Vegetarianism


Recipes for Cooking Course given at Meryl’s Home in Johannesburg, September 2014

Flavoured Basmati Rice

The following recipes are for 6-8 people. Add salt as per your requirement. For the curries, 1 tbsp is probably sufficient.

Wash 2 cups of basmati rice in hot/warm water three or four times (until the water is clear and no longer milky/cloudy), then allow to soak in warm water for half-an-hour. Meanwhile, bring six cups of water to boil. Add a tablespoon (tbsp) of salt to the water and a teaspoon (tsp) of oil.

When the rice has soaked, add it to the boiling water. Add 1 tbsp turmeric, for colour. Boil for about 5 minutes. Test to see how soft it is. Boil for another five minutes or so. You will know it is ready when it is soft, but not too soft ie. you can still feel a little hardness in the rice.

Decant rice into colander. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Chaunce (braise/masala):
Add 1 tbsp mustard seed to 2 tbsp oil/1 1/2 tbsp ghee.. Add 2 cinnamon sticks when mustard seeds splutter. Add 1tsp hing. Garnish with a handful of finely chopped dhanya leaves.

Jaipur Style Split Yellow Mung Dal

Clean 3 cups of dal in warm water by soaking three or four times. Meanwhile bring six cups (a litre and a half) water to boil. Add dal to water. Place a few whole pepper corns, two or three cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and 1 tbsp turmeric powder in water. Bring to boil. You can add a tbsp pureed tamarind to the boiling dal or some lemon/limem juice at the end. You can counterbalance the tartness of these sharp flavours with a tbsp of sugar if you like.

After 15 minutes add a handful (100g) chopped spinach and on fresh, diced tomato. Add 2tbsp’s salt.
Boil for about another 10 minutes (that is 25 minutes in all). When the dal is nice and thick, it is ready.

Chaunce:
2 tbsp oil/ghee, 1 tbsp cumin seeds, 2 tbsp fresh ginger root (grated/finely chopped), 1tsp hing, 1tsp curry powder or fresh chillis, a pinch of nutmeg and 1 tsp crushed dhanya/coriander.

Add chaunce to boiled dal (ie. add the ghee and spices to the standing dal). Garnish with fresh dhanya.

Chickpea Fudge or Laddhu

Ingredients: 1 ½ blocks of unsalted butter (salted butter is fine, we used that for the demo), 750g (5 cups) fine chickpea/channa flour and 250g icing sugar (just under 1 1/2 cups) (or alternative sweetening agent eg. honey, agarve, fructose, jaggery/palm sugar etc.).

Method: Melt butter on medium-high heat. When butter has melted, add chickpea flour. Constantly stir the mix for about 10 to 15 minutes until colour darkens. When you can smell a nutty flavour coming from the mix or the mix goes reddish-brown, take off the heat. Add icing sugar and mix until icing sugar has dissolved.

Place wax wrap or cling wrap (cling wrap sticks onto the baking tray if you dampen it with a damp cloth) in a tray and place mix therein. Allow to set. Cool separately. If you want it to be ready quicker, set in fridge.

Koftas, Pakoras and Chilli Bites (Traditional Indian Vegetable Fritters)

I first learnt how to make pakoras for the Sunday Feast at the Hare Krishna Temple in Cape Town. This little experience in pakora making got me recruited to make pakoras at the Grahamstown Festival in 1998. My experience was consolidated in Cape Town in December 1999 at the ‘Govinda’s Restaurant’during the World Parliament of Religions. The organizers asked the Hare Krishna’s to run the main restaurant since our food is compatible with the dietary specifications of just about religions. I was frying pakoras for 14 hours a day. By the second or third day I started to dream about the oil slowly starting to bubble in the wok!

Generic batter (for about 40 pakoras/you could halve this to make 20 (enough for eight)):
3 cups chickpea flour
1 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kalonji seeds/1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp hing
1 tbsp chilli powder, ½ handful fresh coriander/2 tbsp grated ginger

Mix dry ingredients. Then add 2 cups of water to the mix. Stir with an egg-beater until there are no lumps in the batter.

Take brinjal slices, butternut slices, potato slices, cauliflower flowerets, spinach leaves, jalapenos etc., dip in batter, and add to boiling oil. Remove from oil when reddish-golden colour. Test to see if the pakoras are soft enough with a knife. If the batter is cooking, but the pakoras are too hard, reduce the heat of the oil. If the batter is too runny, add chickpea flour. If the batter is too thick, add water. If the pakoras aren’t crispy enough, add a pinch of baking powder.

