Text 'What is Veganism?' against background of grapes

ThinkVegan | The Heart of Veganism

Yesterday, there were two social commitments I ended up avoiding. The first was a wedding of a relative followed by lunch. The second was my folk, who did go for the wedding, returning with a few close relatives, who in the evening, they then took out for dinner. Now, the only thing vegan at Muslim weddings is water, and the dinner was at a Rajasthani restaurant where ghee flows like water.

Thus, my parents, especially my mom, had to do overtime explaining to folk why I wasn’t coming, and then what veganism is. Many people in India still don’t know what it is – they think it’s another term for vegetarianism – and Muslim folk don’t even know what vegetarianism is. I mean, they do, but you know what I mean.

In the evening, my sweet hapless mom came up to me and asked, “What exactly is veganism? What exactly do I tell them?” I did my number of asking her back – to know how much she knew. She managed to an extent (she does make vegan dishes for me, after all), and I filled in the rest.

So, is veganism just about avoiding animal products, things that have come from the exploitation of a sentient being? When you really become vegan, or when you become really vegan – in spiritthe answer too goes beyond. And this came out in the recent Chennai super-rains.

Man wading through neck-deep water in the recent Chennai floods

We were stuck at home for four days due to the water and two days due to no electricity. We did whatever work we could in the natural light, and then went to sleep early. We rationed our provisions, wanting little, wasting nothing. We performed our ablutions sparingly and absolutely thoughtfully. It felt like living in the village or in the early 1800s. And when the power came back and the water subsided, we didn’t rush to the nearby supermarket – there was still enough at home. Veganism is about austerity.

Then, you finally went to the supermarket, and found people hoarding up for the next 100 years. You spotted only two packets of your favourite snack left – anything is food in times of flood. So, you took both, right? But what if someone else wanted it – even if one – as badly? Veganism is also about thinking about the other. Comes from thinking about the “really lowly other” – the animals.

Mostly empty racks at a Chennai supermarket after the recent floods

The rain and the collected waters receded, but fear psychosis took over. Words started flying around that there’s an even greater storm coming; this – these two – was/were just the appetizer/s. Someone’s got to keep the calm in the storm and tell people that for all practical purposes, the worst is over, storm can’t strike the same place thrice, and that if indeed it does, with what you’ve just experienced over two-three weeks, you can handle it. Being/Keeping calm. Veganism is about that too. Coming as it does from patiently answering countless and ceaseless queries like “Where do you get your protein from?”, “Don’t animals die in farming?”, “It’s not sustainable”, the epic “What would you do if you are stranded on an island with only a goat?”, and from fighting for the freedom of beings whose protection laws have been formed by humans.

Graphic with text 'Over 1.5 lakh illegal structures in Chennai'

Life finally started getting back to normal, enough for people to then play the blame game: ‘Rampant construction.’ ‘Improper planning.’ ‘Building on marsh land.’ Veganism is, and always has been, about being sustainable. Sustaining animals, their habitats, the earth, and thus humans. Else, the next deluge will happen in less than 100 years. If not earlier.

Really short: Vegan’s about… thinking with the heart.Self-created logo for my ThinkVegan philosophy

Famous image of Einstein showing his tongue, with an illustration effect

IrfindingVegan: Refinding Senses

IrfindingVegan Logo

“You will become weak.”

“You will feel constantly deprived of energy.”

“You will suffer from severe calcium deficiency.”

“You will lose weight.” (Smiley.)

When you tell people you are turning vegan, you will hear a lot of grim things about your physical future, and the odd positive thing (such as that smiley-inducing one above). Well, I took 1.25 years to go vegan and have been vegan for almost seven months now (and have been vegetarian for over 19 years), and none of that has happened. (Sigh, not even that positive one – proving yet again that weight loss is the result of a combination and complex interaction of multiple factors.)

