Krishni remembers a brief period many years ago when all the snacks in the house were store-bought. This was when packaged food was gaining popularity—indeed, for the average middle-class household, it was somewhat aspirational. “Things like potato or banana chips, chaklis and chivda, which we used to previously make at home, switched to being store-bought.”
The Shroffs are more health-conscious now and take pleasure in making food from scratch. They even make their own pasta, partly because the other option would be to drive nearly 30km to source a packet. However, they do have access to plenty of fresh produce, even if they have to travel to the next town for it, and have recently embraced the art of pickling.
There’s another lasting change that has taken place in their diet. Earlier, Krishni’s mother used to cook meals that were informed by household wisdom passed on from generation to generation— like pairing a certain kind of sabzi with a certain kind of dal, because it’s supposed to aid digestion. However, now, this information comes from a nutritionist who plans their meals for them.
“There’s a lot of soup for dinner,” Krishni says.
With Meera Ganapathi and her husband Ayappa K.M., both in their 30s, we’re back in the big city (they live in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra with their two cats, Apple and Norman Francis). Meera, editor and co-founder of Soup, and Ayappa, a filmmaker, have a 384-litre double-door fridge in their apartment that is a collection of edible souvenirs from recent travels—bottles of apricot jam from Ladakh, jamón and olives (two kinds: pitted and seeded)—that sit next to delicious markers of home in the form of a bottle of tomato thokku, Molokai podi and extra filter coffee decoction.
Like many couples their age, both Meera and Ayappa are conscious eaters and consumers and “strongly believe in eating according to local availability and weather.” Although their cook comes in five times a week, Meera makes breakfast on most days, from a weekly menu that looks something like this: Pongal with coconut chutney and sambar on Monday; idli with chutney, sambar and podi on Tuesday; fried eggs and bread on Wednesday; avil upma on Thursday; uttappam with sambar, chutney and podi on Friday; and roti with bhurji on Saturday.
The fridge then is a catch-all for leftovers that Meera says linger for not more than three days. A stickler for a clean fridge now (armed with the most effective weapon in her arsenal, distilled vinegar), she says that she did initially have trouble getting rid of the food.
Declaration of love
“I especially don’t have the heart to throw stuff I bought on holidays. This meant I held on to a big pack of Matcha Kit Kat for five months. Nobody wanted to touch it and I kept waiting for someone to come home and declare that they love Matcha. It never happened,” she says. These days, rigorous cleaning is conducted every two weeks.
In the vegetable section, there are always curry leaves, coriander, lime, green chilies, ginger, eggplants, bitter gourds, peas, ladies’ fingers, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers. And there’s always the option of a quick egg sandwich.
Although Meera can now whip up a meal at short notice, this wasn’t always the case. Little over a year ago, she barely cooked and instead ate out a fair bit. “The first real ‘grown-up’ cooking experience was the simple act of washing and marinating a fish. Something so alien to me, especially because I grew up in a primarily vegetarian household.”
Talking about her childhood, Meera says that although her mother didn’t cook red meat (chicken would happen occasionally), eggs were a big part of the diet. But most often, the family stuck to light Tamil Brahmin meals where “the batter is always homemade, the masalas are ground fresh, the podis are all sorts of exotic daals and leaves the ground and preserved for everything from ailments to cravings.”