Wednesday, 14 November 2007

'Each time we eat, we are creating our future self.'

What does it mean to eat like a Buddhist? What is the Buddhist attitude toward food? Who knows! Some Buddhists eat meat, some don't. Some eat nothing after 12.00, some do. Yogis get a little more specific guidance on what they might ought to be eating. One thing that Buddhism shares with kundalini yoga, and all yoga, is the notion of ahimsa, or non-injury, the refraining from harm to other living beings. It isn't long into your yogic (or Buddhist) journey before it occurs to you that it is a bit harmful to a living being to kill and eat it. This is why so many yogis (and Buddhists!) become vegetarians and vegans. So far I haven't encountered any specifically Buddhist cookbooks, but I stumbled upon this curiosity one day while doing some online searching, so I ordered it and I really like it!

The Kundalini Yoga Cookbook is more than just a recipe book. Its opening chapters contain information on the kundalini yoga attitude toward food ('Each time we eat, we are creating our future self.' Yogi Bhajan), a short introduction to the principles of kundalini yoga, and some details about the philosophies of yogic eating. In the back of the book, after the recipes, there are full color photographs of the authors (presumably) doing tuning in and warm-ups (easy pose, cat cow, forward stretch), close up photos of various mudras, complete instructions for Yogi Bhajan's Detoxification Kriya, Healing the Stomach Kriya, and Kriya for Optimum Health. The book ends with instructions for four meditations: Boost Your Immune System, Self-Healing, Raa Maa Daa Saa Saa Say So Hung, and Conquer Inner Anger and Burn it Out.

The book is a full size, full color, fully illustrated cookbook. The photos are beautiful and inspiring. It contains three vegan diets that you can follow for 40 days, as kundalini yoga teachers sometimes do as part of their training, according the book. The diets are The Green Diet (mostly green foods), The Mung Beans and Rice Diet, and the Fruits Nuts and Vegetables Diet. There is also a chapter called 'Foods for the Chakras', one for hosting a party or gathering, and food specifically for women's health.

While the book is lovely to look at, fun to read, and can provide inspiration for some good meals, there are a few things to point out.

First, the measurements used in the recipes are entirely unorthodox. If you cook by feel anyway, there's no problem, but if you like to measure, you may well be confused by references to 'double handfuls' of water and 'mudra pinches' of cumin. A chart is provided with equivalent spoon and cup measures, but the whole thing seems a bit contrived.

Second, the names of recipes incorporate important kundalini words in a what seems a rather trite way. For example, Ong So Hung Vegetables and Rice, Ek Ong Kar Salad, and Tomato Basil Gobinde Tofu Salad might strike serious yoga practitioners as a bit insulting, or at least uncalled for.

Third, the recipes themselves often incorporate chanting, bandha locks and numbers of significance to kundalini yoga. These might delight serious practitioners, but could seem wacky to someone just looking for a fresh idea of how to use beetroot and mung beans. For example a recipe for 'Solstice Hot Sauce' instructs you to 'stir well, tracing the outline of the infinity symbol whilst chanting Har-Har.' The 'Kundalini Chakra and Blood-Cleansing Salad' asks you to mix the ingredients while 'chanting a long Ong for the infinite connection with the base chakra--this will be balanced by the red vegetables and red apple.' You then marinate the mix for 11 minutes--apparently an important number. 11 and 31 turn up a lot in these recipes, as do sets of 3. One recipe asks you to stir something 31 times while holding mula bandha. LOL I can just imagine my mother doing that. (Not).

Finally, because the focus of this book is fresh, natural ingredients, it isn't as highly seasoned or as salty as foods you may be used to, so may taste bland. You can either spice it up, or remind yourself that this is what real food tastes like. (The book is very heavy on garlic, though. I personally can't help but fall in love with a book that regularly asks for 8 cloves of garlic in a recipe for two people).

Here's a recipe for you to try:

Seven Vegetable Curry

3 garlic cloves
2 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 beetroots, diced
1 generous handful green beans
2 handfuls frozen peas (fresh if available)
2 handfuls sweet corn
2 large tomatoes, diced
fresh green chile to taste

olive oil
sea salt
vegetable (vegan) stock cubes
curry powder

Brown the garlic in olive oil. Add 2 mudra pinches turmeric and fry until aromatic. Add all the vegetables except the chile and 1 small gyan pinch salt. Cover and cook on low setting 3 minutes, stirring once. Add 4 double handfuls water and 4 stock cubes. Season with 1 mudra pinch curry powder. Add sliced chile to taste. Cook a further 11 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Serve with your favorite type of steamed rice.

Sat nam.

Okay, so the above recipe is neither bland nor unsalty. I guess that's why I liked that one!

I have made several recipes from this book, and they are all nice. Last night a I made Sun Polenta with Rainbow Vegetables, a mix of oven-roasted beetroot, sweet potato and celeriac with mung beans, served on polenta that has paprika added to it to make it the color of the sunset. Some spinach leaves added at the last minute the veg mix add some green, and of course it contained 7 cloves of garlic!

May all beings be at ease.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review of the cookbook. We're trying to incorporate more vegetarian dishes into our menus, and have made it a whole 2 weeks now. I'd love to read this book...sounds like it links food and kundalini yoga nicely. Just what I need to continue to be inspired in both!

Jean said...

Thank you for sharing your review on this book. It sounds interesting enough for me to want to purchase it. I have searched for good vegan cookbooks and this one sounds terrific since it possess two of my favorite passions: cooking and Kundalini yoga!

Thank you for sharing a recipe.
I hope you make lots of enjoyable meals.

Your VF Friend