Divya Butani is a teacher of business and economics, food photographer, recipe developer, and mother. The food and home blogger has always been inspired by her mother and grandmother, who are both outstanding chefs. Divya started her journey as an exceptional chef after moving in with her husband. She was introduced to different cuisines and cultures at a very young age, which heavily influenced her vibrant palette.
Icy Tales is in conversation with Divya Butani, The Veggie Wifey.
Q. “The Veggie Wifey” is a unique name. What made you come up with the name?
Divya Butani: “The Veggie Wifey” and “The Pressure Cooker Dairies” were the initial contenders for this foodie passion project. It all started when I moved in with my husband and realized I didn’t know how to cook. I asked my mother to teach me because I’d be living with a guy who didn’t know how to cook either, and I needed to learn. We couldn’t just stare at each other when it came to our meals.
The concept of “The Veggie Wifey” came into existence when I documented my struggles with cooking for both of us. I’m a vegetarian, whereas he eats meat. I was so bad at cooking I burnt food countless times. Whenever I made something edible, I photographed it to encourage myself to keep going. Cooking truly is a life skill and should not be gendered. Home blogging came around a little later when I started figuring out how to manage small spaces in Hong Kong-style apartments.
Q. What is the inspiration behind opening your cooking classes?
Divya Butani: It’s challenging to return to work as an IB teacher when you have two children under two. My hours at work were easily 12-13 hours, plus planning lessons and marking exams, which are all done out of teaching hours. I decided to combine my two strengths: teaching and cooking. That was when I started the online cooking classes. The cooking classes turned out to be extremely fun; meeting people around the globe getting to know them through their kitchens is lovely.
Q. There was a period when we ate for pleasure; today, we are more mindful of aesthetics and health. According to you, how can one take care of their daily meals?
Divya Butani: I am incredibly mindful of my health. My biggest fear is not growing old but growing weak. I want to be older but stronger. I do not binge work out; I try my best to eat everything in moderation. I have one or two cheat meals a week – where I eat absolutely anything I want, but the next day I get back to having high protein, low carb meals as part of my postpartum weight loss journey.
I started intermittent fasting two months ago, significantly reducing my portion sizes. I drink ginger tea and matcha collagen every single day in the morning. When I’m at home, I don’t eat anything after 8 pm, and I try my best to drink lots of water throughout the day.
Whatever I post online is my best, but it’s not like every meal. Despite being a food blogger, all my meals do not look ‘beautiful’. I’m a food photographer, so I love creating beautiful dishes when I can, but all my meals are not like that.
Q. You have a newborn. Could you please elaborate on the journey of your healthy diet during pregnancy?
Divya Butani: During my first pregnancy, I was very anxious with Covid and all that was unknown then, so I stressed ate a lot. I gained 25 kgs. I only realized how much I let myself go after I gave birth. It was challenging to feel normal again. With my second pregnancy, I was more mindful of eating and training my body for childbirth.
I generally don’t snack, so I only had 3 meals a day. Anything I ate was a conscious decision. I never dieted or denied myself my cravings, I was smarter about my intake. For example, if I eat one heavy meal, the other two would be lighter. I still ended up gaining 20 kgs, but it’s so much easier to lose the weight now than it was before. I thank working out through my second pregnancy for that.
Q. Your social media says you are a home blogger; what activities are involved in home blogging? Could you please elaborate?
Divya Butani: I love making practical use of small spaces. When you live in a place like Hong Kong, you have no choice but to be smart about using space. When I first moved in with my husband, we lived in a 400sqft Apartment. I had to learn how to make space for all my sauces, appliances, suitcases, a Christmas tree, Indian clothes, etc., so I started documenting ways to organize my home better and be more thoughtful about using smaller spaces in a practical manner.
I love making videos on kitchen blogging and being smarter with your kitchen space. I plan to develop more videos, such as organizing your pantry; how can you occupy space near the sink for your dish rack.
Q. There would have been a journey of ups and downs. Would you like to tell us something about your inspirational journey?
Divya Butani: The Veggie Wifey began as a hobby; it was never intended to be a source of income. I imagined I’d work on it when I had free time teaching or the kids. My passion is gradually transforming into a business; it has taken six years and is still a long way to go.
I don’t work with many companies, only because everything I place on my blog, or social media, are companies or products I genuinely use and can vouch for. I would never ‘promote’ anything I don’t personally use. I try to maintain an authentic voice and a voice with integrity. So paid partnerships are not a stable source of income for this blog.
I do my work online, collaborating with brands, companies, and people. There’s a lot of cold emailing and cold calling going on. Hong Kong is not as open to collaborating as India or US, and it is not an easy place to work with food companies. Some massive companies here don’t have an online presence, so talking to them about online collaboration is like building everything from scratch. I guess it’s also a massive opportunity at the same time.
It’s not always that people come to you. You have to reach out a lot of the time and continuously follow up. Sometimes, you don’t get any replies, and sometimes it’s so easy; you have to be persistent, consistent, and confident.
Q. Any message to give the new mothers about taking good care of themselves and their nutrition during and after the pregnancy?
Divya Butani: Pregnancy is a life-changing experience. You are not physically, mentally and emotionally the same person anymore. Mothers always think about their kids more than themselves, it’s so natural, but it can lead to a massive burnout.
I’m so grateful for the mum tribe I have, from all walks of life, because we connect like no other friendship. We bond over our kids, we vent about our highs and lows, how tough Covid is with kids, and we give each other grace. I’ve never had that type of understanding in a friendship before.
As for nutrition, eat whatever makes you happy, but whatever has to be in moderation. It’s all about balance. I only have one tip: collagen. Crushed Tonic is the best I’ve had so far. It has been a game changer for my hair, skin and nails after pregnancy.
Q. We have seen you make unique recipes for kids. What made you come up with the idea of making recipes specifically for that age?
Divya Butani: I was lost when I started feeding my son solid foods. I wasn’t aware of what to cook and what not to cook. I researched what to feed a baby, what is nutritious and how to identify allergic food.
While researching, I thought of opening a community where all mothers can share easy, delicious, and nutritious recipes for kids. That’s when My First Munch started. It’s a community page for now, but I hope to incorporate activities and classes at a later stage. I hope to share my knowledge in education, like tips on reading and enhancing their imagination, creativity and vocabulary.
Divya Butani hopes to introduce her children to the beautiful cuisines of the world through her kitchen and wants to share that journey through her Instagram page and website.