The viral effect: A self-imposed quarantine throws up some curious and nostalgic finds

Magandeep Singh
viral effect, coronavirus, self imposed quarantine, Coronavirus scare, Tarhana, Mason & Co chocolate, Italian reds

Just a little over a week back, when the Coronavirus scare was yet to hit Indian shores, I had taken my flight back into the country and was almost readying bags for the next sortie to Melbourne. I am now home-bound and staying firmly put. Most of my social interactions are limited to video calls and social media texts, but given my general nature and preference for solitude, it hasn't been all too tough. I am missing being in Melbourne, though, but in retrospect, I am glad I didn't take that flight.

Being home for such a long period in a long time, however, has opened up a whole new way to approach my food and beverage requirements. For one, I had never rummaged into my cupboards that deep and now, by doing so, have retrieved long-procured-but-forgotten boxes of spices and mixes that are now being put to very good use. Even the beverage choices seem to have expanded as I have chanced upon bottles that I didn't even know I owned. Safe to say, one is eating and drinking well in this age of confinement. Among the curious finds which are nostalgic and yet novel, here are my top picks:

Tarhana: The first instant soup in the world was made in Turkey when people of the region used this endemic eponymous plant to make a boiled concoction with peppers, tomatoes and spices which was then dried and crushed and preserved. Later on, it could be boiled with water while being constantly stirred to prepare soup. I admit this was a recent acquisition and has come in handy. I only wish I had bought more.

Mason & Co chocolate: When it first launched, I wasn't entirely convinced that they were the real McCoy. Over time, my perception has changed quite a bit and for the better, I hastily add. A good few bars have been consumed since (mostly in the 75% cocoa and beyond category) and although I wouldn't buy it solely for that reason, it does help to know that these are all organic (also vegan, but I never get caught up in that). The more recent Quinoa Crunch, which was a collaboration with Fab Café, is a nice tactile and textural play of cocoa and quinoa in a 75% base. Finding some in the fridge was an immediate smile-inducer.

Aviation gin: Ryan Reynolds, the darling of social media, didn't just invest in this brand, he was a fan even before his and the brand's personal interests got aligned. Objectively speaking, it’s a pretty well-made gin and it is unusual because unlike most gins, the juniper sits at the back, harmonising and giving the base-flavour, but never overpowering the other aromatic botanicals in the mix-lavender, anise and sarsaparilla along with some spices. It's great with tonic and, for me, the choice is between a few brands-Fever Tree, Franklin & Sons or the homegrown and much easier to find (and afford) Svami, which makes for a lovely top-up.

Barolo: There is never a dearth of Italian reds at home, but chancing upon this particular bottle was the pleasant result of a long rummage through the cellar. It was called Dallalto and had been produced by members of the same family who make the famed Sassicaia in Tuscany. All Barolos are tight and tannic when young and even with age, as they acquire a certain patina and roundedness, they don't lose all their fiery vigour. This bottle was well over a decade old and still showed muscle to flex for another decade easily. But an hour in the decanter had considerably softened its stance and the wine seemed to willingly socialise. To be respectful of its pedigree, we used the largest wine glasses we could find at home to serve it out.

TV shows: I know this isn't a legit entry for my genre of columns, but since we are talking about pleasing all the senses, why not the eyes and ears? I have finally gotten time to re-binge shows that I have always liked, from Arrested Development to Rick & Morty, and no time than house arrest is good for such indulgences. My cycling trainer is hooked up right in front of a telly, so long weekend rides are dedicated to revisiting old classics. So now my question to you is this: if in my place, cycling on a stationary bike, enjoying some dark chocolate and maybe a spot of Barolo, what would you choose to watch?

The writer is a sommelier