Chicken Noodle Soup - Detail - ©

COVID-19 Food Faves: Should Come As No Surprise…

We’ve recently been wondering aloud in this space whether our faithful readers are becoming bored with their pandemic lock down food routines – and menus. In spite of efforts by thousands of food brands and tens of thousands of food bloggers to promote dietary variety, it seems most folks have just fallen into new dining ruts…

Moms Mac and Cheese - © 2014 maggiejs.caMom’s Mac and Cheese Casserole: Lots of Grated Cheese, here!
And a perfect chance to use some genuine Parmesan to add
zing to either the creamy Sauce or the crispy Topping!

Remember what it was like before the COVID-19 pandemic? When we could all choose to have pretty much whatever we could possibly imagine for breakfast, lunch or supper any day of the week? And yet so many of us stuck to convenient, reliable routines serving stuff we knew our families would enjoy, rather taking the opposite approach and making an effort to present them with new things to try, to alleviate their stay-at-home boredom and isolation blues?

It’s human nature to make and follow routines because they’re comfortable and reliable milestones throughout the week and, whatever else happens, we know we can look forward to – say – Tacos on Tuesday night, or Spaghetti on Thursdays. So we shouldn’t be surprised that, as the COVID-19 crisis drags on and lock-down mandates are being tightened again after a fall resurgence of the pandemic has arrived, that many folks are falling into new routines. So… What are the new favourite family meals as lock-down culture becomes ‘the new normal?

‘Cheesy’ routines popular

Enter, the The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, Italy’s official association charged with the responsibility for making the world aware of how to tell genuine Parmigiano Cheese from its many imitators and, generally promote Parm and the myriad ways it can be used. Established in 1934, it’s one of the oldest officially controlled Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata foods.

The Canadian branch of the global Consortium partnered with the respected polling firm Angus Reid to see where our COVID-19 cookery patterns are trending. The Reid organization asked, “which foods will you seek out for comfort? The result spotlighted Italian foods, but didn’t really mark any major trends. Italian has always been popular in Canada. The top 5 lunches / dinners reported by a group of 1,500 Canadians, published recently on Angus Reid’s Culinary Comfort Lockdown List were as follows:

  • Soups (see picture top of page) were the number one choice of Canadians, as two-thirds (65%) chose this time-honoured tradition as their go-to winter wellbeing meal. Women (at 72%) were much more likely than men (57%) to choose soup to provide ease and comfort.
  • Spaghetti and meatballs came in next. Nearly half of respondents (46%) chose the Italian American innovation, which also has its roots in culinary traditions in the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy.
  • Casseroles (see picture above) and chili came in third (tied at 43%) on the lockdown list. Again women (at 49%) were much more likely than men (37%) to choose casseroles for a savoury solution to the deep dark winter.
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup (42%) – and,
  • Other melted cheese dishes (40%) rounded out the Culinary Comfort Lockdown List.

Some tips from the Consortium…

“With only three ingredients (milk, salt and rennet) Parmigiano Reggiano is the ultimate, versatile cheese,” said Nicola Bertinelli, president of Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano. “It can be grated into your favourite sou, melted into one-pot dishes and sandwiches or shaved onto both classic and modern pizza and pasta dishes. An interesting fact, if you save the rinds, they act as magic flavor bombs for your soup dishes.”

My take

Take note particularly, of that final comment about the Cheese rinds… This was, until recently, a well-kept Chef Secret which has been disclosed in just over the past year by a few of the biggest TV food show hosts. It’s an easy way to give your Pasta dishes an added flavour edge; a touch of authenticity you simply can’t get any other way.

As for the top menu items, I was initially shocked not to see Pizza there. But then I remembered that ‘Other melted cheese dishes’ did take 5th place on the list. And, if you consider the shared characteristics of the top ‘comfort’ foods reported, it’s clear that they’re all simple meals anyone can make quickly and with minimum fuss.

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for a no-fail lunch or supper, you could do much worse than to just pull any of the top 5 off the Culinary Comfort Lockdown List. And relax…

~ Maggie J.