Whether it’s the Michelin Guide sharing world renowned chef’s homemade recipes or YouTube clips of chefs from Bon Appétit fancifying boxed mac and cheese, food media in the time of the coronavirus has somewhat abandoned elitism in favor of more universally appealing content.
This ethos has been displayed before COVID-19 as well, notably through The Great British Baking Show. The low stakes baking competition show has captured the spirit of non-ostentatious food prep for years, and season 6 winner, Nadiya Hussain, is now bringing this attitude to her Netflix series, Nadiya’s Time to Eat. When the show first aired on BBC last year, the prospect of a global pandemic was not in mind. Hussain speaks with compassion as she visits families to discuss stresses they face in their everyday lives and how their daily struggles affect their ability to cook. This focus on the food life of workaday people seems especially timely as the pandemic continues to scramble daily schedules for people around the world.
Unsurprisingly, pandemic-specific food programming has been surfacing recently. Samin Nosrat, author of the cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat, now hosts Home Cooking, a podcast targeted at foodies of all skill levels trying to curb their home-cooking anxiety. Bon Appétit‘s YouTube channel consists mostly of informal recipe tutorials that make cooking feel less intimidating, and the host’s pragmatic personalities help the viewer feel they are learning to cook from a friend rather than a teacher. This lighthearted approach in food media takes a turn from elitism in the food world, at least for now.
As stay at home orders and restaurant closures push more Americans to cook at home, people are turning to seafood more than ever. Supermarket sales of fish increased 37% in the first few weeks of April compared to last year at the same time, according to Chicago-based research firm IRI. Restaurant sales, on the other hand, have plummeted far below average, which is usually two-thirds of fresh seafood sales overall. Commercial fishing boats along the Atlantic coast have been forced to dump unsold fish, and weather issues also contributed to reductions in seafood production. “We’ve had an awful, just a terrible spring,” said Ernie Panacek, general manager of the commercial fishing dock at Viking Village on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
If grocery store sales continue to rise, they may help offset the losses. “People are still hungry for their seafood,” Panacek said. “They can’t go out and get it at the restaurants, and they’ve got to eat.” Consumers are also buying fish that restaurants often don’t, such as Spanish mackerel, silver dory, and blue catfish, all of which have sold out at Pierless Fish, a Brooklyn restaurant supply company. The owner, Robert Demasco, recently reinvented Pierless into a fish delivery service, saying, “I probably sold 30 pounds a day of collars.” Demasco added, “I bought shad roe. I ran out in a day, and I had 60 pounds. I was like, really? You guys know what this is?”
In the Chubu region of Japan, the Asian giant hornet sometimes called the “murder hornet” is enjoyed as a culinary delicacy despite its deadly sting. Grubs are often preserved in jars, pan-fried or steamed with rice to make a dish called hebo-gohan, while whole adult hornets are fried on skewers until light and crispy. Live murder hornets are soaked in spirits to make the distilled beverage shochu. The hornets release venom into the beverage, which turns dark amber in color upon aging.
In the United States, where murder hornets were found last fall in Washington State decimating beneficial bee populations, scientists are much more focused on eradicating them. Some believe their culinary potential being overlooked. In Tokyo, the giant hornet appears on menus in more than 30 restaurants. Shota Toguchida, owner of a Chinese restaurant in the city, sells his own homemade shots of hornet liquor for 2,000 yen, about $19.