#2 | Smrithi - I love chicken curry, but it has to be secretly sneaked into my home.
What's cooking - Qualitative study to understand food in urban households
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For starters, I’m Dharmesh Ba, a behavioural researcher who explores Indian consumer behaviour in the digital space. This newsletter is my attempt to make actionable insights accessible to the startup community.
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About the research: 'What's Cooking?' is a user research series aimed at understanding how urban millennial households consume food. All the names and personally identifiable information are masked to honour the participants' privacy. I publish one story from this series every Thursday.
#2 | Smrithi
Smrithi is a resident of Mumbai, where she stays with her two kids, her husband, her father and her in-laws. She works as a product manager in a tech startup. Though the couple is originally from the Southern part of India, they have grown up in different parts of the country. Since both the husband and wife are working, they have always had house help to manage the cooking at home.
Food preferences of the family.
The couple grew up in a vegetarian household but have grown to consume meat outside their home. The family predominantly consumes veg food and occasionally cooks non-veg when their parents and in-laws aren't around. The cook comes home as early as 6:45 am to prepare breakfast for the kids and prepare them for school. Smrithi talks very fondly of her cook and feels lucky to have an accommodating cook who can cater to all three generations' needs at home. Smith's husband frequently travels for work, leaving her to balance work and home most of the time.
The cook comes every seven days. The menu is coordinated between the cook and the mother-in-law.
Here is a snapshot of how the week looks like concerning cooking.
Exciting themes that caught my eye from the conversation:
We rarely go out as a family to eat as our preferences are very different:
Going out a family: Three generations in a household could have preferences that could be poles apart. Narrowing down on that one perfect restaurant that everyone would enjoy could be a challenging task. The elders in this family generally dislike restaurant food as it might affect their digestion.
Going out a couple: Smrithi makes sure she goes out with her husband at least twice a week. It gives a couple of spending some time alone as the husband frequently travels for work. When they dine out, they make it a point to curate good restaurants to eat non-veg food. Their budget while dining out is around Rs.2500 per person.
The biggest motivator for my husband and me is that we get to have something from the Regional Maharashtrian dishes, which is not something that we cook at home. Something sort of Malvani Usal, that's one big thing that we both enjoy. Secondly, it's the fact that we can eat non-vegetarian food outside. So I try different Red Meat, Chicken, and Fish.
The couple discovers restaurants through word of mouth from office colleagues, as they aren't very active on social media. Their criteria for selection is quite simple - 'Not a shady restaurant'.
Going out with kids: Dining out with kids has always been clubbed with other activities like shopping or watching a movie. In that case, they go to a mall food court or a fast food chain like Mcdonald's.
Post-COVID, we moved our grocery purchases to online apps:
Before COVID, grocery purchasing was a weekly planned activity where the couple visited the Hypercity nearby to buy the groceries for the week. But during the lockdown, the family moved their purchases online as they found it more convenient.
The visit to Hypercity these days happens only during an extended weekend.
Smith's choice of apps is Swiggy Instamart and Amazon grocery. She had earlier tried out Bigbasket and Blinkit but found their services unreliable during heavy rains.
Local restaurant pamphlets inside the newspaper nudge my kids to order food.
Smrithi's kids (Senior KG) bring her the local restaurant's pamphlets and request her to order the dish for them. The pamphlets contain the food ordering apps' logo, indicating that the food can be ordered via apps.
These are usually not the meals themselves but some accompaniments or snacks like Donuts, chaat or dhokla. Such an unplanned ordering happens at least once a week.
Since Smrithi is the one at home most of the time, she has a Swiggy one membership through which she orders.
My kids request me to cook special food items based on what they see on Youtube.
Influenced by the Youtube cooking videos, the kids demand Smrithi bake cupcakes and cakes for them. For Smrithi, cooking for her kids is a way of bonding time with them.
So sometimes they asked us, last week, to make this Fried Idli kind of thing that we wanted to make from the leftover Idli. So, for that, we stepped out and bought something. And then occasionally, I watch Blogs or videos, and I'd have an item in mind that I'd want to eat. So, children ask, it's primarily deserts like Kulfi or Popsicles or baked items.
I asked if they would be okay with buying these cakes off Swiggy, to which Smrithi replied that they intend to go through the process of cooking with someone rather than eating the dish itself, and Youtube videos heavily influence these ideas.
My cook makes fantastic chicken curry, but it has to be secretly sneaked into the home.
Smrithi's cook makes delicious chicken curry, but it is secretly sneaked into the home as the family is vegetarian.
Smrithi has been trying to lose weight, and she turns to chicken for her protein intake, but she is reluctant to ask her cook to prepare chicken as it is Navaratri, and her cook wouldn't be comfortable making non-veg dishes.
Hence Smrithi resorts to making egg burji or omelette during these times.
Well, in India, it doesn't matter whether you are 18, 20, 30 or 40 years old; you are still governed by hidden rules imposed by family and society. Religious festivals heavily dictate food preferences. The intergenerational thinking around food in a single family makes the story exciting for me; from the elders looking down on restaurants to kids nudging for Swiggy orders, it's a modern Indian household.
What has your experience been with food ordering apps among your kids and parents? Do let me know in the comments below.
This series is really intriguing .. Would love to collab on this !!
Very nicely written up! Most insights were so relatable. I have just moved back to India and see a lot of these things at play. But also some major shifts in how the older generation orders. My parents don't like eating out as much either. But they use swiggy to order sweets and samosas when guests come home. And they share that as a matter of pride to show they are keeping up with times :) i have rarely seen them order a full meal though. It's always snacks and sweets.