Illustration of the story, The Princess and the PeaWhat no one tells you though, or at least I didn’t come across in these 1.5 years, is that turning vegan turns on (heightens) your taste-buds and even other senses such as smell and sight/perception. Or this could just be me. But I have been steadily noticing that I am no longer able to tolerate even the slightest excess of sweet, salt, sour, spice and masala in my food (the last three being the most “hit”). I’ve kinda become like the princess in that tale about her and the pea.

Even more, I’m able to easily figure out whether someone has added some special flavouring/seasoning to a food item and what this seasoning/flavouring is. A couple of months ago, the friendly neighbour lady sent my mom a dish as part of the daily exchange of Ramzan iftaar items. One sampling, and – even while noting it was delicious – I was able to identify why: she had added special taste-maker (probably Maggi) to enhance the drool-worthiness of the dish.

But things got sealed last week. I had gone to this new restaurant – new even concept-wise, as it’s a weigh-and-pay restaurant, where you pay for food not by the menu but by the amount/weight you eat. (Read the review here.) Seal # 1: while it’s not a vegan eatery, I could correctly sense which of the vegetarian items were not vegan, having only the slightest of cream. (Of course, this could be from the knowledge gained from 1.5 years of vegan research.) But it gets better. After round 1, I knew the food, the taste was different (from Chennai standards; it’s a multi-cuisine restaurant, having Indian, Chinese and Continental), but wasn’t right then able to figure out what was different about it. So, decided to try out the taste-bending items (nutty pulao, baingan wedges, veg biryani) once more to determine the cause. (Of course, I didn’t repeat the spicy peas, as they were, well, too spicy.) Along with the three mentioned items, there was a new item, the daal, which the owner had made specially vegan (without cream) for me. I wiped these four items clean, and by then the cause was as clear as my plate: Their chef had to be Bengali; no one makes food such a delectable combination of sweet, salty, oily, spicy and tasty. I went up to the owner to confirm this. Not sure, she in turn asked her husband, who, not sure, in turn asked the manager, who, sure, responded: “Yes.”

With the way things are going, I think I’m heading to becoming a sniffer dog. Or if it gets more pronounced, I will soon become a cow, not being able to tolerate anything else along with my greens. And then, someone will yoke me and use me to plough the fields or pull a cart, or in a worse case, send me to the abattoir… sigh, perpetuating the animal-cruelty cycle.

I actually wrote this as a guest post for the site, Bleed Green, in the ‘Green Living’ section (but with a pic and a title more appropriate for that site). Bleed Green, as the name suggests, is a site for all things green: sustainable energy, organic products, and of course, the vegan life. Find the post here: Turning Vegan, Turning on Senses

Logo of Chennai's first weigh-and-pay restaurant, Weigh-Out

IrfindingVegan: Weighing and Eating

IrfindingVegan Logo

IrfindingVegan has been about finding vegan eateries and products and writing about them, mostly in a good light (but that could be because most vegan stuff has good light). However, I’ve decided to extend its scope now. No, not because it’s difficult to find vegan options in a country like India, where while a good part of the populace is vegetarian, many parts are still to even register the concept of ‘veganism’. (Or maybe that’s why: As food, and religious, lines are divided very strongly along the habits/practices of vegetarianism/non-vegetarianism, it’s difficult for a third option to find a squeak in.) Even a city like Chennai, where I stay, while known for its veggie fare, has only three all-vegan restaurants. (But this could be because the city loves its curd and ghee too much to know any other way of life.)

Anyway, I felt the urge to extend the scope of this series because being vegan, if you take it intently, turns out to not so much about eating vegan but about living vegan. Living pure, living frugally, living consciously, and in the case of this post, consuming consciously (rather than conspicuously), and therefore wasting minimally.

Let’s start weighing

Newspaper ad for Weigh-OutSo, last week, after seeing its ad in the papers for a week, I visited Weigh-Out, an all-day buffet restaurant where you don’t pay for food by the menu but by the weight. Going by the ad, it seemed to be close to my ex-office. So, I figured it would be easy to locate. I couldn’t be wronger.