If you mix this same batter into grated cabbage, then you have koftas (half a medium-sized cabbage makes about 20-25 kofta balls).

The same batter can be used to make chilli bites. Mash half a banana into the batter . Add finely chopped spinach, and fry.

Serve with chatni

Tomato Sauce for Koftas

Chaunce: Basic ‘bengali chaunce’ (braise): mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, curry leaves, hing powder, chilli powder (or ‘mother-in-law’s revenge’) and turmeric

Add 10 pureed tomatoes (steamed, peeled and blended)

Add ½ cup sugar/jiggery and tbsp salt
Boil at high heat for 5 minutes

Basic Fruit Chatni

A variety of fruits like plums, apricots, apples, pineapples, pears, green mangos, cherries etc. can be used to make the following simple chatni

Method: cut fruit (eg. 2 pineapples or 6 apples) into small squares

Chaunce: heat 3 tbsp oil/ghee in a small pan, 1 tsp cumin seeds, when the cumin seeds turn brown add 2 small cinnamon sticks, followed by 2 bay leaves, add 1 finely chopped chilli/1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp turmeric, ½ tsp hing

Add fruit, add 1 cup of water (we didn’t do this in the course and that is why the pineapple caramalized) and turn to high heat. Cook for about 10 mins, then add 2 tbsp sugar/jiggery/palm sugar. Cook until water absorbs and spiced fruit turns soft.

Brinjal and Potato Curry

Ingredients: 8 brinjals, 8 medium-sized potatoes, small bunch of dhanya and spices

Cut brinjals and potatoes into cubes. Deep fry at medium-high heat (140C)

Chaunce: tablespoon (tbsp) mustard seeds, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 bay leaves, 4 curry leaves, 1 chilli chopped up/2 tsp chilli powder, 2 teaspoons (tsps) turmeric, 1 ½ tbsp crushed coriander, 1 tsp asafoetida/hing and pinch of fenugreek powder

Add fried brinjals and potatoes to the chaunce. Add salt. Cook for 5 min on medium heat

SOME EXTRA RECIPES THAT ARE A REGULAR FEATURE OF ‘HARI HARI’S VEGETARIAN DELIVERY SERVICE’

Broccoli, Cauliflower and Potato I (for Tracy)

1. Wash broccoli and cauliflower in warm water. Cut into flowerets. Deep fry in boiling oil/ghee until a tender (but not too soft). Deep fry the potatoes so that they are still a little hard (not fully fried). Drain in a colander.

2. Chaunce: Mix equal parts of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg (‘sweet spices’) and add a little garam masala. Make a spice paste. Place a few tablespoons of oil in a saucepan and add the paste to the oil when it is hot.

3. Add the vegetables to the chaunce and cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.

Cauliflower/Yoghurt Sabji (‘sabji’ means vegetarian curry) II (alternative recipe)

1. Wash two medium caulifowers. Cut out core. Cut into flowerets.
Boil a little water in a pot and steam the cauliflower flowerets in that water for about 10mins.
Test to see if the cauliflower is tender with a knife (the flowerets shouldn’t be too soft otherwise it will turn into a mush). Drain in a colander.

2. The Chaunce (masala/braise/vagaar):
Heat 2 tablespoons (tbsp) ghee/oil in a frying-pan at medium-high heat. Add 1 heaped teaspoon (tsp) of mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add 4 curry leaves, 3 medium cinnamon sticks and 1 tbsp grated ginger. Stir together. Then add 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 a tsp hing and 1/2 a tsp kalonji (nigella) seeds. Add two cups/500ml amasi or yoghurt. Add 1 heaped tsp turmeric/haldi powder and 1 tbsp of salt. Stir, again.

3. Add steamed cauliflowers to the chaunce and cook on medium heat for 5mins (to draw the flavours out)

Golden Khicari (Ayurvedic Health Meal, a regular feature on my delivery route)

This khichari recipe took me several years to develop. I recently prepared this dish for a SATV cooking programme but was very nervous in front of the camera (so it might not be screened!). Influences: Yamuna Mataji, Kurma prabhu and Gaura Sakti das (from South Africa). To quote Prabhupada: ‘A pauper’s meal fit for a king.’ Nice if served with puris, bread-sticks, papadams, lemon, yoghurt and/or tomato chatni. Please forgive sketchy presentation.

