The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Culturing Food Impressions


Growing up in India so many years ago, we didn’t go out to eat much. Mostly, we ate at home.

My Mom is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t take herself (or cooking) so seriously and I mean that in a good, no, great, way. To put it better, she takes herself (and cooking and life) lightly, so she lands easy. Anyway, the point I am making is that Mom is an effortless cook. She throws together seemingly opposite ingredients, adds a dash or two of various spices, moves the ladle around, turns the heat off… and voila, you have a delicious dish ready.

As kids, we hardly ever got an opportunity to complain about food. Mom made the most heavenly petal-soft idlis, served with piping hot sambar and steaming hot coffee. Her rotis were light and delicious, the curries fresh and flavorful. She asked friends for recipes, experimented with old favorites, and came up with new concoctions with fearless abandon. And Daddy, G and I were the happy beneficiaries.

Today, I understand that her food was laced with love and caring, and that is what elevated her cooking to divine heights. Maybe she wasn’t an accomplished cook at all but there was no missing the sweet tenderness that pervaded the dishes. Now take the case of Dad who cooked for us when Mom visited my grandmother. He didn’t make anything fancy but everything he cooked was delicious. Simple flavors, lightly spiced, fresh and nourishing… Oh yum.

The result of those happy food years is that today I have an amazing set of taste buds. Rather, I learned fairly early to discriminate between bad food and the best kind. Meditation has only added to the sense of refinement.

It is like priming. When your senses are trained to consume the very best that is on offer, then what develops is discrimination. You learn to recognize what is good for you and what isn’t. You actively begin making changes about what you consume and what you avoid.

Once you have tasted nectar, how can you settle for carbonated water?

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