We stand at the end of 2021 and as I look back, is see a year that saw everything – hope, despair, and resilience. An incredibly hard year for many as COVID remained a huge focus, here we are ready to jump into 2022 not sure what to expect, but hopeful. I choose to go into the New Year with optimism and even though we can’t celebrate like we did in the pre-pandemic world, we can adapt.

The year-end festive season has always been special to me, be it travelling to witness white Christmas in Lapland, savouring delectable festive buffets or binge-watching shows and movies with my family. Unfortunately, this is the second year in a row that we are bound by restrictions but that doesn’t mean we can’t make merry!

I believe that you can’t live a full life on an empty stomach J and it’s no surprise that food plays an important part at this time of the year in lifting spirits. Maybe it’s the cold weather, layers of clothes to hide that winter belly or general mood around us that ignites festive pangs! If like me you too are apprehensive about stepping out for a meal given the new variant and rising Covid cases, let me tell you that there are plenty of great options to re-create that magic at home.

The hospitality and food industry has been quick to adapt to the new normal by offering fine-dine experience at home. From farm fresh vegetables at your door step to DIY meals and instant barbeque gill, a variety of culinary experiences are available at your fingertips. Here are some that I experimented with and recommend:

Otter Fresh: This has got to be my favourite find. I love their hydroponic chemical-free salads grown at a farm near Jim Corbett in Uttarakhand and delivered fresh! Invoking the chef within me, I enjoy creating a variety of salads with lettuce, kale, rocket, arugula, mint, baby spinach and microgreens. The crunch and flavour are distinct, and one try is all it takes to know the difference.

Qmin: Easy to use, this app enables you to order food from the Taj Hotels with a special Christmas and New Year menu as well as favourites from their regular offerings. I have been using this across festivals, be it Diwali or Christmas, and no celebration is complete without it. Generous portions make it cost-effective and my entire family enjoys the meal. Safely packed and delivered, it’s almost like bringing the hotel-experience home. Other hotels also offer delivery such as Hyatt and ITC, among others.

Kazeliving: Be it new year hampers, DIY kits or fresh produce, Kazeliving has it all. I especially enjoy their instant barbecue grill that can be set up in minutes and serves hot and sizzling BBQ anywhere! This Christmas we ordered the grill and dished out the perfect holiday treats at home. This one is a must try during winter.

But, wait a minute. What is food without some binge watching? Coming off a couple of super busy months at work, December has been a month of spending time with my family as we caught up with some OTT action.

Vicky and her Mystery on Netflix is a perfect year-end watch as it warms the heart with compassion and innocence. A French film inspired by real events, it follows the story of a little girl who loses her mother and is healed by a special creature from wild forest. The unbreakable bond between humans and animals is beautifully depicted and moves the viewer.

Gemini Man is a gripping action and sci-fi film where Will Smith plays an elite killer who is being chased by his own clone. Being attacked by a killer that can predict his every move, the protagonist tries to save himself from his own mirror image. The story highlights the perils of playing around with human DNA and this seems quite relevant in the modern day scenario. Even as we struggle with Covid, is DNA modification a solution and if it is, are scientists ethically reviewing the repercussions? Makes you think.

Don’t Look Up, a film that everyone is talking about. A satire and a comedy that tells the story of imminent annihilation but at the same time brings about how careless and self-cantered we as a society are be it the politicians , media or the public. The absurdity of being so self-absolved that you even ignore an apocalyptic event makes you laugh and ponder at the same time. Relatable and topical given the current pandemic scenario as well.

Atrangi Re is more of a one-time watch. Good acting and unique storyline make it engaging but is too long and after a point feels stretched. The story, interesting mix of actors and refreshing soundtrack make it a fun watch this festive season.

While some movies and shows stand out, every once in a while you end up watching something and wondering why am I putting myself through it! I had such an experience with Satyamev Jayte 2. Best to avoid this one at all cost, not worth watching, not even for a few laughs!

Apart from the food and cinema, some books that mark the end of my year include The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman, an enthralling murder mystery; A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins that is both interesting and persuasive; and the old classic The Spy Who Came in From Cold by John le Carr. All different genres yet, engrossing and must have’s in your book collection.

I will be signing off from 2021 with good food, loved ones by my side, sharing laughs and bearing hope in our hearts. Aware of the looming fear of the third wave as numbers soar fast and another lockdown seems imminent. As we reminisce about the days gone by and plan for the year to come, I hope that the 2022 will be kinder and we will be looking back next year with much more to celebrate.