Meet 17-year-old Mira Shah, who is bringing healthy, easy-to-make recipes to millennials
In a stress-filled, dog-eat-dog world (pun intended), finding time to cook after a long day is almost next to impossible. Add to that, the convenience of online food platforms and restaurants catering to every taste, and a lot of millennials end up either ordering in food or dining out frequently.
This takes a toll on their health and causes a number of lifestyle diseases. While the intent to cook is there, they are limited when it comes to recipes that are quick as well as healthy and tasty to the palate.
Seventeen-year-old Mira Shah, along with her mother Tanvi Shah, has sought to address a typical millennial’s perennial question of ‘What’s for dinner’ by publishing The Millennial Kitchen, a selection of recipes that "will warm your heart".
Currently, a student of Jamnabai Narsee International School, Mumbai, Mira’s love for food has a cause attached to it.
A trip to the Golden Temple in Amritsar planted the seed of thought of starting an initiative with food. Then, while holidaying with her family in London, Mira’s brother, Vir, happened to spot a local gurudwara truck feeding the homeless. And he said, 'Why don't we do the same in India?'
Aided by her mother, Mira went forth to execute Vir's idea. They started 'Cook for a Cause', an initiative that saw the mother-daughter duo making and selling simple but wholesome dips and oil-free pickles. All proceeds from this went to charity.
Mira’s second venture in the culinary world is the publishing of this cookbook, which is a collection of easy recipes for millennials and their mothers.
The cookbook is filled with recipes for everything. From 'Party Starters and Cool Platters' to 'Meals for One and Two', the recipes cover thick and rich pumpkin hummus, cream-free creamy pasta, and fresh Mediterranean rolls.
Readers can also look forward to a special section titled 'Mira's Weekly Meal Plan', which talks about how she ensures every meal she eats in a week is unique and exciting and also healthy and delicious.
Here, too, the mother-daughter duo have led from the thought of giving back. The entire 100 percent of the proceeds from the cookbook will go to the Akshaya Patra Foundation, based in South India.
In an interview with HerStory, Mira and Tanvi Shah speak about the cookbook, its premise, and how millennials can turn their lives around with healthy eating.
HerStory: What prompted you to compile a recipe book, and why The Millennial Kitchen? What is different with millennials?
Mira Shah: Millennials are liberal, tech-savvy, and have the propensity to eat but not the bandwidth to cook. This book shows a simple way to cook healthy yet delicious food. Batch-cooking with the core ingredients easily prepared in advance can help millennials to cook, as well as be healthy and creative in their own kitchens.
HS: What drew you to food and cooking? What are your earliest memories of being in the kitchen?
MS: Meddling with my mother in the kitchen and she encouraging me to cook are my earliest memories in the kitchen. I was always encouraged by my father’s compliments when I made simple but healthy dinners for him, and they motivated me to experiment. I also have vivid memories of spending time grocery shopping with my mother when we rented flats on family holidays.
HS [To Tanvi]: What help have you given Mira regarding the book? What was your response when she came up with the idea?
Tanvi Shah: I knew instinctively this was a good thing and I had to support her. I took the concept to design and print after the content creation.
HS: How did you choose the recipes for the book?
MS: The parameters revolve around batch-cooking four delicious dips and making more than 40 delicious easy-to-cook meals with them. These recipes are chosen because of the ease involved in cooking them, and how delicious and healthy they are. The best part is that each can be made in vegan, vegetarian, Jain and gluten-free ways.
HS: Do you think millennials will find this cookbook useful considering that they are multitaskers, hardly find time to cook, and have the convenience of ordering online with the click of a button?
MS: That is the exact purpose of this book. The cold platters and make-ahead core recipes are just as delicious and easy to make, as are the hot meals. This is ideal for the millennial mindset.
HS: Who are your inspirations when it comes to cooking and what are your favourite recipes from the book?
MS & TS: Our favourite recipe is the red pesto, and it is also a party favourite. We love sandwiches. We also love creating different kebabs and tikkas.
HS: Is this a curated list of recipes or do you have any of your own in the book?
MS: Except for hummus and labneh which are Mediterranean staples, each and every recipe is our own. For instance, both the pestos use raw cashews as we love its sweetness and the anti-carcinogenic properties. Our hummus and labneh use garlic, and again the proportions are mentioned to our liking and taste.
HS: Tell us more about Cook for a Cause and donating the proceeds to the Akshaya Patra Foundation.
MS: We gave our first proceeds from 'Cook for a Cause' to an orphanage near our home. However, we were disappointed to see the funds were not being used in the right direction. We were thrilled when we came across the Akshaya Patra Foundation. It is one of the most professionally-run NGOs in the country, and 92 percent of the contributions are used directly or indirectly to feed the kids. Only 8 percent goes towards management fees.
HS: What are your future plans?
MS: My future plans are to pursue liberal arts with a concentration in health sciences. My mother heads a creative accessory line in India and may go back to college for further studies on nutrition and diet.
HS: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
MS: I am a swimmer and I also love to dance. I learnt modern dance at Trinity College while pursuing regular school, first at Bombay Scottish School and now as a student of the Jamnabai Narsee International School. Music, travel ,and TV are among my favourite activities, and then I have also discovered the kitchen!
TS: After graduating from high school in Mumbai, I moved to Switzerland and then to the US to complete my bachelors and masters degrees. I worked with IBM in the US for several years until marriage prompted a return to India. My move from a full-time corporate life in America to becoming a full-time homemaker in India was soon followed by the turn towards entrepreneurship. I am now the creative head for a fabric accessory line that retails nationwide.
(Edited by Suman Singh)