Serves 5 to 6 people. Total preparation time 45 minutes.

8 cups/2 litres water. Add 1 cup split yellow mung dal (washed), 1 tablespoon turmeric, 1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 whole pepper corns. Bring water to boil. Boil until the dal begins to split (about 25 mins).

Add cup of basmati rice (washed), 2 medium-sized potatoes cubed. And 150g green beans. Cook for about 10 mins at high heat.

Add several large zuccini bits, a couple of cauliflower heads and several large slices of green/yellow/red pepper (green or red are nice for colourful effect). Cook at high heat for about 10 mins or until vegetables (including potatoes) are soft (the rice should also be soft). The khichari should have a reasonably thick consistency. (Note: It is better to remove excess ‘juice’ from the khichari than to add water. We do not want to water down the natural flavour of the mixture. It is ideal if you get your water quantity just right. I like the khichari to be a little runny – consistency of a wet porridge).

Turn off flame

Add one-and-half tablespoons salt and one-and-half tablespoons sugar (voluntary)

Chaunce: Heat ghee (oil if vegan) in separate frying pan. When it is hot add one-and-a-quarter teaspoons mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add same quantity cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds go brown, add grated ginger and chilli (de-seeded). Add 3/4 curry leaves. And a pinch of cinnamon powder, a pinch of nutmeg powder and a teaspoon of hing/asafoetida powder. Mix chaunce/masala into khichari.

Garnish with 2 tablespoons chopped dhanya (coriander)

Add 2 tomatoes (cut into 4 or 8 bits)

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The European spice trade was one of the major factors in the development of modern Europe from the 17th to the 19th centuries. India was a great provider of spices, but the nutritional values of spices are not well-known in modern times and in the western world. Ayurveda – the ancient Indian science of natural medicine – considers eating habits fundamental to health. This includes the use of spices in food. Ideally, spices should be cleaned and dried in the sun or oven, as uncleaned spices contain little specks of dust, glass, insects etc. Spices should be stored in airtight containers(eg. glass jars, plastic containers or tins) in a cool, dry place – to preserve their freshness. They should be kept away from direct sunlight, mositure, heat etc.

Vedic philosophy describes three different modes of material nature – sattva (goodness), rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance) – which cover the broad spectrum of life. A person in goodness, for example is peaceful, happy, healthy and clear-headed. A person in passion is restless, subject to many desires and physically active. A person in ignorance is prone to laziness, sleep and anger. Mint, for example, is sattvic – it soothes the mind and calms the stomache. Chillis are, obviously, rajasic. As are onions and garlic – which are generally avoided in the brahminical (or spiritual/mindful) diet. Mushrooms and meat are considered tamasic and their main quality – aside from violence (in the case of meat) – is the dulling effect they generate. Spices take on similar qualities ‘under the modes’. Below are some spices and the benefits they give:

Black Pepper

Marich (Sanskrit (hereafter, S); kalimiri (Hindi, (H)))

Black pepper is a rajasic spice (‘rajas’ means in the ‘mode of passion’) and contains a lot of solar energy. The fruit is used in cooking and traditional healing. It is a very powerful digestive stimulant and it burns ama (toxic waste that builds up in the digestive system). Pepper is also a good expectorant. Black pepper is not hard on the digestive system because it does not increase pitta. Green and Red peppercorns are more rare, but have a more mature flavour than black pepper. White pepper is made from fully ripened black peppers that have had their outer shrunken skin removed. Garam masala and sambar powder feature ‘the king of spices’ in their blends. Black pepper is added to oats in during ramadan in the Middle East. Pepper is used in Malaysia in curry powder, soups and sauces. Fresh green pepper or soaked dried green pepper is used in Thailand.

Fennel (valyari or soomph (Hindi and Gujarati))

Fennel is one of the best herbs for digestion.  I got dysentry the first time I visited India and my stomach was cramping and rumbling even when I got back to South Africa. One of the ladies who visited our Temple was an ayurvedic practioner and she advised me to roast some fennel and boil into a tea. I did. And the cramps went away.  Fennel also dispels flatulence.  In India (and in Indian restaurants), they often serve sugar-coated fennel or fennel with rock salt – to aid digestion. Fennel also calms the nerves and aids mental alertness.

