History & Culture

Quarantine Stories: Shanat, UK

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.

Shanat (50), Greater London, UK

My partner Stephen and I have lived here for more than 10 years. Before that, we met and lived in Frankfurt, Germany for 10 years. Stephen is from Scotland and wanted to move back to the country he was born in, my family is from Kazakhstan. Our cooking hasn’t changed much, but the way we shop has. Since Stephen has asthma, we only go grocery shopping once a week. He stays in the car, while I take the trolley, get everything, come back and sanitize it before we bring it back home.

Before all of this started, I saw the supermarket as my extended fridge and would hop over whenever we needed something. In the first week of the lockdown, there were so many people in the supermarket, that I felt like I was having an anxiety attack. I had to leave, and we just lived off the things left in our fridge and freezer for a week. As a child born in the Soviet Union, I grew up knowing what a food deficit is. For my mom the biggest sin was to waste or throw away food. That’s probably why I have this huge aversion against full fridges, and what makes me really happy is to see an empty fridge at the end of the week, knowing we went through all the food. Yet, after that first week, I went into overbuying mode as well and bought stuff we didn’t even need, like a full sack of potatoes. For me, there was something very interesting going on psychologically. 

Now, I am creating meal plans and exact shopping lists for every week. We are very healthy eaters, and I have always cooked every night. We used to eat meat twice a week like chicken with broccoli, and the rest of the days we would eat fish or vegetarian dishes. Now, unfortunately, it is a bit more meat and less fish, since the small supermarket by my house doesn’t always offer the fish I like. We still do take-outs once a week. Lucky for us, our favourite Indian restaurant now started to offer this option as well.  

Cooking has always been my stress relief, and still manages to get my mind off the news. When I cook, I stop worrying about what is happening. I used to have cooking phases like a week where I only tried Korean dishes – I was amazed by how sophisticated this food is and how it tickles all your senses. But I have noticed that I don’t experiment with new dishes any more. I just stick to what I can do and what I know I can find since I don’t want to go to a bigger store just to get exotic ingredients like samphire or asparagus tips. In the supermarket closest to our house, the shelves are full again – except for flour. I am not a baker, but I do look for it just out of interest, and my mom jokingly asks on the phone if I have seen flour this week. Interestingly enough: The first week of the quarantine I did use some flour I found in the cupboards and made some bread – even though we don’t really eat bread. It turned out okay, but I don’t think it will be my new hobby. 

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