As night follows day, as a rainbow follows the storm, so too does home cooking follow a pandemic. Apparently.
It turns out that in these stay-at-home days, a lot of us are taking the sometimes unfamiliar time in our kitchens to do a little cooking. Which means that a lot of us are looking up recipes on the internet.
Google Trends has been keeping track of the recipes people have been searching for all around the world for the last 30 days (Google knows all. Google sees all. Google is all.) The results are both surprising and not so surprising.
Not surprising is the fact that people are looking up more recipes now than at any time in the still-not-very-long history of the internet. Perhaps surprising is the fact that, based on the recipes that are being searched, Americans and people influenced by American taste seem to utterly dominate the internet.
Unsurprising is the fact that the folks or algorithms at Google Trends include hand sanitizer as one of the recipes that people are looking for, along with all of the various foods. A recipe is a recipe, I suppose.
And there it is, hand sanitizer, sitting clean but un-nutritious at No. 3.
But when you look at the other nine items on the list, perhaps it belongs there after all, at least in terms of healthful eating.
What we want to eat in this Pandemic Age are sweets, treats and meals from our childhood. It is like an offshoot of comfort food — it’s comfort food that is also a little bit of a celebration. It’s comfort food with calories.
No. 1 on the list is banana bread, which is clearly more of a dessert than a bread. It’s what you make when you don’t quite want to eat those bananas but you you can’t quite bear to part with them yet, either. What we can learn from this is that a lot of quasi-quarantined people are buying more bananas than they can use.
The second recipe on the list is pizza dough, which is certainly encouraging to those of us who advocate home cooking. Frozen and refrigerated pizza doughs are available, and yet people are choosing to make their own. Or maybe the stores are out of the frozen and refrigerated types; after all, homemade pizza sauce is not on the top-10 list.
No. 3, as we have mentioned, is hand sanitizer. Um... yum?
French toast, the fourth most-searched recipe, is the epitome of what people seem to be looking for in these still-unusual times: It is not an everyday meal, it is something a lot of us associate more with childhood than adulthood, it has more calories than are good for you (especially with syrup), and it is delicious and easy to make.
Next on the list is chocolate cake, which, to be honest, I never even think about unless it’s somebody’s birthday. I’m guessing my fellow shut-ins have the same associations with it (childhood, celebration, fattening), which is why so many of us seem to be making it.
I hadn’t even heard of No. 6 on the list, dalgona coffee. Apparently, it is everywhere on the internet, especially Instagram and TikTok. But I don’t tik, I don’t tok and I don’t gram. So I was blissfully ignorant of this massively popular drink from South Korea that floats whipped coffee and sugar — two whole tablespoons of sugar — on top of milk.
We’re talking 252 calories for a single serving, with 36 grams of sugar and 40 grams of carbohydrates. That’s more in each category than a Snickers bar.
The seventh searched-for recipe is the exception that (otherwise) proves the rule: chicken breasts. There are many ways to make chicken breasts, and people at home are presumably looking for new ones. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
But No. 8? That’s carrot cake. Now we’re talking.
When done right, carrot cake is the most sublime dessert known to man or woman. It’s the best way I know to pack calories on top of calories and make it seem healthy because it has carrots in it.
Ground beef, at No. 9, is like the chicken breasts: it’s versatile and it’s relatively inexpensive. People are looking for recipes for it because they have ground beef on hand and are looking for new, non-hamburger ways to make it.
And coming in at No. 10 is, let me see, fried rice.
Really? Fried rice? I mean, I like fried rice fine, or at least I don’t actively dislike it. But the 10th most-searched recipe on the internet during a virus? And one of the 10 was hand sanitizer?
I don’t get it.