Weighing Google Maps

The actual location of Weigh-OutI Google-mapped it before going, on getting there (to the area), and even after getting there, but just couldn’t spot it. As per G Maps, it seemed to be in a small hotel, which is right next to my ex-office building, but as I knew this hotel well, knew it couldn’t be there, but still went in. And was told the same by the manager. Stepped out, and going by the address, felt I should try the opposite side. Did so, and there it was. (That in the image taken from Weigh-Out’s FB page is the actual location.) Moral of the story: Don’t trust Google Maps too much.

Weighing the exteriors…

The building looks new and spanking, and it’s got the Weigh-Out boards on all road-facing sides. So, you can’t miss it – that is, once you junk G Maps and look the old-fashioned way.

And the interiors

Part of the interiors at Weigh-OutStep in, and it’s quite spacious. Or maybe because it’s new, not many know of it yet. I look around inquisitively, and a lady comes up to me. I guess she’s the owner. Guess confirmed.

Weighing the concept

A patron weighing his filled-up plate at Weigh-OutShe explains the concept to me. “It’s only a buffet, an all-day buffet. You get a card, take a plate, fill up, and go to weigh the filled-up plate at the weighing counter. The guy there swipes the card, informs you how much (by weight) is on your plate. You eat to your fill, but obviously need to weigh and swipe with each filling. At the end, you go and pay for the final weight/amount.”

This wasn’t so easy to understand when she explained it. I’ve made it easier (hopefully) after going through one cycle during my visit. And I guess they factor in the weight of the plate.

Weighing the price

In their ads too, they say it’s 70p/gram. So, I ask her how much a typical bill for one comes to. She tells me that if you eat well, it comes to 400ish. Mine came to a bit above that. But I was hungry that day.

Weighing her response to “I’m vegan”

I inform her I’m vegan, and then proceed with my typical assessment of whether the other person understands what that means. We almost make a game of it. Earlier, I had asked her name, tried to spell it, and almost got it correct, just interchanging two letters (‘Buelah’ instead of ‘Beulah’). So, ask her to tell me what she knows of vegan food. She gets it right. Weigh-Out 1, IrfindingVegan 0.75. (Hey, ‘u-e’ is good enough.)

Weighing the vegan fare

A view of the vegetarian section at Weigh-OutThere is enough vegan fare, and some non-standard options, such as baingan (brinjal/eggplant/aubergine) wedges and nutty pulao. I fill up my plate with some salads (aloo/potato chat and spicy peas), the baingan wedges, gobi/cauliflower manchurian, noodles, and two varieties of rice (nutty pulao and veg biryani).

A view of the desserts' section at Weigh-OutI have a perfunctory look at the desserts’ section, and am not surprised: apart from cut fruits, there’s nothing vegan (but obviously). So, skip them. I also don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Weighing the taste

The chat’s a bit spicy, but palatable; but the spicy peas are too spicy and tangy for my taste. The wedges are not very oily and give the taste of both the baingan and the besan (gram flour) in equal measure. The noodles too are nicely between crunchy and soft, and go perfectly with the equally perfectly-done manchurian. The biryani again is a bit too spicy for my palate. But the winner is the nutty pulao: everything in the right measure – nuts, sweet, salt, spice, oil.

The food overall has a taste that reminds me of something, but I’m not able to get my tastebuds on it just yet. So, decide to do a refill with most of the first-round items, but leaving out the very spicy peas, and this time, there are two new items: sautéed broccoli and daal without the cream, which the owner has had made specially for vegan me.

Getting the taste

I’m glad she made the daal, because that, and the second round, helped me nail where I’d tasted this kind of food before. It’s the distinct taste of Bengali food, which while leaning toward the sweeter side, also has the right blend of salt, oil and spices, and of course, baingan. (Bongs seem to love this king of vegetables as much as they love the king of fish, the hilsa. Their favourite way of cooking it, the brinjal, is frying – it’s called baegoon bhaaja – so, the wedges were a noticeable change. Their favourite way of cooking the hilsa is… hey, ask a Bong; I’m vegan, remember?)

