Letter from London

P from London writes:

“No questions; rather, just a note to you. I wrote to you before when I was about 12, I
think, and you wrote me a great letter back – I was chuffed (I’m 24 now)!

I
think you are an inspiration and I love your cooking. I really enjoyed reading
the interview with the abolitionists – it even made me all teary at one point
just pondering on what a state the world is in. I feel really sorry that things
have got this way and the worst part about it is I can see why.. I feel so part
of this screwed up society and some part of me has a desire to take part in the
material aspects (ie, I want to be rich. Taking part in the wordly/material
stuff is almost unavoidable anyway these days if you want to live in society).
I wonder where it’s all going to end.

Now that’s all a bit dark isn’t it, but
it is something that scares me a lot.

On a more positive note, I think people like you are an inspiration and show me
that there are good people in this world who still care. I feel encouraged by
this and I feel less burdened by all the troubles. So thanks!

I used to come to the temple on Sundays with my dad when I was little and I
love Gopals. My parents bought me your Quick & Easy Vegetarian recipe cards for
Christmas last year. They are great. I love cooking and I think what you say is
true.. it’s an expression of love.

Anyway… I’m living in London now (right in the middle of the rat race!). It’s
great but it really highlights the vast ranges of consciousness people have –
from one extreme to the other and the different states people live in (e.g. the
really rich to the really poor, etc.) You’d be surprised how big vegetarianism
here is though… and that’s encouraging.

Anyway, keep it up and God bless you! Love, P”


My reply:

Hi P, Thanks for the letter.
I am glad my exchanges on my blog inspired you to write. You seem like a sensible and sensitive girl.

Yes the planet is in a sorry state. But the way I see it, we should avoid taking the troubles of the world on our shoulders. Rather we should do what we can do rather than lament about about what we can’t. In this way we will feel a lot more satisfied. It’s the spiritual version of ‘Act Locally’ etc. If we clean up our own backyard for a start, we will feel a lot better that simply lamenting about the state of the neighbourhood. This is my experience.

Do I know your dad? I used to cook the feasts back then in Melbourne when you were visiting. Have you visited the Soho Street Hare Krishna Temple and Govinda’s Restaurant in London? A real oasis!

Thanks for staying in touch after all these years, and for your kind words and your blessings. Very much appreciated. I wish you all the best on your path in life. Hare Krishna! In service, Kurma

Foodfuzz

what, where, when:

I don’t often purchase pre-prepared eatables, but those Australian householders who do might find this letter and link interesting:

David Gillespie writes:

“Hi Kurma, I’ve enjoyed reading your site and blog.

I am a father of 6 who became frustrated at the constant advertising of
sugar laden food for children with messages suggesting it is healthy.

I have started foodfuzz to make it easier for parents to directly compare
the sugar (and fat) content (using the foodfuzz quadrant) of all foods in a
given category. The first two foodgroups on the site are cereals and muesli
bars. Next cab off the rank is yoghurt.

I’d be very appreciative if you would take a look. I would really value any
feedback you feel able to give or any any promotion of the site you feel
able to assist with. Cheers, David.”

Karma-Free Cookery

encounters:

Here’s some latest correspondence regarding this unique subject:

L from Canberra writes:


Hello Kurma,

H took one of your cooking classes in Prahran in 1980 or 81, visited
the Hare Krishna temple in Melbourne numerous times and chatted with
you on a number of those occasions, so I feel as though I am writing
to an old friend. I have been vegetarian for 32 years, a vegan for
the past 4 of those years.

I read your excellent interview on Abolitionist Online and I also
read the letter to you regarding dairy foods from S.B. (a vegan
perspective) and your response.
I don’t want to take issue with you
regarding your fundamental beliefs regarding the role of cows and
dairy products because I realize, having had some acquaintance with
the Hare Krishna movement, that these are core beliefs of your
religion, which is obviously the most centrally important element of
your life.

I have used your recipe books for years and consider then to be the
best for cooked (as opposed to raw) veg food, and I still take
inspiration from them whilst adapting them to a vegan diet.

What
concerns me about your argument is that even if I were to accept your
analogy of the ideal human-cow relationship with that of humans and
their pets, that is, as one of reciprocal loving service and
exchange, this represents an ideal which is not available to the vast
majority of us who do not live on Hare Krishna or similar farms, or
have access to dairy products from such farms.

