Cooking the Ayurvedic Way ~ Review in Eves Touch

by Pritya Books on March 3, 2010

A review of Sukham Ayu titled “Cooking the Ayurvedic way” by Padmini Natarajan appears in Eves Touch, a Chennai based magazine. The different chapters & sections of the book were highlighted in detail. Ayurvedic recipes to make an interesting healthy lunch menu were also featured from the book:

Dates kheer ~ Sprouts with yam ~ Fenugreek paratha
Lentil basil rice ~ French bean salad ~ Spiced buttermilk

Ayurvedic recipes
Ayurveda is the holistic healing science-Ayu meaning life and Veda, knowledge or science. Ayurveda means science of life and the system is not only therapeutic, but is a holistic prescription for a complete way of life.

For hundreds of years, ayurvedic and herbal medicines have ensured the physical and mental health of our people without side effects. The natural ingredients of herbs help to bring “arogya” to the human body and mind. The goal of Ayurveda is prevention as well as promotion of the body’s own capacity for maintenance and balance.

Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain, the authors of “Cooking at Home with Pedatha’ have published “Sukham Ayu—Cooking at Home with Ayurvedic Insights” that has been researched at Dr Prakash Kalmadi’s KARE, Kerala Ayurvedic Research and Rejuvenation Establishment at Pune. Sukham is a word with many interpretations but primarily means contentment and happiness and Ayu is not only longevity but life itself in all its complexities.

“Through centuries, great masters of science and philosophy have interpreted and defined life in myriad ways. According to Ayurveda, ayu or life is an orchestra of body, senses, mind and soul. For sweet music to flow, the body and the senses have to be nurtured in a way that they take care of the mind and soul. Balance, moderation and compatibility are the grand conductors of this heavenly orchestra that steer life away from sickness and suffering, thus leading to a well-lived life of happiness and contentment, or Sukham Ayu” say the authors in their introduction.

Dosha in Ayurveda are the five elements that combine in pairs to form three dynamic forces or interactions. It is also known as the governing principles of existence as every living thing is characterized by a particular dosha.

Ayurvedic nutrition aims at a diet that involves eating according to one’s body type and the season. Human beings are classified by the activity of the doshas—or the three bodily humours.—Pitta, kapha and Vata. A person is advised to lessen one’s intake of foods that increases or aggravates the ascendant dosha.

“You are what you eat, claims the popular adage. Add to this the knowledge that what you need to eat is not elaborate menus with unavailable and exotic ingredients, but simple home cooked food using regional and seasonal availables that suit your constitution. This is the quintessence of an Ayurvedic diet in a nutshell” is Jigyasa and Pratibha’s plug for good old home cooked, vegetarian food.

Everyone remembers with nostalgia the food cooked by your mother and the other women in the family. The daily menu was always a balanced meal cooked with the ingredients handily available. “This collection of recipes consists of daily, simple, vegetarian dishes that all Indian homes are familiar with. A closer look will reveal the fine thread of Ayurvedic insights binding them together, for what makes food healthy and ‘Ayurvedic’ is proper combinations, compatibility and methods of cooking. Thus, these recipes have been included with a clear focus on freshly cooked food, on the correct use of spices to enhance taste and good health”. The authors have taken the trouble to identify recipes that are universally applicable to the tridoshik or ‘agreeable to all doshas’ personality.

‘Who Am I?’ is a section that guides the reader to discovering their predominant ‘dosha’. At the end of the explanation of each dosha, tips are given to achieving balance in mind and body. A ready reckoner, classified according to all bodily functions and characteristics for each dosha, is provided to decipher your own ‘prakriti’ or nature. A pronunciation guideline as footnotes makes the book user friendly.

Food in our homes has always been classified according to the six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. The combinations of these essences have a tremendous impact on our digestion, absorption and metabolic rejuvenation. In India a meal begins with a sweet and not as the last item on the menu. ‘Sweet Platter’ gives recipes from different cuisines.

The chapter ‘Self and the Elements’ talks about the connection between the five elements that combine to make up our body structure. It explores the fluid element appropriately linked to the soup varieties called ‘Ladle of Soopa’.

‘The Essence in Food – Vegetable Medley’ takes the different flavours of fresh food and grains and features recipes made with different vegetables and sprouts that are healthily cooked under steam.

‘Food and the Seasons – Pulses of Health’, explores the six different seasons and provides recipes for the staple dish in an Indian household, the dhal.

‘Food Compatibility – Indian Bread Basket’ defines the three compatible elements with our bodies. It also details the incompatible food items and the combinations to avoid like milk and citrus, two sour ingredients etc. Naturally this chapter deals with the different kinds of breads (including how to roll a roti) and how it gives optimum benefit in taste and nutrition straight from the griddle to the plate of the consumer! What luxury we may say!!

‘Food and the Mind – Rice Bowl’ develops the ‘triguna’ concept that impacts the mind–Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The chapter lists the various kinds of rice and the dishes that can be made with it.

‘Eat with Ayurvedic Insights – Snack Time’ talks about the powers of the digestive fire and the importance of maintain a balance in eating times, beginning a meal, importance of water and food temperature and choice. An important section of an Indian meal, the snacks dishes find their place under this classification.

‘A Ready Kitchen’ talks about the methodical arrangement of stores for easy accessibility in a kitchen, cooking mediums and utensils and the importance of condiments and essential food items like Ghee, yoghurt etc. So, recipes for the side dishes like Chutneys, Salads, Beverages and pickles.

The book ends with a Meal Planner and a detailed glossary with pictures and synonyms that is a boon to any cook.

Convenient variations and practical additions and deletions to daily home cooking, along with Ayurvedic insights, make these recipes worth trying. The book is not really just a recipe book. It demands a detailed reading, understanding and application for incorporating Ayurvedic practices into the daily menu. This was something that older generations did automatically as culture and traditions of a community were based on these time honoured principles. In the process of urbanization, migration, Westernization and dispersal of a diaspora, these practices got diluted and sometimes forgotten.

With the revival of an interest in spirituality in modern times everybody is looking to the East for its ancient healing practices and way of life. To cope with modern tensions and stress Ayurveda has seen a tremendous revival. In our search for fitness and a better lifestyle that is healthy and in tune with nature Jigyasa and Pratibha’s book is a wonderful guide and reference book. However, just owning the book is not going to benefit anybody. To successfully benefit from its teachings and tips, we have to incorporate them into our daily lives.

(As featured in Eves Touch, March 2010)

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