Checked this (whether the chef is Bengali) with the owner after paying my bill, and again she confirmed it. Incidentally, further down in the same area, there are several Bengali messes, serving more humble Bengali fare. So, did the chef come (graduate) from there? Maybe I’ll find out next time.

Weighing Weigh-Out

Neat-tasting food. Decently priced. Amiable ambience. So, will it work? Let’s weigh what it’s got…

Location: This initially seems an obstacle. It’s in a commercial area with several other mainstream restaurants, but maybe that’s why it will work: upwardly mobile office-goers who want a decent-sized meal but with some space and quiet. And this is confirmed by the second point.

Concept: Would the concept itself work, or as I asked her at the beginning, “Is it too ambitious for a conservative place like Chennai?” She replied that they are aimed at people who want decent-tasting food and don’t like wasting or overordering, and she seems to be having quite a few people showing interest so far.

“Tension-eating”: This isn’t eating in a hurry or eating out of a psychological condition, but like this… Quite a few times during my meal, I kept on thinking, ‘I just ate 50 bucks’ more worth’, ‘Now, I ate 75 bucks’ worth’, ‘There goes 125’. I was counting my morsels the way many people count calories. It seemed tension-inducing. The last thing you want when eating a nice meal. Or was that just me?

Positioning: Again, this could just be the ad-guy me, or maybe not. While weigh-and-eat is an innovative concept, is it a sustainable one? Do we go to a place for how less it, and you, waste, or how good the food tastes? (Well, as I said at the beginning, maybe if you’re vegan.) Guess we’ll have to weight, er, wait this one out…

If interested, visit their Facebook page (from where I’ve taken the pix): Weigh-Out on Facebook

Goats for sale before Bakrid

Dead End

Here comes again that time of the year,

When herbivorous animals are bought, and tied, and fattened,

Little do they know, they have little cause for cheer,

And that this really is the beginning of their end.

This year, Bakrid, the “celebration” of goat (and other “domesticable” herbivorous animals) sacrifice falls on September 24.

Goat being held down before being sacrificed during Bakrid

The Veganer Rhymer

I just blogged about a vegan eatery, as is my norm,

Now, as is usual too, here’s the review in poetic form.

The vegan restaurant, Veganer,

Opens up in downtown Anna Nagar.

And last week, I was there,

To check out their fare.

And here’s what I found,

On my IrfindingVegan round.

The décor and food are all vegan, innovative, and nice,

Right from non-fine-bone-china plates to non-dairy curd rice.

The welcome drink, musk-melon/pineapple, is awesome too,

And won’t let you stop at one, or even two.

The price too is easy on the wallet,

Leaving the perfect after-taste on the palate.

At all this, my vegan heart grows fonder,

But soon, begins to ponder…

Will all this do to turn many a thayir-lapping Deepa or Deepan

Into an animal-conscious and non-dairy-slurping vegan?

IrfindingVegan Logo

IrfindingVegan: The VeganeR ConfirmeR

It’s the first… It’s not… It’s 100% vegan… It’s not…

Ever since I visited and blogged about “Chennai’s first and only 100% vegan eatery”, Café Kripa, there has been some debate about that qualification. The owner of Café Kripa herself said she was the second, and so did one of my Facebook friends. Now, I’ve been to the other restaurant they were referring to, right when it opened, had checked the menu, confirmed with the manager, and thus could say with 100% surety, Kripa was actually the first. But just to settle any niggling doubts, I decided to return to the other.

BeginneR…

Veganer opened sometime around November last year, at the cusp of Shafee Mohammed Road and Khader Nawaz Khan Road, in the heart of Chennai, the latter locality being the city’s poshest, with high-end brands having upscale stores there. I went for lunch there just once, remarked that the place was really huge, though in the basement (or maybe that’s why), but also a bit dark (again, due to the basement), and remember wondering how they’d manage with such high rentals and such niche cuisine. I also remember remarking, and sharing with the manager, that the menu didn’t seem entirely vegan. He admitted to it and said that’s why they’ve named themselves such, as in “veganish”.

