“Who knew I would fall in love with cooking!” laughs 17-year-old Mira Shah. This love for cooking has translated into a cookbook called, ‘The Millennial Kitchen’, that Mira and her mother Tanvi Shah published in October this year.
The heartwarming part is the decision that the duo have taken. They have decided to donate all the proceeds from the book to Akshaya Patra—a non-profit organisation based out of India that runs mid-day meal programmes in schools across the country.
So far, the duo have already raised around Rs. 1.75 lakh. Looking at current trends, they expect to raise Rs. 3 lakhs by February next year that will help feed about 90 children through the NGO for the entire year!
Mira Shah fondly recalls the first time she cooked with her mother. She was only 13 years old then and for her, entering the kitchen was an escape from the holiday boredom. It wasn’t long before she would run into the kitchen every free moment she had.
The Millennial Kitchen
The book comprises of about 90 recipes which are based on four dips — hummus, red pesto, green pesto and Tzatziki.
For Tanvi, Mira’s mother, cooking started much later in her life. She grew up in Mumbai and she was actually never allowed in the kitchen. “I was 16 when I started cooking and later when I went to college. I also had this aunt who would cook the best non-vegetarian food like chicken curry, kebabs and continental dishes,” says the 48-year-old.
It was during her college years in Switzerland and America that she actually got interested in cooking. After finishing her higher studies from the University of Texas, she went on to work with IBM in Dallas and returned to India in 1998.
“After getting married, I became really interested in creating different fusion dishes. Food styling and plating was also something I thoroughly enjoyed,” says Tanvi.
Cooking for a cause
In December 2015, the family of four visited London. The vacation turned out to be a major turning point. During the visit, they saw a local Gurudwara truck feeding the homeless.
“My brother Vir was especially struck by this and said we should do something similar for the underprivileged back in India. A few months later, Vir and I sat shoulder to shoulder with strangers from across India at the langar in Amritsar’s Golden Temple. Vir’s words spoken in London came back to me,” says Mira.
On their return, Mira, with her mother Tanvi, decided that they too could do something and contribute to society. Mira and her mother went on to start, ‘Cook for a Cause’ — a home kitchen that donated 100 per cent of its profits to charity.
“We made dips and oil-free pickles and sold them to our friends and family. Our recipes were simple, healthy, and fresh,” says Mira.
It wasn’t long before the mother-daughter duo was inundated with orders.
Seeing the demand for homemade products, Mira enrolled in a programme called, ‘The Young Entrepreneurs Academy’ (YEA!). “With the right mentoring and vision, I was able to channel my hobby into a cookbook. This way, when I go to college in a few years, I would be able to continue supporting the NGO by donating the earnings from this book,” says Mira.
Speaking about the reason why they chose Akshaya Patra, Mira explains, “My mother bumped into Sudha Murthy at an event. Their discussions led to them talking about Akshaya Patra. We liked the fact that the food is nutritionally prepared in their kitchens. The organisation has a branch in each state and the best part is that nutritionists design these meals in accordance to the regional dietary habits.”
Mira also often volunteers at Akshaya Patra’s centre in Thane.
The book journey
The book, launched in October this year, has already sold close to 200 copies.
If you ask Mira what her favourite recipes are, she says, “I love most of the recipes in the book but I love pasta recipes!” She adds that when it comes to her mother’s cooking, she loves her mother’s butter chicken, lamb, fish other than the pastas. Mira also informs that as she was usually tied up with school work, her mother would then work on some of the dishes they had decided upon for the book. Aided and abetted by Mira.
However, challenges are never far away from the duo. “I think the most challenging bit in the process was not writing the book but actually getting it published. Editing the book, ensuring we have the right pictures, testing the recipes in a home kitchen were all challenging,” explains Mira.
Now, Mira looks forward to pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts abroad after clearing exams from Jamnabai Narsee International School.
So, what has been the biggest learning for Mira throughout this journey?
“As kids, we are very demanding and can be fussy with food. But, this entire journey starting from being associated and volunteering with an NGO has taught me so much. I used to complain about food so much but now, I have learnt to be more grateful and show gratitude,” she says signing off.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)