Cloves

Lavanga (S). Rajasic.

Cloves are the dried flower buds of the clove plant. They are good for the lungs and stomach, are mildly aphrodisiac and analgesic (eg. you can chew them when you have a tooth-ache).

Ginger (adrak (Hindi))

Ginger is a root and is considered one of the best and most sattvic of the spices. It is a panacea or universal medicine. I can say this, speaking from experience, as it is the only medicine I have used in the past 18 years. Ginger is most commonly used for respiratory and digestive illnesses. It is a good tonic for the heart and also soothes arthritis. It helps with crams (and pre-menstrual cramps brought on by cold). Ginger paste is a good pain reliever for headaches and general bodily pains. The combination of lemon, ginger and honey as a tea has a heating effect and is a wonderful cure for sore throats and colds. Ginger powder can also be obtained at spice shops.

Turmeric (haldi (H))

Turmeric is a root that looks like the orange version of ginger. It is best taken in its root form, but more commonly available as a powder. Turmeric has many healing properties, but is best known for its ability to purify the blood. When externally applied, turmeric helps clot blood and can be applied to cuts in powder form. Turmeric is also used in fasting and adds colour to food.

Seeds

It is advised to dry roast seeds before powdering, as this gives more flavour to the spices. In traditional Indian aristocratic cooking traditions, spices are crushed to making the eating experience more pleasant (who wants to keep biting into coriander seeds?).

Cumin (jeera)

Cumin is a heating spice. It is used in many North Indian curries. It has a nutty, earthy flavour and is a key spice in Indian cooking. It is usually added after mustard seeds into the braise and goes brown quite quickly. Thereafter, fresh grated ginger and chillis are added, followed by powdered spices. Cumin is added to chaas or buttermilk, which is one of the healthiest beverages according to ayurveda. Chaas aids digestion and is generally good for health.

Mustard Seeds (rai/sarsoon)

Mustard seeds come in three varieties – black, white and brown. Black mustard seeds are one of the oldest spices. Mustard seeds are usually fried in ghee/oil at a medium-high heat until the seeds turn grey and pop. The frying or braising of seeds is called chauncing. Mustards seeds have a mildly nutty flavour which tempers spices that are used in braising. Mustard seeds can also be added to oil to see if it is hot enough for making a chaunce. Mustard seeds are also used in pickles and sauerkrauts and decoratively on delicacies like khandvi and dhokla.

Coriander (dhania)

Coriander adds wonderful flavour to Indian cooking in seed and powder form. The leaves of the coriander plant also adds flavour to food and can be used, like parsley, as a garnish. Since coriander powder loses its freshness quickly, it is better to purchase coriander seeds, roast them, and crush them with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Coriander seeds contain dietary fibre and are a great source of iron, magnesium and manganese (which reduce blood cholestrol). Coriander is often mixed with cumin to make dhania-jeera powder. This combination is used in middle eastern dishes like falafel and in the Egyptian relish, dukka. It is one of the key ingredients in the spice combination garam masala (which just means ‘hot’ or garam ‘spices’ masala).

Asafoetida (hing)

Asafoetida apprently has Roman origins. It is a resin, though it is generally available in powdered form. It is used as a substitute for garlic and onion (by Jains and followers of brahminical culture in India), aids digestion and counters flatulence. It is a useful ingredient in salad dressings.

Bayleaf (tejpatta)

Bayleaves were introduced by the Mughals to India over 1000 years ago. Bayleaves not only add flavour to food, they also add fragrance. They are used in dals and rice dishes and even sweets. They are used to flavour stocks, soups and sauces in the west.

Cinnamon (dalchini)

Cinnamon is a fragrant bark which is sweet and aromatic. It loses flavour quickly in powdered form. It is used in pilau (fancy or masala rice) and in briyani and various curries. It is also used in sweets and chatnis and is an essential ingredient in garam masala. It is also used in chai tea (which is becoming increasingly popular in the West.

 

January 1997 was a time of serious introspection.  In hindsight I would say it was a fast-forwarding of Krishna’s mercy, a breakthrough. 

