Right as the pandemic hit, Rajpreet Sidhu came up with an idea for a community-sourced cookbook.
She wanted to connect people from all over the world who were feeling isolated during the lockdown by sharing their recipes with others.
"It was the beginning of the pandemic, and people didn't have much access to anything else," said Sidhu, who just completed her degree in international development studies and human geography at U of T Scarborough.
"Everyone started cooking for themselves a bit more, so the idea was that folks would share a recipe that they were cooking."
Sidhu developed the cookbook, called Quarantine Chefs, along with three classmates thanks to a $3,000 grant they received from the COVID-19 Student Engagement Award. She said the cookbook aimed to crowdsource simple recipes that students were making at home during the lockdown, so they reached out to different people through social media and their networks.
"The response was excellent. We had recipes from local people to people living in Germany, China and some friends in Nepal contributed too. In the end, we had around 27 recipes altogether."
The book is divided into three sections (snacks, mains, and bakery), while each recipe has prep time, cook time, servings and ingredients mentioned, as well as detailed instructions. All the contributors are mentioned on the last page of the book previous page, along with a short bio.
I gained a strong understanding of practical project management skills. However, I also enjoyed the relationship building and cultural learning portion of my experience.
Contributors were asked to share the recipe and to take photos of their process and final product. As a token of appreciation, the team gave away a $20 gift card to cover the cost of ingredients.
Her classmates, Leeza Gheerawo, Mira Hennawy and Maria Angelica Mateus, also contributed with the cookbook. At the same time, Ubahang Nembang, an illustrator and graphic designer from Nepal, did all the graphics and cover of the book.
The book is available to download for free and has been viewed around 1500 times so far.
"The idea was to make book widely available for the public. It's not a fancy recipe book. It's something the public can make quickly," said Sidhu.
"The recipes came from everyday folks. It was not something with fancy ingredients or anything wild, so they were really accessible for people, and they connected with it."
Sidhu said they also got help from U of T to spread the word about the book by sharing it on the university's social media platforms and making it available through U of T Libraries.
"We did like a promotion with the UTSC Instagram where we made videos showing how to cook recipes, which was fun," she said.
Sidhu completed a co-op placement in Kathmandu, Nepal, for ten months during her undergrad. She worked as a project and documentation coordinator for an organization working to reduce sexual and gender-based violence in the region.
"I gained a strong understanding of practical project management skills. However, I also enjoyed the relationship building and cultural learning portion of my experience."
Meanwhile, Sidhu said she's received requests about making a second edition of the cookbook. Initially, they have trouble finding have expressed interest in contributing after seeing its success. But due to her busy schedule, there are currently no plans for a second edition.
"We can never say a definite no, but I think all my mates have moved on with time on their own paths. We have graduated and are now busy with career paths, but let's say we will see."
Sidhu is currently busy with a project at a local community garden where she is a gardening intern on a project called The Working Centre Market Garden. The volunteer-driven community project engages in community-based food production, hands-on practical skills, and knowledge sharing.
"Often, we are so disconnected from our food and where it comes from, so this opportunity allows me to reconnect with my food system and be in community while planting, weeding and harvesting," she said.