Divine Nourishment

Namaste!  Most commonly heard in yoga class here in the US, Namaste, Namaskar or Vanakkam are common greetings in India, like good morning or good evening.  These words add an extra dimension, though, because they mean, “I bow to you” or “Salutations to you.“  They acknowledge the divine essence in us all—a way of saying, good day, fellow divine being!

I just spent 2 months in India for study and fun and was fortunate to be able to listen to many learned teachers of everything from Ayurveda to Yoga Philosophy.  During my trip, I started to think about how we might acknowledge the divine in our food as well as in ourselves—how we might greet the food in our meals with a heartfelt, “Namaste!”. 

This reflection started in a yoga philosophy class, where the teacher was talking about Brahma (God) and that everything is Brahma (the divine).  The subject of wasting food was raised—a topic in which my Ayurvedic mentor and beloved teacher, Vaidya Yashashree Mannur is very passionate about.  Until then, I had assumed that her passion for this had the same roots as my mother’s—my mom grew up during the depression and came out of that experience with the conviction that nothing should be wasted.  Her desire to not waste food, or anything else, came from a sense of scarcity.  And, indeed, I still think that there is some of that in Vaidya Yash’s desire to not waste food. 

But the yoga philosophy teacher made the point that if everything is God, then food is God too and shouldn’t be disrespected or wasted—and then, I understood the main reason my teacher didn’t want to waste food.

I started thinking about how this was manifesting during my time in India—where instead of throwing left-overs away or letting them sit in the refrigerator to get stale, my Indian roommates would take whatever food was left over from our meals across the street to a group of laborers who always seemed glad to get it.  In this way, we respected the food and its power to nourish by making sure to not throw it away and to share what we had in excess with people who didn’t have much at all. 

In another variation on this theme, an older gentleman told me that it is best to give the first chappati off the grill, which is always a little imperfect, to one of the many dogs that live in the streets of India, instead of just tossing it into the garbage so that the food is not wasted or disrespected.

In Ayurveda, this recognition of the divine in food is implicit in the recommendations given for consuming a meal:

  • We are encouraged to sit quietly for a few moments and say a blessing for ourselves and the food before eating
  • We are encouraged to concentrate on eating and really be present with our food:  mindfully tasting and enjoying it
  • We are encouraged to take food that is Satmya (soul food); food that is pleasing to our souls
  • We are encouraged to take just the right amount of food, not too little or too much—just so that we are nourished and satisfied but not overly full or still hungry so that our agni (digestive fire) is able to function in proper order
  • We are encouraged to consume food in season and as freshly prepared as possible so that it is alive with prana and brings the qualities that are the result of natural ebb and flow of seasonal character

In Ayurveda, as well as much of Vedic thought, everything in the universe is also a part of us.  So, when we eat, all those qualities of the universe are brought into our bodies and exert effects—such as nourishing or lightening, heating or cooling, moistening or drying.  When we pay sensitive attention to what is happening—in our bodies and the world around us— we can best choose foods that enhance our body’s harmony.

In the spirit of treating our meals with respect and love, here is an idea for some thoughts we might direct at our food before we start to enjoy it:

Namaste (I bow to…) the nourishment you bring to me and am so grateful for it

Namaste to the pleasure of the taste of you and so grateful I can experience it.

Namaste to the traditions and wisdom you represent and am so grateful they have been passed down to me.

Namaste to the healing that you bring and open myself to receive it.

Dr. Lad’s Tur Dal Soup #2

This comes from Dr. Lad’s cookbook, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing.  He states that it is tridosha shamana (pacifying) and that because of the Ushna virya of toor dal (warming quality), those experiencing increased Pitta or Ushna (heat) guna should use less frequently.

Fall Kitcharee Supreme

Yummy Fall Kitcharee…it’s Fall here in Coastal California and the first rain of the season has come…time to make sure your meals are warm, light and digestible–this tasty kitcharee provides the warm, sweet and light-to-digest qualities.

No Tomatoes—Seriously?

Concern for what and how we should eat is at an all-time high, and this is fueling interest in all kinds of nutritional philosophies.  Ayurveda—the time-honored medical science from India—has used food as a medicine for thousands of years and so many are curious about its unique understanding of food as an integral part of health.

Ayurvedic nutrition is based on a profound understanding of the effects, or karmas, that foods exert in the body.  Each type of food, known in India, has been studied and its qualities and effects observed and described.

Some qualities act in concert with one another and cause effects that are not desirable.   Two of these effects are called abhishandi and vidahi.

Abhishandi foods are those that increase sticky secretions and moisture in the body.  These foods combine the heavy, sour and oily qualities which then increase sticky secretions and moisture in the body.  An example of this is molasses.  Yogurt is said to be abhishandi.  Tomatoes and white potatoes are quite possibly abhishandi.

Vidahi foods cause burning and combine the sour, pungent, heavy and oily qualities which then cause burning—coffee and tomato sauce are examples of vidahi foods.  These foods are easier to identify because they are often triggers for burning in the chest, or sour, burning liquid that comes up into the esophagus or throat—commonly known as heartburn or acid reflux.