Entrance of the earlier Veganer

LateR…

When I passed by there recently, I noticed the place had given way to a pure seafood restaurant. There, I knew it couldn’t last there. And then, got to know a few days later, that it’s opening up shop not very far from my house. (Is Veganer following me, as some sort of karma?)

AdvertiseR

To step aside just a bit, ad-and-creative-consultant me likes their name and logo. Will write about this separately, but for now, am playing around with it in this piece. RevelleR?

Cafe Veganer logo

ReturneR

So, late last week, to settle the debate, I decided to make my way to Veganer again. The glow-board did proclaim: 100% vegetarian/vegan. As I made it up to the first floor, saw posters explaining the vegan lifestyle and its benefits. So, had Veganer actually turned 100% vegan?

BrighteR

I stepped in, and was pleasantly surprised at how bright this version was. It had a full-size glass window that looked outside to the busy road, light/white-coloured interiors, and a smaller size than the earlier avatar, thus reflecting light around. (In fact, the only thing dark here seemed the black outfit of the serving staff.) It was growing on me.

ManageR

I was the only one that early on a week night. So, everyone focused their eager attention on me. (Felt like a king.) The manager, Karthi, came over, and he seemed the same manager as at the earlier location, which I confirmed within a minute.

Time to settle the debate.

ConfirmeR

Veganer. Is. And. Was. 100%. Vegan.

However, when they started, perhaps due to the fact that veganism is in its early days in India, they had made some “inadvertent errors” in writing and communication. They had written ‘paneer’ (cottage cheese) in the menu in some places, and when asked, had reaffirmed that it is dairy paneer and not plant (soy) paneer. Now, they seem to have tightened the loose ends. The menu doesn’t bear mention of, nor actually have, any animal ingredients. The paneer is definitely tofu. In fact, the only mention of a non-vegan ingredient is honeymoon sauce, but that’s just the fun name; it doesn’t contain honey.

MonickeR?

In fact, Veganer has gone the whole-hog (maybe I should use non-animal ingredients in my text too; so, whole-log?) vegan. Even the plates are melamine, not the usual fine-bone-china ones you find in almost all restaurants. And I’m fairly sure the chairs were made of faux leather too. If so, well done. Think I figured out the real meaning behind the name. It’s more than vegan: it’s veganer.

WelcomeR

While I took my interrogation with Karthi further, they served me a welcome drink. Made of musk melon and pineapple, it was conversation-stopping. I asked for another, and they gladly obliged. I decided not to appear greedy, so stopped before my tongue called for a third. Also, I wanted to save space for the other items.

SnackeR

As they have just started off here (you can consider this its relaunch), like most new restaurants, they have a limited menu, of some snacks and a few meal combos, though will go full-up in two weeks or so. Not in the heart for a meal, I asked him to make a recommendation. His suggestion, falafel and hummus, seemed a safe bet.

ComplimenteR

In the meantime, we continued chatting – about the scope, owners, plans, response – though he excused himself from time to time to supervise my order… and also to get me another complimentary item: nachos with some tomato/salsa sauce. Quite tongue-teasing. Didn’t get ingredient-hunting here as this wasn’t on my menu. Also, I was wondering if they were thinking I’m a food reviewer. (Now felt even more autocratic.)

OrdeR

My order arrived. The falafels were nice and crunchy, and the hummus – light and soft – served as the perfect antidotal dip. There was some other sauce and a couple of julienned vegetables, but I was already getting a bit full, with the three complimentary items.

The falafel-and-hummus dish at Veganer

It Gets BetteR…

Meal complete, and deciding to come there again soon, though with a more pliant stomach, I asked for the bill. And then, they unleashed their final complimentary item. Thayir saadham (curd rice), a South-India staple, made of peanut curd. Seriously, veganers (hey, I’d started adopting their coinage) and even some non-veganers would not be able to tell the difference. I then realised that all their complimentary items were more satisfying than the one I ordered. Or was it just because I had to pay for that one?