On the 13 January I watched a television documentary on John Paul Getty.  His life both extraordinary and sad.  He was wealthy but poor in spirit.  On one occasion he had a servant present his son with a $1.50 invoice for eating a hamburger at Getty’s home!  I watched the grainy black-and-white figure in the documentary work through about 20 locks to get into his house!  A house that looked more like Fort Knox than a home.  All aspirations in me to become Alexander the great were crushed.

I carried on with my strict regimen of swimming and exercise in January and February.  My notebooks contained aphoristic entries such as – selfhood involves a sloughing off of illusion.  Around this time, I saw another documentary about a cold-hearted hitman named Klukinsky.  Klukinsky left his family at the dinner table on Christmas day to go out on “business”.   He froze the bodies of his victims in freezer-containers so the forensic detectives would be unable to ascertain when they had died.  When the judge asked him why he had killed so many people he gruffly replied, ‘It was business’.  The interviewer asked him if he had ever regretted his actions.  Klukinsky replied, ‘I can’t change yesterday’.  Then he paused.  There was an occasion where he felt a little bad.  He was about to kill a man with a chainsaw when he called out, ‘Jesus!   Jesus!  Save me Jesus! Oh, Lord Jesus, save me!’  Klukinsky said, ‘After that, I found it difficult to finish my work’. 

On the 9th of February I read from the Book Of Daniel.  The Angel Gabriel told Daniel, ‘I am here to tell you what is written in The Book Of The Future‘.  I took it that The Book Of The Future dealt with the ‘extended present’ of the Eternity and not really past, present and future as we know it.  That night I dreamt of  two large volumes, with gilded Roman lettering –  The Book Of Jewels and The Ancient Book.  I found out later that later that The Bhagavad-gita is sometimes called the ‘Jewel of the Vedas’; and the Srimad Bhagavatam is called Bhagavata Purana or the ‘Ancient History of God’.

On 11 February 1997, I decided to give up eating meat for Lent.   On the 12th of February, I meta Hare Krishna monk, Nicholas.  Nicholas had a book table outside the Standard Bank in Rondebosch.  When I told him I had become a vegetarian the day before, he gave me a copy of the Hare Krishna cookbook,  The Higher Taste.  He also gave me a book called The Science Of Self Realization.  He answered my questions about the devotees’ lifestyle.  I was impressed by their simplicity.  They shared rooms and slept on camping-mats.  They chanted the Hare Krishna mantra ‘all the time’ and served God in all their actions.  I wanted to know more.

There used to be a Horse Meat Butchery next to the Canberra Cafe – around the corner from our house. I asked my mother why there was a horse meat butchery and she told me that they fed horse meat to dogs. The pavement smelt of blood. We tried to avoid the wet puddles of blood and scabby patches as we walked to the shop. The blood, the flies and the hanging carcasses at the back of the butchery made it unpleasant.

One sultry summer’s day my best friend Craig Ballard and I took a walk to the Canberra Cafe. There was a sheet-metal horse trailer on the kerb filled to a pinnacle with what appeared, from a distance, to be dung. Drawing closer, we could see what the trailer was carrying – decapitated horse heads! Red and sticky with blood. Flies everywhere. I turned around and retched, but nothing came out. I staggered backwards – the way we came – sickened by the horrific spectacle. I wanted to throw up the whole way home.

Some years later my parents sent me and a friend to a farm in the Free State to improve my Afrikaans. The labourers came out one morning in their overalls and gumboots and slaughtered a cow right in front of me. Two men held her down, while a third slit her throat. They also slaughtered a pig, but the pig ran around the farm squeeling before it met a similar fate. I stood and watched, unfazed. Somehow I never connected the killing of these animals to the eating of meat. It was only later that there was a change of heart and I realized, by the grace of God, what exactly it is we are doing when we eat animal flesh.

We only consider harm to human beings as a crime.

Tomorrow is Nirjala Ekadasi.  Ekadasi is the Vaishnava fast-day that occurs on the eleventh day of the waxing or waning moon.  Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi is observed on the bright fortnight of the moon (sukla-paksha) in the month of Jyestha (May-June).  It is called Nirjala Ekadasi because one should not even drink water on this Ekadasi.  It is also called Jyestha-sukla Ekadasi.

