It’s an unlikely April afternoon. The sun is kind and the breeze is calming. I head to Birdsong Café with a song on my lips. The quaint little eatery, which is located on Bandra’s Waroda Road, has earned quite a reputation for being the go-to place for organic food lovers. I might not fall in that category of food lovers, but my lunch date – singer Vasuda Sharma – swears by this café. So here we are.
I reach a few minutes early and check out the menu. When Vasuda walks in, she is noticeably happy. We exchange greetings and settle down. “I discovered this place around two months ago, and I love the things they serve,” says the indie singer-songwriter, who is one of the few Indian artistes who have successfully crowd-funded their music albums. Her debut record is titled Attuned Spirits and it features songs that are collaborations with her peers from Berklee music school, which she attended in 2012. The album raised over five lakhs on the crowd-funding platform Wishberry in 2013.
In the next few minutes I discover that her cheerfulness has to do with her healthy breakfast. “I had a big bowl of muesli. I throw in a lot of fruits and nuts in it and it’s so tasty that I look forward to having it every morning.” Vasuda is a new vegan; she’s been one for four months and apparently, enjoying it. “You know, I just feel so much better. My voice has improved and my sinus problem isn’t so bad also.” So how did she turn vegan? “A friend of mine, who is a nutritionist, suggested that I try it and see if it works for me. So in the very first month itself after I quit milk, I felt lighter, so I stuck to the plan. I researched a lot before giving up milk and found that it contains casein which is a protein that the human body cannot digest. So the basic funda is that we humans were never made to drink cow or buffalo’s milk. It was meant for calves, not us,” says the popular folk-rock singer-songwriter who recently released a video of her song, ‘Be free’.
Vasuda plans to be vegan for life. Ask her if she has ever defaulted on her vegan pledge in the past four months and she says, “There were cravings initially but I never gave in to them. My biggest weaknesses are cheese and cold coffee. But I don’t really miss those things anymore.”
She also tells me that her choice to turn vegan was for health reasons only. “It wasn’t because of any animal activism. I just wanted to be healthy.” So she doesn’t mind wearing silk? “I have a few silk sarees that my mom gifted me. I wear those.” What about leather? “I don’t wear leather.”
Apparently, veganism is just one part of her entire diet overhaul. The other parts of the health plan include working out and eating healthier vegetarian stuff, she says. To beat frequent hunger pangs that are bound to arise now, she has turned to nuts and fruits. “Before whenever I would feel hungry, especially while travelling, I would grab a packet of chips. Now I carry a mix of different nuts with me and snack on them. If I happen to be driving and feel very hungry, I just pick up some bananas from a roadside cart,” says Vasuda.
She doesn’t need to really scan the menu to order. She knows she wants: Quinoa Salad (390). The dish contains hung curd, so she requests for a vegan substitute. The chef offers her cashew mayo. ‘Yummy,’ she says. “You know, you won’t believe, there are so many healthy options to milk that you won’t miss it if you give it up.”
We also opt for Smoked Eggplant With Herbed Lavash (Rs 375) and Warm Roasted Vegetables Salad (295). For drinks, she picks Banana Walnut Smoothie (Rs 215) while I opt for Carrot & Beet Juice (Rs 225).
“The other day I made almond cold coffee at home. I don’t go for soy milk, so I make almond milk at home. It’s really thin but it’s delicious,” she tells me.
And it’s not just dairy that she’s avoiding; she has even eliminated processed sugar from her diet. “I only use dates, jaggery and honey,” she says.
Our order arrives and brings with it a palette of colours on our table.
She gets down to rating it.
Vasuda: The salad is simple and light, but filling at the same time. The quinoa is cooked well and the cashew mayo is making it even more delicious. There’s nothing that I don’t like about this dish.
Smoked Eggplant And Herbed Lavash (Served with spicy hummus)
Vasuda: It’s quite an interesting dish. I love hummus and I like how the smoked eggplant tastes with the lavash (a form of crispy bread). But I wish it looked better; it’s quite bland when it comes to presentation. They could’ve added a few greens on the side or maybe just used a bright coloured plate.
Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad
Vasuda: This salad looks amazing; there are so many colours in it, which also means that it is very nutritious. It’s prepared just right and plated even better. (See cover image)
Banana And Walnut Smoothie
Vasuda: I love smoothies and this one has two of my favourite foods. I love it!
While she reviews the food, she also asks me if I too dig her choice of dishes. I am honest when I say I do. I also tell her that although I wouldn’t imagine ever going vegan, but the foods – especially the quinoa salad – is definitely something I wouldn’t mind trying again. She says, “You know, you have to come to my house for smoothies. You will love it.”
With a full and happy tummy, she’s prepared for the next round of our vegan food adventure:
The 101 Grill
Words: Nirmika Singh
Photography/Video: Avijit Pathak