In April of 2020, in the midst of uncertainty, a new method of remote schooling and a dramatic loss of social dynamics, UO political science professor Alison Gash created a weekly social hour over Zoom. Every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. current and former students would hop on what they called “connecting while quarantined” to talk about their lives and leave classwork behind. They discussed things going on in the world and new hobbies they had picked up. As it turned out, many of the students had started cooking and baking. Unexpectedly, the virtual get-togethers resulted in “Cooking While Quarantined,” a cookbook that showcases the students’ experiences in the pandemic and addresses the issue of food insecurity.
“During a time where it was really difficult to feel like you were connected to others and connected to the campus community, it was really nice to kind of take a step back from school and channel my energy into something that I knew would bring positivity and solace to a lot of people,” said Emily Fowler, a UO senior political science student who helped create the cookbook.
When the group started, some students were learning to cook for the very first time, while others were improving their skills with recipes both old and new. They were all embarking on similar journeys separately but still together thanks to their Zoom meetings. Gash saw the influx of students finding joy from cooking and decided to integrate it into her class life. As an extra-credit opportunity, she created an assignment where students could submit recipes and artwork.
After having over 100 submissions from her classes alone, Gash saw the opportunity to make a cookbook that would represent her students' lives throughout the pandemic and would share their common love of cooking.
The project came together because of another topic the group often discussed in their Zoom meetings — food insecurity. With the pandemic exacerbating food justice issues, they saw the opportunity to turn the cookbook into a charitable opportunity and decided to donate all of the proceeds to the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, which works to create food stability in marginalized communities in the Pacific Northwest, and Migrant Justice, which fights for human rights and economic justice for members of the farmworker community.
“I hope that people see food and see the sort of creation of food, the development, the enactment of cooking as locations where social justice and community come together,” Gash said. “I hope that people take seriously the reality of food scarcity and the ways in which the only way to really combat food scarcity is through community.”
Throughout the summer and fall terms Gash collected recipes from even more students, along with poems, art pieces and personal stories. The cookbook will be released in two separate volumes — one dedicated to savory foods and the other dedicated to sweet foods with the titles “Cooking While Quarantined: Part One Fried and Part Two Baked.”
Each book is filled with colorful pages adorned with food pictures, little stories behind each of the dishes and beautiful artwork. Gash also put together an art-focused book with her daughter, who is an artist, that will feature student artwork and will benefit racial justice organizations.
Hunter Spence, a UO senior studying political science and public relations who assisted in the creation of the cookbook, hopes that the project will help people make the connection between community engagement and political science. “There’s a really great quote: politics is like health, like you can have good health or bad health, but you never have no health and politics is the same way,” said Spence. “Maybe if people see this book and see the cause it’s going to, they might be inspired to take a political science class.”
All three books will be available online and can be purchased on a donation basis from the group’s website in an online flipbook format. The first volume of the cookbook will come out in the next few weeks and the second volume and the art book will follow.