The Mahabharata, relates to us how the Pandavas strictly observed all Ekadasis.  Bhima, however, who was known for his herculean strength and for being a ‘voracious eater’ (Bhagavad-gita 1.15), was not able to fully observe Ekadasi like his brothers.  He approached Vyasadeva to ask him how he could avert incurring sinful reactions as a result of not being able to follow Ekadasi strictly.  Vyasadeva, in turn, advised him to strictly observe Nirjala Ekadasi once a year and in this way derive the full benefit of following all the Ekadasis in the year.  Nirjala Ekadasi, therefore, became Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi.  It is also referred to as Bhima Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi.

Devotees who have, therefore, broken their fast during the year can make up for this on Nirjala Ekadasi.  The Sanskrit word nirjala means ‘no water’ (nir means ‘no’ and jala means ‘water’).  Strictly speaking, all Ekadasis should be nirjala – without food or water (water is also considered food).  Srila Prabhupada gave some concessions to his followers – who, for the most part, fast from grains and legumes on Ekadasi.  Nirjala Ekadasi should, however, be strictly followed.  One should not eat or drink.  Ideally, we should absorb ourselves in hearing and chanting about Lord Krishna for 24 hours.  This may not, however, be possible for all devotees.  At least we should try to refrain from food and water.

This article is dedicated to Colleen

I was finishing-up my Master’s dissertation on the abolition of the slave trade in January 1997.  I stayed at my friend Andrew’s house in Sun Valley, Cape Town.  My schedule was intense.  Andrew and his wife, Teena, would drop me at the University of Cape Town every morning at about 6:30am; and I would finish around 8:45pm.  I’d then take the 9:15pm train to Fish Hoek.  Their house was about half-an-hour walk from Fishoek Station.  I’d get in at 10:45pm.  I usually had a piece of toast and some juice and take rest at 11.

My friend, Andrew, had adopted a dog which he later named Justerini (“Justerini and Brooks” (J&B) is a South African whiskey).  She was what South Africans call a brak.  She was a mongrel.  Teena and Andrew had another dog called Killer.  Killer was cute, but a brak – or in Andrew’s words, a “pavement special” – of even lesser pedigree than Justerini.  Andrew’s wife Teena liked to spoil the dogs by giving them biscuits, odd bits of meat and sometimes even chocolate.  Justerini and Killer were, in my opinion, just pampered dogs.  This sentiment was exaggerated by a basic disliking, within me, of dogs – especially when they licked me or came close to me while eating. If Teena and Andrew were not at home I would have to let the dogs in the house.  I’d open the door, and the dogs would come scrambling into the living room, sliding and scratching the parquet floor.  I was usually hungry after my fourteen-hour days in the Postgraduate Art Student’s computer lab.  I’d let the dogs in, then grab a snack from the kitchen.  The whole thing was becoming a ritual.  The dogs would follow me into the kitchen yelping, shuffling and wagging their tails.  They would rub their cold, wet noses against my legs.  Oh, how this would irritate me!

One night I arrived home and it was the same scene – the dogs flanking me into the kitchen.  I was quite hungry so I was annoyed that the dogs were begging food from me again.  I noticed a barbecued lamb ‘chop’ (cutlet) on top of the microwave.  The thought of eating the lamb-chop flashed through my mind.  Justerini, however, continued to brush against me with affection.  I thought, ‘Stupid dog.  Just wants some food.’  I’d get rid of her by throwing the meat down on the ground.  After all, the stupid animal just wants to eat.  To my amazement, however, she did not seem to notice the piece of meat!  Yet she was being so affectionate.  I cynically waved the meat in front of her nose, hoping to get rid of her.  But she just looked at me with her big, dark eyes.  I was touched.  I realized that this animal, this dog, had feelings and emotions just like me.  For the first time in my life I considered seriously that this dog had a soul – just like me.  Why was I so hard-hearted?  If our meat supply ran out would we put this poor creature on the table?  It suddenly dawned on me how cruel it was to eat meat.  To take the life of an animal who has feelings and emotions and so many other attributes.  I had the distinct feeling that meat-eating was an act of cannibalism – since animals have feelings, thoughts and emotions just like human beings.  I broke down and cried.  What kind of person had I become? I had, strangely enough, considered giving up meat for Lent (the Catholic fasting month).  My reasons, however, were based on health issues (I was doing a lot of exercise and noticed that meat had a dulling effect on my body).  But now I was taking up vegetarianism for ethical and spiritual reasons.  It was a major step forward for me in terms of the development of my consciousness.  And Justerini was my guru!