It is recommended that foods that are either abhishandi or vidahi be consumed only occasionally and if there is a disease or imbalanced condition in which they are directly implicated, not at all.

Unfortunately, tomatoes are in both categories.

Wow, what do we do with pasta then?  No more spaghetti sauce, are you kidding?

No problem, you can actually make a tasty “red” sauce without tomatoes!

Here’s how:

Tomatoless Red Pasta Sauce

  • 1 Roasted Butternut Squash
  • 1 Roasted Beet, peeled and cut in to small chunks
  • 1 medium onion or 1 leek, diced
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of mild-tasting oil—olive, grapeseed, etc.
  • 1 vegetarian bouillon cube and 2 cups of water or 2 cups of vegetarian broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed dried basil, as per taste, or 2 to 3 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • Other spices you like to put in tomato sauce
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, depending on taste


  1. Scrape the butternut squash flesh into a bowl and reserve.
  2. Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat to a low-moderate level. When the oil shimmers, add the diced onion or leek and sauté until the onion starts to brown.
  3. Add the minced garlic and sauté for a few moments
  4. Add the basil and stir it into the onion-garlic mix
  5. Add the butternut squash flesh and stir it to mix all the ingredients well. Sauté 5 to 10 minutes, stirring enough so that nothing sticks to the bottom
  6. Add the bouillon cube and water or the broth. Stir to mix the ingredients and then simmer for around 20 minutes—until the mixture has cooked down to a thicker consistency.  Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and place on a pot holder on your counter:


  • If you have an immersion blender, let the mix sit for about 10 minutes and then use the immersion blender to blend it to a smooth, thick consistency
  • If you have a regular blender, then remove the pot from the heat and place on a pot holder on your counter. Let the mix sit for 20 to 30 minutes to cool down.  Then blend the mixture in batches, blending each batch to a smooth, thick consistency.
  • After your sauce is blended into a nice consistency. Add one chunk of beet to the mix and blend.  If the color of the sauce turns to the reddish, tomato-sauce like color you like, then return the pot to the stove and heat to cook down the sauce a bit more.  If you would like a redder color, then add another chunk of beet and blend, assessing the color.  Stop adding beet chunks when you attain the color you like.
  • Note:  I’ve found that adding 1 quarter of a beet gives a nice orangey-red color, but you may want your color darker.  Adding the whole beet makes it beet-colored, which is fine, but this may not work for people, like kids, who like things to look like what they expect.


  1. Now, just heat your sauce on low and bring to a simmer. Obtain the juice from ½ of your lemon, and add a teaspoon of it to your sauce.  Add ½ teaspoon of salt and stir well.  Simmer another couple moments and then taste for tartness and saltiness.  Adjust the amount of lemon juice and salt to your taste.
  2. Serve over pasta, vegetables or other grain.

Spring Mediter-Indian Split Yellow Peas

In springtime, according to our digestive fire and constitutional nature, we can incorporate a little more of the lighter, rougher and dryer qualities in our meals because Kapha dosha, the water and earth elements, is at its peak.  Yellow Split Peas are a good source of the astringent taste and are therefore Ruksha or drying.  They  also have a bit of the Khara or rough quality.  Turmeric is drying and warm, while fresh ginger adds some umph to your digestive fire.  These qualities can be helpful during mid-Spring when accumulated  Kapha is  in its liquid stage after the late-winter/early spring build up. Continue reading “Spring Mediter-Indian Split Yellow Peas”

It’s Spring, Time to Lighten Up!

It’s greening up outside and flowers are starting to blossom.   In Ayurvedic medicine, spring is the time to lighten up.  Diet, daily routine and exercise can help us enliven and blossom forth, shedding the heaviness accumulated during the winter. 

Spring is all about the elements water and earth, i.e., Kapha dosha.  Lighter, drier foods, getting up a bit earlier and livelier exercise all help to balance Kapha.  Tastes that balance Kapha are pungent, bitter and astringent—these tastes feature prominently in spicier dishes, dark leafy green vegetables and beans. Continue reading “It’s Spring, Time to Lighten Up!”

Organic? Or not? That’s the Question at Hand

When I arrived in South Carolina this September, one of the first things my aunt told me over a meal was something like, “Well, did you hear the news that organic food is not that healthy after all—it doesn’t make any difference!”  I was surprised and intrigued, especially since she had heard the story on the cable news.  Let me be clear, I’m a big believer in organic foods and have eaten a mostly organic diet for upwards of 25 years.  My aunt, on the other hand, comes from a generation that just doesn’t get why someone would chose to pay double the cost or more for food—especially vegetables.

After my aunt’s announcement, as the days went by, controversy blew about, with folks from both sides arguing their points.  The news coverage I heard implied that the Stanford University study had found no evidence that organic foods were any safer or more nutritious than conventionally grown foods.  I just had to see what this study actually said, so I went on down to the UCSF Medical Library, which if you didn’t already know is a public library where you can get free access to health science papers in their entirety. Continue reading “Organic? Or not? That’s the Question at Hand”