History & Culture

Quarantine Stories: Elsa, Italy

Even though the lockdown situation is different in every European country, we all had to adapt our habits of eating, cooking and grocery shopping. Several people across Europe have opened up about the way their lives have changed during these strange times.

Elsa (26), Parma, Italy

Italy has been in quarantine since March 8th. I remember it clearly because I wanted to go out for dinner that night, but the reservation was cancelled. Since I work as a nurse, I am still leaving my flat to go to work at the hospital. Because of the nature of my job, which requires me to do long shifts at different times during the week, it was already my habit to buy frozen food and freeze a lot of fresh food. It has been the best option for me because of the tiredness and the little time I have to cook once I get home. Once a week I would get fresh fruit and vegetables though, at least for my days off. Since the coronavirus crisis started, my fridge has been almost empty, and I eat pretty much just frozen and pantry food from my freezer. 

My food shops are a bit more abundant. I am more careful about the things I need to buy, so I don’t have to go to the supermarket more than every 7 to 10 days. If I run out of yogurt straight away, for example, I’m simply not going to eat it for a week, until I go to the grocery store again. But being alone, I have to plan only for myself, so I didn’t hoard any food like they showed on the news. 

I used to eat fish twice a week, which I now replace with white meat. I have this thing that I need to eat my fish fresh, so I’m not cooking it for the time being. Fresh fish is just so much better. I would say that when this period started, I ate better. But my way of eating deteriorated based on my mood. Now I get home from work in a bad mood, and I eat emotionally. This week I was very nervous, and I bought a colomba (an Italian traditional Easter dessert similar to panettone, in the shape of a dove) and ate it on my own in just two days. Also, before the coronavirus, I used to go to the hospital canteen at least twice a week. It is still open now, but I don’t want to go; it doesn’t feel safe. With a little more than a euro, they would give me a main course, a side, and fruit. Even if I got out of work feeling nervous, I would still eat well. Whereas now, after a horrible day at work, I go home and the first thing I do is eat badly. 

But I have started to make myself my own ‘junk’ food from time to time. I often make a little focaccia with water and flour that I cook in a pan. It’s good. I also cooked pizza, cake, bread – even a big chocolate egg with an inflatable balloon! Before this period, I would have never spent an entire morning on that during a day off. Even though I continue to work, I have more time because I have to spend all of my free time by myself. I also thought that I would be clumsier in the kitchen. Before, when I tried to bake cakes, I would always take them out of the oven too early and eat them raw. I thought I was a terrible cook. Maybe it was just because I was always in a hurry. Now, I’m more patient, and I’m doing much better. I’m not saying that from now on, every time I eat pizza I will make my own. But every now and then, why not?

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