The Jacques Pépin in us all

Our inner home cook has been forced out of the woodwork by quarantine.
Family Table
Photo by Nikki Hansen
From left to right, Nikki Hansen’s husband, Matt Oboikovitz (off camera on left), eats bulgogi bowls with Lias, Annie, Aiden and Barry (off camera on right).

Our inner home cook has been forced out of the woodwork by quarantine. Putting meals on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner has become one of the most monotonous and never-ending tasks of lockdown for many families. “It’s constant,” says Nikki Hansen, the matriarch of a six-person household for which she’s chef, shopper and menu-maker.

scones with dalgona coffee

Photo by Nikki Hansen

For Hansen, build-it-yourself meals, weekly meal plans and an additional freezer have kept it manageable to feed her husband, 17-, 14- and 10-year-old boys and 1-year-old daughter. Three of her go-to meals are scones for breakfast, naan pizzas for lunch and bulgogi bowls for dinner.

naan pizzas

Photo by Nikki Hansen

She lets her kids choose their toppings for dishes like the naan pizza and the bulgogi bowls, so one meal fits all. If one of the kids doesn’t want tomatoes or basil on their naan pizza, no problem. “I like things simple and not a lot of ingredients,” she says.

When she started consolidating her grocery store trips, Hansen, who feels fortunate to be food secure, couldn’t help but think of her days as a young mom. “I had my oldest when I was 18 years old, so we were on a tight budget,” she says. “I used to have to shop that way because it was the only way I could stick within a budget and make sure we had enough food for the week.”

bulgogi bowls

Photo by Nikki Hansen

Throughout quarantine Hansen has written a list of each week’s meals on a magnetic notepad on the fridge — mostly just to stay sane, because meal planning is half the battle, she says. She wondered if any of the kids would notice.

“Not only did they notice, but I catch them every day going up to it looking to see what we’re having for dinner,” she says. The routine has been good. “They need routine and they need to know what’s coming, otherwise it stresses them out,” Hansen says.

Click here to read more stories about how we coped with stress during coronavirus.