Wow, lots of things happened the past week. I only regret not having taken photos worthy of being uploaded to show for it. First big thing that happened was International Raw Food Day on Thursday the 11th, which I was really happy to be a part of. People who know a bit about my diet know that I’m not exactly a raw food advocate, especially given my Vata spaciness and flightiness, which makes me favor a grounding diet of hearty and warm foods. But this event was such a great opportunity for me because it was a chance for me to be around the raw food people who have such a bundle of positive energy (that comes from all the extra pranic energy they gain?) and to learn from different perspectives of healthy-eating. The locally held film screening and raw food potluck was also a great motivator in lifting our spirits and I believe many who attended felt at least inspired to make changes towards living healthier, be it eating more raw foods, having a cleaner diet or viewing certain lifestyle changes more positively (rather than a whole lot of work). It’s ironic but I find it hard to believe so many think it weird to prioritize their own healthy (perhaps thinking it either redundant or being too overly extravagant on themselves), especially since being truly of good health physically, mentally and emotionally gives one such a sense of positivity, an obvious radiance about oneself, and most importantly immense joy that comes from within. Think about it, to be alive, to breath and be healthy are opportunities for us to be in bliss.
Raw Food x Vata
Talking to the raw food chefs on IRFD made me reflect upon the Ayurvedic idea that Vatas aren’t suited to a raw food diet. Hindsight has made me realise that eating anything cold and having too many dry foods drains me out, but thinking more carefully, I wonder if I’ve allowed this to condition in me an instinctual avoidance of raw food? Jeff, the Asian Raw Chef, whom I spoke to conveyed the idea of raw food not as a strict, regimented lifestyle, but as something one works gradually towards. We all know the benefits of eating raw foods. Less processing preserves all the nutrients, leaving them unadulterated. When we eat salads, we feel refreshed yet surprisingly satiated since the vegetable fibres are not broken down and are instead ingested intact. Raw food doesn’t have to mean eating raw 100% and using expensive equipment to create all sorts of sophisticated imitation foods like raw breads and crackers. Eating raw can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how ‘purely raw’ you are eating. One could simply incorporate raw foods within one’s comfort zone – who care’s if the salad dressing isn’t 100% raw as long as you’ve got fresh vegetables in your salad? Or who cares if you’re not eating raw today if you’re feeling a bit cold and under the weather? Sometimes we get caught up with labels and forget our real goal is to work towards what makes us feel good and healthy all-rounded on that particular day, season, time of the year or even that particular juncture in our lives. How we eat shouldn’t be dictated, written in stone, or confined to static ideas generated by the self or society. Part of the reason why I became vegan was because this was an act of my free will, a choice to live as I decide out of the many choices that were accessible to me. And it’s with this same sense of empowerment and liberation I’ve now come to face and conquer my rigid conception of raw food. Salads are not THE enemy 🙂
Eating (Salad) like a Vata – Lubrication is Key!
Never thought I’d say this but what a relief to be eating salads again! Have your veggies washed and dried out in the fridge and it’s so easy to whip up a salad anytime – just chop or tear everything into a bowl and you’re set. Today’s lunch was as much an inspiration and a learning journey as to eating what feels right intuitively. Vata’s inclination towards dryness means more attention to lubrication and my lunch was certainly well lubricated today! Now I know why vinegrettes are 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar – the leaves do need to be coated with oil. A great way to keep the dressing light and fuss-free is to ramp up the flavor with strong tasting vegetables or herbs which will ensure you need nothing more than a simple vinegrette (rather than processed salad creams and mayo) to bring together all the lovely flavors. My salad consisted of butter lettuce, red peppers, lots of celery leaves, basil and mint with the last three giving lots of flavor so be as generous as you like on the herbs. I happened to use a miso vinegrette since I had some sansho miso leftover and can easily add more flavor to my vinegrette. The rest was simply a matter of adding salt, black pepper, mustard, balsamic vinegar (for sweetness) and lots of EVOO. Best to add everything to a screw top jar and shaking like there’s no tomorrow. And don’t you dare skip making a properly oily dressing to dress your salad leaves, especially if you are Vata, because this really makes something as blah-sounding as salad into a real proper, wholesome dish. Weird to think of salad as wholesome, but you really gotta dress your salad well is all I’m saying.
Besides the salad, I had more lubrication (trust me I felt so lubricated after this meal) from my dal and toast. I drizzled on EVOO, again not missing the butter for my toast, which was essential otherwise it would’ve been too dry. It’s really little details like these that make all the difference in eating day-to-day, and I’d say you will start to experience accumulated effects from overlooking these things over the long run. So vegans, don’t just skip the butter, make sure you spread a nut butter of some sort or drizzle some flavorful oil on. It does make a difference to your constitution.
Fenugreek Dal with Coconut Oil
I’ve saved talking about this awesome fenugreek dal for last because its so good for something so darn simple. Dal is great for Vatas anyway because it’s easy to digest, nutritious, filling and warming. Mine was plenty lubricated in coconut oil, the best oil to use as is or for cooking, baking, whatever as we’re all led to believe by recent research into the beneficial properties of MCTs which coconut oil has plenty of. Best part is, coconut oil gives a buttery flavor (so far the only thing that reminds of butter since going vegan) and so is an excellent replacement for the flavorsome ghee used in many dal recipes. What’s special about this dal is the dried fenugreek leaves or kasuri methi with its subtle hint of flavor. I can’t quite describe what it tastes like – it’s herby, with a slight bitter taste, but very very pleasant earthy aroma. In fact, I read somewhere fenugreek leaves are used to make imitation maple syrup flavor so how’s that for pleasant aroma?? 🙂
The recipe I followed is dead easy, even easier that tarka dal (which is like the simplest dal one usually finds as a staple food in Indian homes) because the spices are added in the beginning of sauteeing rather than tempered separately and poured over before serving. Basically, I heated about 3 tsp coconut oil, tempered mustard and cumin seeds, dried chillis and asafoetida, sauteed garlic, onion and tomato before adding the dried fenugreek. Then as the flavor of the dried leaves starts to permeate, I added the cooked dal, stirred to mix and simmered just a few minutes for the flavors to combine. It’s a godsend for the everyday cook — uncomplicated, hardly any chopping required but pays off well in the flavor department. Fenugreek dal is, I believe so far, the perfect rustic treat for anyone pressed for time. Add a good piece of raisin rye toast for dipping and what more can I really wish for on a laidback and carefree Saturday afternoon??