Recipes from chefs and home cooks, photo essays and anecdotes, and a pack of heirloom produce. If this is your idea of the perfect gift, Shruti Taneja is your go-to person. The 34-year-old founder of Delhi-based Nivaala (mouthful, in Hindi), is finding several artistic ways to fuel her passion: recording family recipes and encouraging everyone to do so. While the inception of Nivaala started with a recipe journal in 2020, Shruti is now all set to launch a personalised cookbook publishing service (in partnership with book editor Chinmayee Manjunath) for those holding on to their grandmother’s half-smudged recipe pages to create something valuable.
It was a conversation with Chinmayee that sparked the idea, says Shruti of the service launching early next month. “When we first spoke, we connected over the importance of gathering and preserving family recipes as a way to honour and cherish relationships and people. Our favourite stories, deepest emotions and strongest memories are built around food, and it is the one tangible way in which we express and remember togetherness. The publishing service was born of this conversation and our shared passion for helping people archive and pass on heirloom recipes,” she says, adding that with the initiative they make the process of creating culinary family archives easy.
Such cookbooks keep family stories alive, rekindle memories and are a beautiful gifting option for birthdays, anniversaries and at weddings too, explains Shruti, who also runs a personalised postcard service at Nivaala, and recently collaborated with Alipore Post (a weekly art newsletter) for a special project. “People have been sharing their family recipes along with messages they’d like to send to their loved ones. The love and warmth is reflected in their recipes and messages because sharing food is a reflection of that,” says Shruti who has facilitated the exchange of 100+ recipes across India. All you have to do is share your recipe with the team along with the address of the recipient, and they hand write it on a postcard and send it for you.
Shruti’s top 3 Indian cookbooks
Zines on rice and mushroom
After her pilot zine, The Legume Project (with rajma as the hero ingredient), and the following one with jackfruit, the recipe curator explains that these print magazines comprise recipes, anecdotes, memories, cultural anthology around one specific ingredient. “We were excited to see people use the rajma that we sourced from Tons Valley and try out the recipes from the contributing chefs: rajma sundal by Chef Keertida Phadke to kashmiri rajma by a local homechef.”
With upcoming zines championing mushroom and rice, Shruti says she chose these ingredients as “they are so versatile and the number of varieties that exist for each of them is mind blowing”. “Shroomery, our partner for The Mushroom Project, grows over eight varieties of mushrooms on their farm in Manesar and Spirit of the Earth, our partner for The Rice Project grows 272 varieties of rice!” Look forward to Chef Prateek Sadhu’s recipe of Kan Gach Yakhani recipe from Kashmir, culinary memories, cultural anthology pieces, and more.
Heroing the ingredients
The idea behind the project, says Shruti, was to “showcase how versatile Indian cuisine is, and how one single ingredient can be made in so many different ways in different regions”. “These projects are even more relevant at a time when we’re becoming increasingly discerning of where the food we put on our plates is coming from, who’s growing it, harvesting it, processing it, and selling it. This is why we consciously choose ingredients that are versatile and partner with brands who are working with local farmers who follow sustainable practices,” adds Shruti, who aims at sparking conversations around home cooked food with her work.
The projects aside, what Shruti loves about the recipe curation process is “people talking about the specific flavours that can instantly unlock a whole world of emotions, memories and feelings of family, love, comfort”. “We’re on a mission to inspire people to record their family recipes, which are a part of our heirloom and just as precious as the sarees and jewellery that we inherit,” she concludes.
Details on https://www.nivaala.co/