As we approach the anniversary of our quarantine, we look back on the culinary trends that defined our national lockdown. After all that DIY effort in the kitchen, perhaps it's time we take a step back, and leave the real cooking to the experts.

/ 16 March 2021

The first weeks and months of quarantine were defined by the world’s general objective to be more “self-productive” outside work. That means buying more plants and seeds to grow our own vegetables in makeshift gardens, taking out the old workout gear and finally starting that fitness journey, improving little nooks and crannies in our homes, and trying our hand at several recipes popularized by the Internet.

In the Philippines, the biggest culinary trends that took over the country went from the tricky (but delicious and incredibly satisfying) dalgona coffee, to the old-plus-new-equals-amazing phenomenon that is the ube cheese pandesal. We also had a taste of the sushi bake, a product of craving something typically eaten raw (but now frowned upon as we’re all advised to heat our food to kill off any viruses).

It seemed that everyone on the Filipino side of the Internet was experimenting on these recipes, with small businesses and even large culinary enterprises releasing special menus to cater to the country’s changing cravings.

This was the time where we were just hit with the news of a national lockdown, and cabin fever hasn’t truly kicked in yet. Schools and universities had to close the academic calendar sooner than anticipated because of the unprecedented turn of events, leaving students with more time on their hands and the rich libraries on the Internet to inspire them—at least, until school started again after a few months. Offices migrated to work-from-home setups, which got rid of hours of commute and travel, ultimately allowing employees a bit more free time than they’re typically used to.

Hence, hours-worth of unmarked territory in calendars and daily schedules. The perfect window of opportunity to have fun in the kitchen with the fam, or on your own, spending hours perfecting an Internet-approved recipe.

As trends come and go, the same thing happened to our national love for dalgona coffee, ube cheese pandesal and sushi bake. They’re still delicious, and they’ve been promoted to regular menu specials, but the craving for them has dialed down a notch. Probably around the same time that our general disposition to be more “self-productive” was reduced, as the reality of our current situation settled in.

Students went back to school, with virtual class requirements that took so much more mental, emotional, and physical energy than traditional assignments; and employees were bombarded with even more responsibilities as businesses realized the need for innovation and more aggressive efforts in the face of the true Digital Era.

Hence, less time and energy to whip anything new and exciting in our personal menus. And just like that, DIY culinary trends also stopped going viral online as Filipinos stepped away from the kitchen. As the months went on, and the new year welcomed us, we didn’t only step away from the kitchen, we also stepped into public dining spaces at last—wholly embracing the taste of professionally-made meals and coffees.

Finally, our home quarantine food adventures have apparently come to an end. Well, at least in the national scale. We’re sure several homes are still experimenting in their own kitchens, only this time, they don’t have the rest of the Internet doing the same thing.

But with the spiking new cases of COVID-19 patients these past few weeks, we wonder if we’re returning to where we were exactly a year ago. On top of all the economic and cultural implications this may have, does this also mark our return to our own kitchens, with new experimental recipes to try?

As much as we loved the cooking, we’re not sure we want to know the answer to this one.