By Iakovos Theodoulou
As we experience these hard times it is difficult to identify, let alone rejoice the blessings COVID-19 will bring with it. One of them is going back to beautiful habits and rituals of home cooking which are all about togetherness.
Having grown up in a family with inspiring home cooks, it is only natural for me to relate food with love and affection. For example, as early as my fifth birthday, I remember craving my mom’s favourite pasta or my grandma’s aphelia. Even now, the thought of the latter wakes memories of my grandma who sadly passed away only weeks ago. I realise, however, that perception of food is dynamic, depending on the generation you belong to or the food experiences you had as a child.
As I write this, I am on my balcony only recently having received my medical degree through an online graduation which they say it’s the first of its kind. As I stare at what finally looks like a blue sky, I take the opportunity to reflect my time in this city so far – a self-reflection which many of my friends will readily identify with; after all, London houses more than 200,000 Cypriots.
After six years in medical school, I finally possess what seems like a hard-earned certificate but I’ve also earned something even more valuable: qualities such as mutual respect, empathy and willingness to support fellow human beings, whether medically or in society. This realisation coupled with the lockdown have given me endless time to think and implement ways to help people around me.
Reading the news, inevitable as it initially was, it came to my attention that many Cypriots were stranded in London feeling alone and vulnerable, unable to travel home for Easter. As I read these sad stories, I can only try to capitalise my aforementioned perception of food to lift people’s mood. “it.cooks” - a food-blog I keep on Instagram - has been my biggest motivator these past few weeks.
Through it.cooks, I have launched a scheme, enabling Cypriots to have their grocery shopped (eliminating their fear of becoming infected), their ingredients cooked (putting an end to tasteless food for those who despise cooking), and their food packed (reducing the need for washing).
In a nutshell, this portrays the comforts of the average Cypriot childhood and indeed our mentality, which albeit contentious, is what enables us to build such strong family ties – ties which I have yet to witness in my current city. Despite the entrepreneurial mind I am often described as, this is a completely non-for-profit initiative and one which has seen many young people start to enjoy life in unprecedented yet exciting new ways. And as I write this, my congruity to my chosen profession becomes even more apparent: the fulfilment one receives from helping is hard to describe; and it is why wealth and personal gains only come second in my book of life.
Neglected as it often is, mental health will take its toll during this lockdown and working collectively to prevent this is a social responsibility, just like our responsibility to kickstart the economy once all this ends to restore lost jobs and feed hungry families.
In the same way that my food perception has largely been shaped by my grandmas’ love and my mother’s affection, it.cooks is exploiting the power of food to combat loneliness and wipe out the emotional price tag of this lockdown. So as I sit and await my official call from the National Health Service, I shall continue to lift Cypriots’ mood in London through food.
Dr Iakovos Theodoulou
Academic Foundation doctor at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals in London
Person behind it.cooks: https://www.instagram.com/it.cooks/