This month is going to be a strange one. For many of us, our main role will be to stay at home while others take on the risk of keeping people safe, healthy, and fed. Social distancing may be simple compared to the important work still going on in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy.
We want to tackle the challenge of isolation by setting a challenge of our own, and naturally, it’s mostly about food. With help from some friends, we put together a list of thirty things you can do in April to cook good food, learn new things, seek comfort where you can, and support your community. So let’s get started.
- Make at least one recipe from a vintage cookbook.
We suggest you try one of the recipes we’ve adapted from Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook, but there are tons of options out there.
- Cook with an ingredient you’ve never used before.
Now that picking groceries can be a little unpredictable, why not take the opportunity to use a food you haven’t tried cooking with?
- Mail a letter to a friend or family member.
Reaching out to people is a great idea right now. If you need stamps, buy them online to avoid exposing yourself or a postal worker to COVID-19.
- Make breakfast for dinner.
Breakfast is a comfort food. Maybe try adding some eggs to Barbie’s Bacon-and-Cheese Beauties.
- Go meatless for a day or learn a new vegetarian recipe.
I grew up thinking of dinner as a meat and at least two sides, but there are lots of other ways to make meals. Go explore some.
- Pick a spring flower and press it between the pages of a book.
There’s an extra bit of sadness in staying home just when we hit “brunch on the restaurant patio” weather, but you can still save a little piece of spring for later.
- Plan a menu inspired by a book, a movie, or a song.
This was one of my husband’s ideas, and I think it’s just lovely. Cook the meal someone ate in your favorite memoir, or make a dish that a character from the last movie you watched might be interested in.
- Make a recipe with exactly five ingredients.
A simple meal made from good ingredients is one of the most satisfying things you can eat. Using only five things lets the flavor of each ingredient shine through.
- Read a book you loved as a kid.
The things we loved as children helped make us who we are today, so they’re worth revisiting.
- Research the nutritional info for a meal you like to make.
You may be able to google a rough estimate, but here’s a guide for getting all up in the details.
- Look up a local business you like and do something to support them.
Many of the local spots you love are hurting right now, but you can help them out by buying a gift card or making a delivery order. And even if COVID-19 has you strapped for cash too, you can leave them a good review to help bring in new customers when things get running again.
- Use some kind of alcohol (or fruit juice) in a dish.
Don’t cook with any beer, wine, or alcohol you wouldn’t drink though. If you’re abstaining, there are plenty of things you can substitute for the booze in a recipe.
- Write your own recipe.
Pick a dish you can toss together without thinking, or make up something new. Either way, writing it all out in a standardized way helps you think about what you’re doing in the kitchen.
- Slow cook something or make a recipe with a long cook time.
Break out your slow cooker or your dutch oven and treat yourself. Nothing says love like a five hour pasta sauce.
- Find something in your house that needs fixing and repair it.
Stick with something small that you can finish in under an hour, like stitching that button back on your coat or fixing your drippy faucet.
- Cook something from scratch that you’d usually buy.
Bake some bread, try a homemade pasta recipe, or make your own tortillas. Putting some extra effort into things we often think of as convenience foods will give you a memorable meal and help you appreciate the prepackaged options.
- Host a virtual dinner party for friends to show off their meals.
You don’t have to wait a month or more to get together with the gang. Message a few friends, make a nice meal, and eat together on your favorite video chat app.
- Do something outside for at least half an hour.
Fresh air and sunshine are good for you, so go take a walk or sit out and read on your balcony.
- Order produce from a local farmer or farm-share box.
All the farms that sold to your local restaurants now have a lot of extra produce on hand. Search your area for farms that do direct sales, or check out the website of your local farmer’s market or farm-share service. Many of these places are offering either no-contact pick up or delivery right now.
- Celebrate National Poetry Month by reading a poem.
And check out poets.org for more poetic activities. (Just stay away from Eliot and his iffy outlook on April.)
- Ask a relative for a recipe they love and make it.
Well-loved family recipes are a special thing, but they don’t always get passed around enough to preserve them. Ask a relative for the recipe for their signature dish, test it out, and check back in with them if you need any pointers.
- Have a picnic dinner.
Eat it outside if you can, but if there’s one thing we learned from Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook so far, it’s that you can carry off a picnic indoors.
- Watch a movie from another country.
International movies expose you to new places, new ideas, and different kinds of stories, which makes them a great distraction.
- Cook a dish you’re familiar with but swap out all the spices.
Shake things up by grabbing something different from your spice rack. Maybe it’ll work, or maybe your regular choice is the best option. You won’t know until you try.
- Avoid watching, reading, or listening to the news all day.
If the stuff you’re seeing on social media stresses you out, ditch that for a day, too. The weight of the world will still be waiting for you once your break is over.
- Cook an entire meal in one pan.
One-pan cooking is convenient and leaves you with fewer dishes to clean. What’s not to love?
- Pick a country you’d like to visit and learn about its street food.
Travel may be on hold for now, but learning about another culture’s food is still fair game. For bonus points, try to make your own version at home. Alana suggests Tostilocos!
- Send a message to someone you haven’t spoken to this month.
Lots of folks are feeling isolated right now, so reach out and say hello to someone you haven’t checked in on lately. Send them a link or a meme that you think they’d enjoy, or ask how they’re holding up.
- Make an emulsion.
Pulling off an emulsion can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort. And come on, you’re stuck in your house anyway. Why not make some freaking mayonnaise?
- Teach someone how to make a dish (in person or online).
Connect with a friend or family member by teaching them to make a food you love. It’s fun, and you get to eat something yummy when you’re through.
Now you have thirty different activities to help you crush staying at home this month. Get on it. Oh, and print yourself this checklist so you don’t forget anything.