The next day, by Krishna’s grace, I met a Hare Krishna monk in Rondebosch.  He was selling Vedic Literatures (Indian spiritual writings) from a book table.  We spoke for about four hours.  I wanted to buy an Isopanisad but he thought it would be better if I got a copy of the Higher Taste.  ‘You’ll need this more…’, he said, ‘…now that you have become vegetarian.’  As we parted, Nicholas gave me a Science of Self-Realization.  His explanations of Krishna consciousness convinced me that Prabhupada’s teachings were giving the true culture and meaning of the Bhagavad-gita.  A door had opened in my life…and I walked through it….

What Is Prashadam?

Krishna is the Supreme Lord (isvara) and the Supreme Enjoyer (purusa).  The living entity, or the jiva, is the enjoyed (prakriti).  It is the jiva’s eternal function to serve God.  That is called sanatana-dharma, or ‘eternal religion’.  We are all servants of God.

Since Krishna owns everything, it is only proper to honour His proprietorship by offering everything back to Him.  The Supreme Lord does not need our meagre offerings.  What He wants is our devotion.  The Bhagavad-gita, therefore, describes the process of sanctification of food – patram puspam phalam toyam/yo me bhaktya prayacchati/tad aham bhakty-upahrtam/asnami prayatatmanah – ‘If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it’.  Sanctified foodstuffs are called prasadam, the ‘mercy’ of the Lord.  Krishna is also known as bhava-grahi janardana – in other words, He sees the intent behind our offering.  Our offerings, therefore, should be imbued with love for Him.

Offering Food To Krishna 

The process of offering foodstuffs to the Deity of the Lord in the Temple is restricted to brahmana-initiated Vaishnavas. Devotees, however, understand that everything should be offered to the Lord.  Therefore, a simple process for offering foodstuffs to the Lord is prescribed for the uninitiated or the lay-person.  Such offerings are made before pictures of one’s personal guru, Srila Prabhupada, the disciplic succession and Deities of the Lord.

Vaishnava Kitchen Etiquette

I read an interview one of Prabhupada’s female chefs in a Back To Godhead magazine where Prabhupada emphasized three important factors in the preparation of devotional offerings – cleanliness, quality of ingredients and consciousness.

1.  Our kitchen should be suci or clean.  The cooking paraphernalia of a suci kitchen is the exclusive property of the Lord.  The Lord also has a separate plate, cup and various thalis (bowls) to eat from.  Strict devotees make sure their own condiments (spoons, cups and plates) are not mixed with those reserved for the Lord.  This generally means that our own condiments, and those reserved for guests, are stored outside of the kitchen.

Devotees do not taste food until it has been offered.  Nor do they eat from the Lord’s pots, or with the Lord’s cooking equipment.  If the Lord’s equipment is used by mistake, it is considered contaminated and should not be used cooking or offering to the Lord again. Eating, which is considered unclean, is also prohibitted in a suci kitchen.  We do not use the sink to wash our plates or hands after eating.  The kitchen sink is for washing vegetables, cleaning the Lord’s pots and running water for cooking.  Devotees generally wear shoes reserved kitchen use only (‘kitchen shoes’) as a further standard of cleanliness.  Women (and men with long hair) generally cover their hair while cooking.

The cook should, ideally, be suci or clean.  On the strictest level this means that cook should have showered and should be wearing clean cloth.  If you eat, evacuate, go outside or enter a toilet then you are considered ‘dirty’ again.  If you touch your eyes, nose or ears you should wash your hands (in a suci basin outside of the kitchen).  Women should not enter the kitchen while they are “off the altar” (ie. during their monthly period).  We are also considered contaminated if we take rest for longer than 45 minutes.  If we do so, and we want to follow the highest standards of cleanliness, then we should take bath and put on fresh clothes.  We should not eat with an apron from the kitchen on either.

