I was made for quarantine life. I get to work at home. In my sweatpants. I get to cook more! I get to be around my kids and husband all day. And I don’t have to talk much—a welcome break for my often “on” but actually introverted self. At the end of each day, we go outside to exercise in the park (masks on, staying at least 6 feet from everyone else), then shower, eat a good dinner, and putter around until bed. What’s not to like?
Lots of things, of course. I’m clearly trying to find a silver lining in an incredibly dark stormcloud. But I do love all of these activities and have often joked that I’m a professional homebody.
The past few weeks have made me think in a fresh way about my career and what I spend my time doing. Till now, much of what I’ve done—cooking, writing, editing, running a business about kitchen and home—has felt like a personal passion I’ve been lucky to make into a fun job. It’s given me social cachet, too. At parties, when someone can choose between striking up a conversation with a venture capitalist or with a food writer, they almost always choose the food person. Everyone has a lively opinion about their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, where to eat in New Orleans, or the best chef’s knife.
Yet, when I worked at The New York Times, the food section (along with the style, fashion, and home sections) was institutionally considered the “soft news.” Food wasn’t serious. And home was the arena of people with enough disposable income for renovations. We were frivolous, light, infotainment.
This bothered me, because I didn’t see it that way at all. Home is where our deepest beliefs are distilled into our way of living. Home is where we spend our money, express our values, reveal our interest in design and comfort, demonstrate how we want to feed and take care of our families. Yet it’s all so immediate and vital that its gravity can be overlooked—it’s not new, and therefore can feel like it’s not news.
Since COVID-19 forced us inside, you can feel this sentiment changing. Sales at Home Depot and Target have surged. With all restaurants ordered closed in New York and people needing to cook at home, Fresh Direct, one of the pioneers in grocery delivery, has struggled to provide enough delivery slots for customers. Electronics companies, like Best Buy, have seen a spike in demand for refrigerators and freezers. At Food52, our site traffic is up 53%.
Out of necessity, we’ve had to confront the reality that our home is a place of shelter. We’ve seen that knowing how to cook—and being able to make the most use of what we have on hand—is crucial to feeding ourselves. For many of us, home is where we can protect ourselves from whatever is happening in the larger world. Home is the one place we have some control over.
That occasional pang I once had that what I do isn’t perceived as serious is gone. Now I feel that my profession is not only serious but more important than ever. Our company’s mission to help people eat thoughtfully and live joyfully has been given renewed purpose. As we’re all now realizing, home is everything.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.