What I Ate Wednesday: Ashram Life
Welcome to episode one of
What I Ate Wednesday
One of my favourite things about globe trotting is the awesome array of edibles I come across. Street food, market eats, family feasts… you name it, i’ll try it. Introducing your monthly sneak peek into my culinary life.
This month, I’m living and working in an Ashram on the south west coast of India. In the Ashram, we follow specific dietary rules which adhere to the Hari Krishna beliefs; the list is complicated and sometimes uncomprehendable, but the basic principles are designed to encourage a healthy, sattvic, and cruelty free way of eating. Here are some examples:
No onions or garlic. I know right?! I barely knew you could cook without them, but the food still tastes amazing, and I’m learning to use all sorts of new spices to mix things up. There’s an old Hindu story about and onion growing out of the dead body of a cow (sacred animal) which makes that one a no-go. Garlic is apparently a stimulant.
No meat (including eggs!). Dairy on the other hand is highly encouraged!
No cooked beetroot or carrot. Fine raw in salads, but for some reason these cooked roots are forbidden. Hari Krishna’s view roots as absorbers of toxins in the soil, so avoid them in general.
Sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. (Krishna loves sweet things don’t ya know).
We don’t eat breakfast in the Ashram! I love breakfast. Porridge. Smoothies. AvocadoToastyTofuScrambleTomatoMushroomBeansSpinach (stop me!). But nope, not here. Ashrams typically serve two meals per day, Brunch at around 12pm, and Dinner at around 7.30. In between, we have a fruit bowl always available, plus hot water on tap for tea. At first I was worried I’d be STARVING hungry all morning, but actually I’ve found that the routine here makes it really nice to begin the day lightly. I wake up at 6am, practice Yoga until around 7.15, then wash the fruit and fill the fruit bowl (one of my Ashram jobs!) before sitting with the other residents to drink black tea and eat a few fruits from the local market. The mornings are so beautiful watching the light spread over the river. Today I had a couple of sweet baby apples and a mini banana.
Straight after our morning fruit, (if it’s not your turn to cook) we head off for a surf! The water is SO warm here its like a bath. Nice little waves today kept us at the beach all the way up until Brunch time, so this meal was a welcome sight on our return. I had a big ol’ plate of brown rice, spicey beans, and salad, plus a blob of the worlds best red pickle (totally addicted). We eat with our hands here which I have discovered I LOVE; you feel so much more connected to your food and are much less likely to stuff it in without thinking. It’s pretty messy though… compared to my Indian co-diners (who manage to make neat, bite-size balls of rice and curry) I always end up with sauce all over my face and the hands of finger-painting toddler.
After a nap and a couple of hours ‘devotional service’ (laundry today!) I usually have some more fruit to fuel up for an afternoon Kayak/ SUP session. Today I had some of the freshest papaya I’ve ever tasted, plus some of this mad brown fruit called Chikoo. It’s gloriously tasty, and has a slight vanilla flavour.
Tonight was my turn to help in the Ashram kitchens, so we whipped up some stuffed Parathas, an amazing sprouted bean salad, a cashew + tomato soup, and some vegetable bhajis. I love cooking here; I feel like I’m blowing everything I thought I knew about Indian food out the window and learning so much! Part of kitchen duty is serving the food, and here there are some very specific rules. The weirdest one is that you cannot eat ANYTHING in the kitchen, so if you are cooking you have to take a little outside to sample it for flavouring, and then come back in to wash your hands before continuing! This extends to serving: When you are eating, you cannot serve yourself unless your hands are washed. This means that if you want more, someone else with clean hands has to serve you. We make this work by always having a designated server, who waits until everyone has had enough before they sit and eat themselves. Some days I’m super hungry after cooking, and watching everyone else eat is a bit torturous… but it’s been a crash course in being really mindful of your hunger and appreciating the meal even more.
That’s it for this round! Next month, I’ll be in Mysore on my 500hr Yoga Teacher Training; stay tuned for hungry yogi scoff fest 2K18.
Peace, Love, and Baby Bananas!
P.S - Shout out to Peas and Crayons, the awesome foodie blogger who started the WIAW craze :)