2.  We should use the best quality foodstuffs if we can.  If possible, we should use organic vegetables, pure cow’s ghee, non-irradiated spices, sea salt or pure salt.  Ideally, we should grow our own fruit, vegetables and shrubs for Krishna and milk cows bred exclusively for the pleasure of the Lord.  This is not always possible in modern cities.  Soya, mushrooms, cakes made with flour, bread and canned foods are not offered to installed Deities in the Temple.  They can, however, be offered to pictures of the Lord at home (in the case of mushrooms they should be growing naturally in a field, not on stool).  According to the Manu Samhita and Hari Bhakti Vilasa (a Vaishnava manual for etiquette), we cannot offer Krishna onions or garlic.  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, however, permitted the offering of brinjal, tomatoes and carrots which are often excluded from a strict Vaishnava diet.

3.  The quality of our consciousness is the most important factor in the preparation of foodstuffs for the Lord.  Cleanliness and quality of ingredients are servants to the principle of good consciousness.  We should be Krishna consciousness ie. situated in spiritual consciousness.  How do we achieve this?  We should, if possible, be chanting a minimum of 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.  Our kitchen should be clean, like the altar of our Temple.  We should not cook if we are in bad consciousness (for example if we are angry or feeling lusty thoughts).  We should listen to spiritual discourses or devotional music and only discuss spiritual subject-matters or subjects related to our cooking service with the other cooks.  We can also chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

A Simple Food Offering

The following is a very basic method of offering, usually within a devotee’s kitchen or on a simple altar with pictures of the Lord.  In a more sophisticated Temple set-up, the devotee would close the curtain of the alter while offering food, and perform a more elaborate ritual before offering food to the Lord.

Devotees perform acamana (pronounced ‘ah-cha-mun’) before the process of offering.  Acamana is a purificatory process involving mantras and the sipping of water from an acamana cup and acamana spoon.  (This process need not be followed by beginners).  The devotee takes the acamana spoon in his right hand and pours three drops of water on the same right hand.  The devotee then pours three drops of water on the left hand and chants ‘Om keshavaya namah’, then sips the water from the base of the palm of the hand.  Having done this, the devotee pours three drops of acamana water on the bell and then takes the bell in his/her left hand.  The bell has to be rung while the mantras for offering are recited.  The bell is only stopped when the final mantras have been chanted.  Devotees usually take off their socks, aprons and head-coverings when offering bhoga to the Lord.

Devotees do not feel themselves qualified to offer foodstuffs directly to the Lord.  The devotee, therefore, offers the food to the Spiritual Master, all the time reciting the Spiritual Master’s mantras.  The devotee then offers the food to Lord Chaitanya, reciting Rupa Goswami’s prayers (namo maha vadanyaya).  The devotee finally offers the bhoga to Radha and Krishna, reciting the relevant mantras.  While offering the bhoga to Lord Chaitanya and Radha-Krishna, the devotee thinks himself the servant of his guru and understands that his guru is actually performing the offering.  The offering will be offered from disciple to guru, through the entire guru succession, until it finally reaches Krishna.

The following mantras are recited three times before the pictures of (1) Srila Prabhupada; (2) The Pancha Tattva/Gaura-Nitai; and (3) Radha-Krishna:

1.  Prayers To The Spiritual Master (Srila Prabhupada Pranati)

nama om vishnu-padaya/krishna-presthaya-bhutale/srimate bhaktivedanta/svamine iti namine‘I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet’

namas te sarasvate-deve/gauravani-pracarine/nirvesesa sunyavadi/pascyata-desa tarine‘Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvati Goswami.  You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism’

2.  Prayer To Lord Chaitanya (Sri Gauranga Pranama)

namo maha-vadanyaya/krishna-prema-pradayate/krishnaya krishna-caitanya/namne gaura-tvise namah‘O most munificent incarnation!  You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  You have assumed the golden colour of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna.  We offer our respectful obeisances unto You’

3. Prayer To Lord Krishna

namo brahmanya-devaya/go-brahmana hitaya ca/jagad hitaya krishnaya/govindaya namo namah‘Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Krishna, who is the worshipable Deity for all brahminical men, who is the well-wisher of cows and brahmanas, and who his always benefitting the whole world.  I offer my repeated obeisances to the Personality of Godhead, known as Krishna and Govinda.’

hare krishna hare krishna/krishna krishna hare hare/hare rama hare rama/rama rama hare hare

On reciting these mantras the devotee humbly beseeches the Lord to accept these offerings, ‘Please, my Lord, accept these offerings from Your servant.’  The devotee then stops ringing the bell, and leaves the altar room.   The devotee then bows at the side of the altar.  The Lord may now accept the devotee’s offering.

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