Homemade as a way of life: The corona pandemic has turned the eating habits of Germans upside down. This is shown, for example, by the nutrition reports from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in recent years. In April 2020, the survey showed that around a third of those surveyed (30 percent) cooked more themselves than before, and almost as many (28 percent) ate more often with others. 39 percent (2020) cooked for themselves every day, and in the second year of the pandemic (2021) it was even 52 percent. In 2022, that number fell only slightly to 46 percent. Gabriel Laeis is Professor of Culinary Management at the IU International University and an enthusiastic cook himself. He explains what DIY is all about during the pandemic and what we should save ourselves from these years in everyday life.
Cooking yourself in times of a pandemic - why was there such a boom?
Gabriel Laeis: On the one hand, it was simply a necessity because many canteens and restaurants had to remain closed. You were almost forced to cook for yourself. In addition, many people in lockdown had more time to cook and bake.
Doing it yourself has also given them a sense of self-efficacy: I'm in a situation where I feel powerless, but in the kitchen I can do something and see success quickly. For example, I can bake bread and something will come of it.
Has our food become healthier as a result?
Yes, there are studies that show that we ate less meat and significantly more fruit and vegetables and also paid more attention to healthy eating. But at the same time more snacks and sweets were bought. With the Covid pandemic has also come an obesity pandemic: the lockdown has exacerbated this for people who were already overweight and not exercising enough.
What happened to your passion for cooking?
It definitely still exists. But the high phase seems to have flattened out. That may be related to the fact that people are going back to the office and the restaurants are now open again. But I think a lot of people still bake at the weekend or invite friends over and cook for them. Everyone now has two years of routine - I think that will carry on.
What do we get out of it if we cook for ourselves and eat together?
The kitchen can be many things: you can find a kind of active meditation, rest and retreat there in the creation of food. Or it can be a place of informal human communication. You come together there as a family, as a couple, friends or flat share and snibble to yourself. You can talk to each other about what moves you, or you can just cut carrots next to each other. These places are rare in our daily life, they are mainly in the kitchen.
Cooking for yourself is, so to speak, the opposite of the internet and social media. It brings a real sense of self and has an immediacy: you need solid skills, good judgment and sensory sensitivity. And the dining table is ultimately a symbol for the togetherness of family or friends, of people who like to be together.
Has the pandemic taught us anything about cooking?
During this time, many simply dealt more with the topic and practiced a lot. Cooking is largely a matter of practice. That's why it's probably easier for a lot of people to do it now. Planning food and shopping was also practiced.
That's something every chef has to master and something I teach my students: What do I need for the next few days, how long can I store something and so on. People suddenly had to do the same at home because they only shopped once a week.
Do you have any tips for incorporating cooking into everyday life today?
If you have a microwave at work, get freezer containers and cook a large pot of your favorite stew or minestrone once a week. That makes you fantastically full for five days at noon. You can vary and have a selection in the freezer.
Cook with your kids. Invite friends over for dinner or, ideally, cook together. Community encourages you to try a little harder or to buy something fresher. Get yourself a decent chef's knife, 20 centimeters long, a sharpening steel and a good cutting board and practice the basic techniques. Because routine makes cooking much easier.