David Siegel, a dietitian who lives with his wife and 5-year-old son in a railroad-style apartment in Brooklyn, has begun hosting online chats about aquaponics. Mr. Siegel, 40, got a home fish tank a year ago, both to have something beautiful to look at and to fertilize herbs and vegetables. He initially tried tropical fish because of their bright colors, but found them too hard to care for. Now he has goldfish in a 20-gallon tank in the apartment’s central room, pumping nutrient-rich water into a multitiered system above with lettuce, basil, parsley and arugula.
Mr. Siegel said he doesn’t grow nearly enough food to feed his family, but as he has cut back on trips to the store, his fresh vegetables have made meals much tastier. “We say, tongue in cheek, that this is a pandemic hobby,” he said. “But right now we’re stocking up on frozen goods and canned and dry goods, and we’re able to supplement, especially with the herbs. It’s adding some much-needed freshness to our diet.”
For some, the pandemic has added a new immediacy to old hobbies. Stephanie Gravalese, a freelance writer in Del Mar, N.Y., is quarantining with her partner, Max Clement, who is immuno-compromised and not leaving the house. Mr. Clement, 32, has always dabbled in baking. Now he’s making sourdough loaves every day to share with friends who have lost their jobs. The couple is also producing homemade vinegar, pastas, ricotta and liquors, much of which they trade for other goods. The couple’s front porch has become a contact-free swap zone, where they put out their creations for local bakers and farmers, who in turn leave them fresh meat, raspberry bars and lemon bread.
“Baking, and creating anything we can share is creating community for us right now,” Ms. Gravalese, 36, said. “It’s also turned the kitchen into a very special place for us. Right now, the center of our lives is in the kitchen.”