, I realized.

I love cooking
Cooking to travel during quarantine.

One thing that made cooking at home during quarantine easy for me is Blue Apron (they are not an affiliate and I don’t get any money for mentioning them). As someone who is single and lives alone, a subscription to Blue Apron helped me save money (rather than buying a bunch of produce I would never finish and just have to throw out).

Blue Apron sends you the right amount of ingredients to create a dish from their weekly recipes. I love this. It saves me the time and energy of going to a grocery store and overspending (I pay about $60 a week for a 3-meal plan. The reason why this works great for me is because each recipe is for 2 servings, and because I’m one person, I can save that second serving for lunch the next day.). 

Blue Apron offers a diversity of cuisines. In preparing meals from Mexico to Italy, Thailand to Southern regions of the US, I learned the spices, cooking techniques, all the little things that go into preparation. 

Also, it’s not just the food that helped me cure my wanderlust. I was cooking so much during the pandemic, I wanted to upgrade my kitchen ware.

Zwilling Twin Signature Chefs Knife
Zwilling Twin Signature Chefs Knife

I learned about knives from Germany and Japan. I ended up getting Zwilling J.A. Henckels 8” knife. Henckels is one of the most renowned knife brands in the world. Any professional cook knows the brand well, and it definitely helped me cooking during the pandemic.

I knew a German Zwilling J.A. Henckels knife would last, especially after spending days reading reviews of all the top knives. Zwilling J.A. Henckels knife was also under $100 (as it turns out, highly rated knives are expensive, up to $200, so I consider this purchase a bargain). 

Zwilling Henckels chef knife on Amazon
Zwilling Henckels chef knife on Amazon

If you’re interested in getting this knife, you can click here:

Cooking is my way to travel during quarantine. In fact, cooking during the pandemic is cool. Do you have any other ways to “travel” without getting on a flight? Let us know in comments below.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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