Home chefs across India are putting together quarantine hampers with handwritten notes
Along with a wholesome meal and some healthy desserts, the handwritten notes urge the recipient to get well
A comforting meal of palakoora parupu (spinach dal), vegetable curry, vendakka vatha kozhambu (tamarind stew), a whole wheat jaggery cake and a handwritten postcard with a message urging the recipient to eat well and wishing a speedy recovery — this is a quarantine food hamper. Bound to bring a smile on the faces of those recouping from the infection at their homes, these hampers are put together by home chefs across the country.
Chennai-based Deepthi Tanikella started an initiative of offering home-cooked food for people affected by COVID-19 about two weeks ago. She felt a handwritten positive message with the food box would go a long way in aiding the healing process. Requests for the hamper have been pouring in ever since she started the service.
“They mostly come from NRIs whose parents are in India and affected by COVID-19. Many senior citizens feel lonely, especially in these uncertain times, when they are weak and recovering. The little note I send makes them happy and brings comfort.”
Today, Deepthi has a network of 84 home chefs across Chennai who are cooking meals for free to offer to people in home quarantine and many send a handwritten note with the food. In less than 10 days, the team of chefs were handling more than 180 meals per day (lunch and dinner).
“We have a web application where people can register their requests through a form with information such as location, number of people and meals. The home chefs who are within a five kilometre radius of the requests get alerts and they take up the order.”
The handwritten note has messages such as ‘Here is a small pot of avakaya (Andhra style mango pickle) for you. Hope you don’t finish it in a day, but sustain it for a week. Get well soon.’
“It feels like caring words from family that you long to hear when you are unwell,” says Deepthi, adding that she has now developed a personal rapport with many families of senior citizens who eagerly wait for her food and messages every day.
Visakhapatnam-based Reeth Choraria is running a similar initiative with three of her friends. They make dessert hampers for people on home quarantine and pack in a handwritten note.
“Most orders that I get are from family and friends who reach out to us to give a surprise to their loved ones coping up with the infection at home. Since we cater to COVID-19 patients, we ensure less sweetness and use healthy alternatives such as jaggery and whole wheat grains,” says Reeth.
Her friend Maneesha Merekka, a home baker, says the handwritten note gives a personal touch, which is quite unlike getting a parcel from a restaurant. “We make it feel like a friend or a relative is talking to you and cheering you up.”
Succulent in ceramic
A date and oat ball and energy bars for good health; macaroons and flowers for cheer, oranges for Vitamin C, a savoury loaf for a quick meal fix, a succulent in a ceramic pot to gaze at and a crossword puzzle or Sudoku to kill time. This quarantine hamper designed by Happiness Jar, founded by Kochi-based Annu George and Mariya Mohan, is aimed at making the time slightly less gloomy.
Annu, a hospital administrator, and Mariya, a CA aspirant, got together to curate hampers for people away from their families. “We pooled our cooking and crafting skills to make these customised hampers,” says Annu.
Each item that goes into the hamper is hand-made. There are hand-made cards, little notes, ribbons and flowers. The duo has made hampers to receive people from outside the State into home quarantine and for those going into quarantine. Annu says they write notes that wish people a peaceful and calm quarantine time. Recovery, they feel, is easier with caramel cream frosted chocolate cupcakes.
(With inputs from Anasuya Menon)