BloggeR, RevieweR

Impressed, I departed but not without pulling out my phone and showing my blog and the vegan reviews therein, adding that while I’d of course be coming back soon, I’d be reviewing them sooner. (That way, I guess I’m also secretly hoping for more free treats next time.)

Er…

Veganer is still getting not just its restaurant into place, but also its digital presence. So, while it has a website, it seems to be revamping it due to the several changes it’s had since its inception, and so has only a screen announcing the new location. Also, no Facebook or Twitter page. (Gasp.) But they are working on it, Karthi shared. Here, for what it’s worth, is their renovation-in-progress website: http://www.veganer.co.in/

FindeR?

Finally, they are located in Shanthi Colony, Anna Nagar (West), opposite Gangotree Sweets. You can note the address and contact details on the splash screen on their site or the image here.

Splash screen on the Veganer website displaying the new location

Final ConfirmeR

As for the nomenclature, let’s just put it this way. Café Kripa is the “city’s first and only 100% vegan café”, and Veganer is the “first and only 100% vegan restaurant”. And now, I can really state both with 100% authority.

IrfindingVegan Logo

IrfindingVegan: Filled with Kripa

How far would you go to experience 100% vegan food (assuming you’re vegan, of course)? The past weekend, I found myself commuting 14-odd kilometres. And given that I didn’t do this in my own vehicle or Uber, that’s no small deal. First, a 750-m walk to the bus-stop; then, 11.5 kms to the last stop of the bus; finally, a 1-km walk from there. At last, I’m looking at the pastel-hued board of Chennai’s first and only 100% vegan eatery. Below is the fruit of all that labour…

Well begun

Advertising-and-creative-consultant me has to pay attention to the branding. And it gets my full marks. Café Kripa. Kripa in Hindi means mercy. Mercy toward sentient beings and, if animal love isn’t your reason for turning vegan, then mercy toward yourself in the form of a healthier lifestyle. In some contexts, kripa can also mean grace, and that fits too: grace for the benefits a vegan lifestyle gives you. It’s also organic. Seriously, virtues are in no short supply here.

Sign-board for Cafe Kripa at its entrance

The first, for sure – and certified by…

It is the city’s first and only 100% vegan eatery, although the owner, Heenu Nanwani, thinks it is the second. She mentions Veganer, but having examined the menu and eaten at Veganer, I can confirm that that vegan-sounding restaurant is just that: it’s a good deal vegan, but not 100% so. Even Little Italywhich can make, wow, even pizza vegan – is at the most ‘vegan-friendly’, but not all the way up. So, congrats on the achievement, Café Kripa. May there be more (of yours as well as others) to follow.

Mercy all around

A dog and a cat are seated at a table, with farm animals as their audience. The dog shares, “…and if we are mistreated, the humans are taken to prison.” The cow, from what I remember, remarks, “We feel so jealous.” In case you think vegan folk, due to their tremendous animal love, can understand the sounds emitted by their furry friends, that’s actually a painting at one of the tables.

Interior of Cafe Kripa, with sketches about animal compassion on the walls

There are other vegan-friendly paintings, posters, and announcements all around. There are some environment magazines as well (since being vegan pretty much goes with being environment-conscious too). There’s an organic store on the right, the substantially-covered kitchen is to the left of it, and there’s a low seating area in front of the kitchen. There’s tender music playing, giving the feel of a spa/retreat, without the dim lighting and joss sticks. My expectations are building.

Meet Mrs Kripa

Heenu has been vegan for 10 years. (I have been vegetarian for 19 years and vegan for 5 months.) Her reason – with just with a tinge of personal disappointment for me – was not animals, but health. Back then, she realised dairy didn’t agree with her, and made the switch. However, she does have honey, though she doesn’t put it, or any other animal-derived ingredient, in the food. Fair enough.

