It’s a pleasant Saturday afternoon and Jeetendra Haryani and his younger sister Anupriya have ushered their mother out of the kitchen and taken over for the day. Today’s menu: Pasta Arrabbiata, pasta in a mushroom sauce and cheese-and-black-eyed-pea croquettes.
Jeetendra, a sales and marketing executive, wields the ladle, while Anupriya, 24, gets the ingredients lined up. “Chopping and dicing and boiling rice and pasta are my department,” says the postgraduate advertising student. “During the week, we’re both busy and there’s never time to talk, so it’s become a tradition for us to cook together and, as we cook, catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives.”
Over the next two hours, the bonding occasionally turns into squabbling as the siblings argue about the proportion of red chillies in the red sauce and the chopping of the mushrooms. Then, as the dishes come together, it’s smiles and laughter again.
Once the food is ready, Jeetendra takes pictures for his food blog.
The siblings then call in their official taster, their mother, Harsha.
“She always says it’s turned out well,” says Jeetendra, 26, laughing.
There is no TV during this special, Saturday family meal.
“Over the past six months, these meals have brought us closer as a family,” says Jeetendra. “I’ve discovered that experimenting in the kitchen is also a great stress-buster and helps take your mind off things when you’re feeling low.”
With gourmet ingredients now flooding Mumbai, and recipes freely available on the internet, it’s possible to take the plunge and try a new cuisine any time you feel like it, turning the experience into a chance for the family or a group of friends to bond as everyone helps out in the kitchen and then sits down to the meal they have cooked together.
“In a city with limited recreational options, cooking is a great group activity,” says clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany. “I often recommend cooking as therapy to clients, because it also helps destress.”
For Thane-based software engineer Aditya Kandala, Sunday cooking sessions with his father Gopalachari are a great way for them to end the working week, doing something together that they both enjoy — while also giving Aditya’s mother, a homemaker, a break from the kitchen.
Originally from Tamil Nadu, they make it a point to steer clear of the daily fare of idlis, dosas and rasam and instead dish up everything from Italian omelettes to pav bhaji, rajma-chawal and even egg Schezwan fried rice with Schezwan gravy.
“Aditya goes by tablespoons and teaspoons, while my cooking is more instinctive,” says Gopalachari, 60, a freelance IT lecturer. “And for my wife, it’s her time to relax, unwind, do her embroidery.”
Kamla admits it’s great to have a break and see the father and son work on a meal together. “As long as the kitchen is not a mess and the food is edible, we’re all happy,” she says, laughing.