A 100% vegan kitchen, an array of fresh organic produce at its ready disposal and eco-friendly interiors – this ‘Healthy Cooking Workshop’ could not have wished for a better setting than Bangalore’s ‘In The Pink Organic Bazaar & Restaurant’. 
Dr Nandita Shah shows how its done
In The Pink which offers Bangaloreans the unique experience of eating and shopping organic, played the perfect host to SHARAN’s latest of vegan food programmes last week. SHARAN (Sanctuary for Health and Reconnection to Animals and Nature) is a non-profit organisation based in Auroville, Puducherry, working to spread holistic health and ecologically sustainable lifestyle awareness through seminars, training programmes and live cooking workshops across the country since the last six years. 

On Saturday, the earthy interior of the restaurant – characterised by Atthangudi floor tiles, wooden columns and bamboo chick blinds – was abuzz with housewives, fitness experts, students, professors, writers, entrepreneurs and media professionals with one common interest – healthy, vegan food. In the next three hours, SHARAN’s Dr Nandita Shah literally had them eating out of her hands as she served up a sumptuous four-course meal with twelve dishes whose preparations would have knocked the socks out of any meat-eating or fast-food fanatic. The words you are looking for here is ‘zero oil and zero animal product’ – yes, not even dairy! 

The delicious spread
And the winners were: three kinds of salads, nut milk, nut cheese, nut butter, Shepherd’s Pie with mince soya nuggets and nut cheese crust, stuffed lady’s fingers, dry beans (poriyal), daal makhni with nut butter, sprouts-and-veggie patty and banana ice cream without the cream. Prepared without a single drop of oil or any animal product, the dishes were baked (not in a microwave), steamed or simply roasted. Assisting Dr Shah along her gastronomic journey was the eager restaurant staff and the participants. 
Participants lend a helping hand
Interspersed with nuggets of information and tips, the interactive workshop made for the perfect induction to new age cooking. A highlight was when Dr Shah passed around her very own substitute for milk cheese – cashew nut cheese. Ground into a paste and fermented over 2-3 days, it smelled like cheese and tasted, well, almost like cheese but nuttier. The amazement was quickly followed by apprehensions on the high calorie content and cholesterol production which was as quickly assuaged: “No plant ever produces cholesterol”. 
“This workshop is about how to cook food we eat daily in a healthier way, it’s all about techniques. You can eat as much as you want as long as you eat in the right way. We endorse plant-based, whole foods,” explained Dr Shah. 
A 100% vegan since the last eight years, she took up the cause of healthy eating seriously after she helped a 70-year-old heart patient cut down her medication from a page-full to a quarter of a tablet in two months and later, a 21-year-old diabetic to cut down his insulin intake from thrice a day to none at all in just three days! 
“It was beyond my wildest expectations! That’s how we got the guts to start our 21-day reversal programme.” 
One among SHARAN’s several offerings, the 21-day residential programme for reversal of illnesses like diabetes and heart diseases is held at Swaswara Resort in Gokarna, just five hours from Goa. The patient is introduced to a healthy food guide while daily blood sugar level and blood pressure tests are conducted. “They can see their achievement with lab reports to vouch for it. A patient cut down 70% of the medication. Of course, there is no real reason that everyone needs a 21-day programme. You attend a cooking class like this, a seminar, try a few recipes from our website and you can do it right at home. The reason why 21 days is because it is the minimum it takes to change a habit.” 

Host for the day, G Paneesh Rao, MD, In The Pink
For SHARAN’s amicable host for the day, G Paneesh Rao, MD In The Pink, the experience was in tune with his own mantra in life. “In The Pink was envisaged when I started consuming organic produce myself and felt the difference. I wanted to make such an experience available to other Bangaloreans. 

Lots of people ask me why a restaurant and a store together: well, someone who is not familiar with organic food will have lot of questions when he or she walks in. Our solution: taste the food and then buy the produce. Simple.”



Remuna Rai/ Raintree Media Features