Merciful menu

Like most things vegan, the menu is simple and even a bit limited, but Heenu says it’s because they’ve just started (two months back) and these are their regular items. There are other items they make sometimes, but those are more on a day’s-special basis. I remember reading about 10 items: Black/Lemon Tea, Buttermilk (yes, the famed Tamilian cooler, typically made with rich, creamy milk), Shake (yes, yes), Pasta (yes, yes, yes), Pani Puri, Dessert/Cake, CK Salad, Toast, Carrot Juice…

The menu at Cafe Kripa written on a blackboard

Vegan buttermilk, shake, pasta, and cake sound not just appetising but intriguing, and I ask for these – if only to cast them the challenge of making these items vegan and delectable.

Now you know why it’s authentic…

Having placed my order, I hope to speak more with Heenu, as I’m the only customer around. So, check with her, “You’ve shared the order with your chef?” She coolly replies, “We’ll be cooking for you.” The owner doing the cooking herself. What more can one ask for? The ‘we’ includes her niece, who also genially brings my items to the table.

Merciful, bountiful

Everything else has scored so far. But will the essence of what makes a restaurant?

The buttermilk is first to arrive. It looks pretty authentic, though a bit greenish, but seems to have the necessary spices. I take a sip. And Café Kripa has nothing to worry about. I thought it would be a great accompaniment to the pasta, but find myself finishing it within a few minutes, resisting gulping (a principle of eating healthy) as much as I can. It’s made of coconut milk, Heenu informs me. Along with the masala, you just won’t be able to tell the difference with the dairy variety, at least if you’re vegan.

A glass of buttermilk from Cafe Kripa

Next up is the pasta. I asked for white sauce, as I keep having red-sauce pasta (which is vegan). The spaghetti floats in ample white liquid. I take a bite. Hmm, it tastes a bit different and does take some getting used too, but works. It’s made of oats and cashew, and feels devoid of the fullness/fatness of cream/cheese-based white sauce. Tender kripas.

Bringing up the rear are the banana milk shake (again with coconut milk) and sponge cake. Non-sweet-toothed me was not sure of this combo, but didn’t have a choice, as I asked for these mid-way into my pasta. But these triumphed too. The shake was not face-skewingly sweet: the banana was all the sweet stuff they added. And the cake (the only item outsourced, from a friend) was another piece of heaven. Even if it wasn’t, finding vegan cake is heaven enough. (And I make a mental note to next profile her vegan-cake-making friend.)

No soy, still joy

I notice that none of the ingredients contain soy or soy milk. (Most people seem to think vegan people have bean marrow instead of bone marrow.) I inquire about this, and her reply is simple: “I have never been able to figure out how to use it satisfactorily. Plus, coconut milk is a local ingredient; it’s easily available, and doesn’t cost as much as almond milk.” Practical, and economical. This also beats the reason of soy allergy that many cite for wanting to, but not being able to, adopt a vegan diet.

More mercies

I’m quite full by the end, but since I’m walking it to my movie, am okay with it. The bill comes to under 500, which is, well, merciful, given how much I ordered and the nature of vegan/organic ingredients (which are not easy to make/procure and therefore a bit costlier). The final mercy? They insist on not tipping; they even have this on their board. They should rename this Café Nirvana, you know.

Light food, engaging conversation

We spoke before, after, and even during the meal, in snatches, as they were cooking. Here are snippets from the chat, though mostly the parts that fall within the menu of this post…

Health: Right at the beginning, we talked of the growing link between cancer and a dairy lifestyle. As if to endorse us, there was this poster there: Milk is nature’s perfect food – if you are a calf.

Prowess: She loves cooking, but not has gone to any food institute. So, the mind-converting taste in her food comes from her… fingers. A person’s touch, as they say.

Plans: She is happy to keep it small for now. (A bit disappointing for me, as I’ll have to keep making the 14-km trek when I need.) So, even as I give her some ideas for publicising it, slow and steady seems to be her mantra. After all, why advertise like crazy and then fall flat on your saucepan while trying to cope with the demand? Plus, on the practical side, they are yet to receive their licence. She does ask me to review them on Zomato though. I say I’ll go one better and blog about them. Well, here you are.

I’m certain I’ll be making the long haul again the coming weekend. Only this time, without Google Maps.

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