Saee Koranne-Khandekar's "food obsessed" family is spread out all over the world. In 2012, a WhatsApp group which began as a way of bringing everyone together turned into a repository of recipes and kitchen tips and tricks, culminating in the creation of "The Gore Family Cookbook".
"A lot of collective memories came up about grandparents and aunts and houses and gardens and obviously, food," says Saee, reminiscing about how the book came about. Once the idea of a family cookbook was established, relatives from around the world began sending recipes and memories of food traditions to the WhatsApp group - which started with 50 family members and now has more than 100. Family elders, some in their late 70s, who had never used WhatsApp, signed up just to type out and submit their own recipes.
"I don't think this kind of thing would have been possible through snail mail or phone calls."
"I don't think this kind of thing would have been possible through snail mail or phone calls. If I called everyone, I'd only get their narrative, but with WhatsApp, it becomes a family narrative; there's possibility for debate, for verification. All conversations about recipes took place on WhatsApp. Someone would say 'Oh, I remember she used this spice,' and another would point out, 'No, the onions in this recipe were not sliced, they were diced,'" explains Saee.
A food writer and consultant, Saee collated all of the recipes, tested them in her kitchen for good measure and put them together in a book. On Diwali (Hindu new year) 2014, Saee's grandmother and other elders presented the family with "The Gore Family Cookbook". Heavily pregnant, Saee missed the highly anticipated unveiling.
"I was in tears. After the presentation, everyone in the family spoke to me and congratulated me. They were surprised to see a proper book! We all refer to the cookbook. There are recipes for pickles, those pages are turned every summer," says Saee.
For Saee, the WhatsApp cookbook was as much about documenting family recipes as it was better understanding India's history. Her family's food exchange continues and Saee is considering a second book, including more personal stories and family moments, all anchored to familiar and joyful dishes.