Dutch musician Nathassia explains how her multicultural upbringing has shaped the way she eats.
I was born and bred in Gouda, also known as the city of cheese. It even has a cheese museum, a 17th-century cheese-weighing station on a medieval market square and a traditional-style cheese market that still runs every Thursday morning. Growing up I loved cheese so much that I offered to do my work experience at a cheese factory and ended up bringing home kilos of cheese. So, when I became vegan it really was a huge sacrifice!
My upbringing was truly multicultural as my father is Dutch and my mother is Indian. This meant I experienced first hand how adult opinions on the subject of veganism are very influenced by culture. One of my father’s jobs was to transport a type of cargo to farms that made him question what was really being used in cattle-fodder. He educated me from a young age about the health risks of eating meat and consuming dairy products, which seemed to conflict with the many pro-milk commercials on Dutch TV. My mother however would worry that my bones would go soft if I wasn’t drinking enough milk as a child!
My extended family lives in Suriname, South America. It is very multicultural and has an unbelievably rich cuisine, but meat is often the main ingredient. For many people from different cultures and countries it is unthinkable to cut out meat from their diet and there is a total lack of understanding as to why not to eat meat. So how great is it that very recently the first vegan restaurant ‘Vegan Spark’ has opened in Paramaribo the capital city of Suriname.
Making the journey
The first time I was introduced to veganism was when I performed at an eco-friendly festival. I was really intrigued by the variety of vegan food on offer at the various cafes and stalls. It was really great that the people organising the festival provided so much information, as it enabled me to begin my journey from vegetarianism to veganism.
I then began to wonder what the other beneficial reasons of being vegan were, in addition to respect for animals and pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
I spent many hours attending talks and researching the energetic principles of the world around us and I came to the conclusion that there is one other incredibly important reason for being vegan. In order to explain this simply, I would like to use the analogy of standing in a sunny field with thousands of other people watching a headline performance on the main stage at a music festival.
The feeling of positive energy generated during the performance is amazing – you could cut it with a knife. Now imagine the reverse and think of the amount of appalling energy generated from the slaughter of billions of animals each year for our food consumption. We should not dismiss how this terrible energy can affect our daily lives. This is a subject I am passionate about and hope that perhaps one day in the near future it will be something that is understood.
On the up
Obviously I am not alone in having a very demanding career (as a conscious electronic world music artist) and living in London. There is often not enough time to prepare a home-cooked vegan meal, but I can give you two tips that might help. For eating out, there are a growing number of vegan cafés popping up everywhere offering delicious food and I recommend the free app HappyCow to help you discover local vegan restaurants. For eating in, AmazonFresh now has a great variety of vegan products that can be delivered straight to your door.
I think things are definitely getting better if you have a vegan diet. For example, only a few years ago while I was travelling in Europe I told a waiter at a restaurant that I was a vegetarian and his reply was, “No problem madame we can put vegetables on your pizza.” He just didn’t get it at all. Compare this to last weekend when there was soya milk included with the coffee and tea in my hotel room!