I’m 22, and stranded at home. I feel like an intruder in the kitchen I grew up in.

Food has gone from a source of pleasure to a reminder of the freedoms I’ve suddenly lost.

My mother and I cannot stop arguing about food. We argue about meat, since I eat mostly vegetarian and my family does not. We argue about seasoning—I like spicy food, but my mom’s migraines make her sensitive to strong smells. 

The last time we argued like this was when I was 15. The problem is that now I am 22. 

I was not supposed to be living in my childhood bedroom at 22. But last month, I unexpectedly found myself part of the great wave of youth migration caused by the coronavirus epidemic. With schools closed, internships cancelled, and entry-level work options drying up, 20-somethings across the country descended on our parents’ houses. We had been on the cusp of adulthood. The pandemic kicked us straight back into childhood.

In the kitchen I grew up in, I feel like an intruder—someone who adds items to the grocery list nobody else will eat, constantly putting the spoons back in the wrong drawer.

After five years apart from my family, I’m having shrinking pains. We’ve gotten used to our own separate routines, no matter how much we love each other. In the kitchen I grew up in, I feel like an intruder—someone who adds items to the grocery list nobody else will eat, constantly putting the spoons back in the wrong drawer. I miss my tiny rental kitchen, even though just last month I was cursing how small it was and how much I hated the countertops. At least I knew where everything was and could always count on my stash of chickpeas, tofu, and harissa.

Food has gone from a source of pleasure to a symbol of all that I’ve suddenly lost. In a short time, I lost control over my career, my finances, my living space, and even how I feed myself. For the two weeks I quarantined in my room, not wanting to pose risks to my family, I even lost control over when I could feed myself. Relying on my family to bring me food made me feel like an oversized, potentially lethal Tamagotchi instead of a human adult.

I know I’m lucky to still be healthy and have a family to fall back on, but I’m still mourning the independence that seems increasingly out of reach as the epidemic (and economic downturn) have no end in sight. For now, my mom and I are cooking compromise meals together, dishes that involve vegetables and bacon.

Also tagged

Rebecca Duras is a writer currently based in Queens. You can read more of her writing by following her newsletter, https://thebestfckingyearsofyourlife.substack.com/.