Although I no longer
want to consume dairy products personally, for health as well as
ethical reasons, I can certainly appreciate that the life of a cow
living in a peaceful, natural environment, where she is respected and
loved, and allowed to live out her natural life span, is infinitely
preferable to the tragic plight of cows in the modern factory farmed
industrialized hell known as the dairy industry, and if this were the
only animal rights issue we had to contend with, the world would be a
wonderful place.

Given that the vast majority of lacto-vegetarians, including your own
readers and students, have no choice but to support the brutal dairy
industry if they want to continue eating dairy, how do you reconcile
this unfortunate reality with Krishna Consciousness teachings of
kindness and compassion towards our brother and sister animals when
you include dairy products in your recipes?

Surely dairy products
should only be recommended on the proviso that they can be obtained
from a suitable source? The Movement speaks of a karma-free diet, but
surely we have to face the fact that supporting the cruel modern
dairy industry, where cows and their offspring arguably suffer even
more than cattle raised for meat, cannot be karma-free.

Although I deeply respect your contribution to the vegetarian
movement and your long-term devotion to your faith, I am left with
the feeling that your adherence to your faith is leading you to be
impervious to logic on this issue.

I realize it must be quite a
challenge to reconcile Vedic ideals with the sad reality of modern
factory farming, and that your heart lies with the Vedic ideal. But
how do you do so in your own mind? I’m quite sure you have been
exposed to some of the grisly evidence that is provided by animal
rights groups of the various forms of abuse perpetrated on mother
cows and their offspring, including the veal industry.

I am really having trouble squaring this with the idea of a “karma-free diet”. I know you are busy and probably tired of discussing this issue, but could you explain?

Thank you for your leadership in promoting vegetarianism over many
years and thanks in particular for your vegan recipes.

Regards, L

I replied:

Regarding Karma-free cookery, this is a big topic. The term ‘Karma-free’ is not a lightweight term. It carries deep significance. In a very brief nutshell:

As a devotee of Krishna I try to follow his instructions in Bhagavad-gita etc etc, which are relevant today in all practical matters.

It is explained by Krishna and his sagacious followers that there is some karma attached even in eating vegetables and fruits, so being a vegetarian, a vegan or even a fruitarian is not enough to clear one’s ‘debt’, since in the bigger picture of things, the general rule applies that ‘one living being is food for another’.

When we take the life of another, even by uprooting a carrot, we have to take some responsibility for this. The easiest way to do this is to sanctify the whole task of killing, cooking and eating by offering the results of our actions to the Supreme. This is called karma-yoga.

On the path of Bhakti, of which I an aspirant, this can be achieved by offering our food with mantra and prayer to God after we cook and before we partake. This is a sacrifice which is much appreciated by God who thus excuses our trespasses. He explicitly explained this to his disciple and friend Arjuna.

Krishna explained in the Gita and elsewhere what he likes to eat, and it includes fruits, milk, vegetables, grains etc, but of couse, not meat products.

Yes God eats! Why not – we are made in his image. And he eats dairy products. You will always see a picture of Krishna with a cow, his dearmost friend. He enjoys the life of a cowherd boy. And those that aspire His company try to follow his footsteps.

On a more practical note, you would I am sure agree that most vegans started off as vegetarians. So the very least I can do is to continue to introduce thousands of people to the peaceful life of vegetarianism. If they wish to continue onwards to become vegans, this is an obvious and easy place from where to proceed.

Hope this sheds some light.

prasadam 1:

Then L replied to my reply:

Thanks, Kurma, it does shed some light. If I understand correctly, as
a devotee you feel that following the example of Lord Krishna is so
important that even if the milk one consumes comes from factory-
farmed cows, it is still better to consume such milk than not to
consume any milk, provided it is offered to Krishna first.

So even
though we are supporting cruelty by buying commercially produced
milk, the negative karma of that is neutralized by the act of
offering it to Krishna. Is that right? That’s great for the people
consuming the milk, but where do the poor cows figure in this? Is
their karma somehow helped too?

Do followers of Krishna believe that milk contains some kind of
spiritual essence that aids spiritual development? I seem to
remember hearing this. And is it only the milk of the cow that is
ever consumed? Do devotees believe that killing a cow is worse karma
than killing other kinds of animals?

Yes, I would say that it would be very rare for anyone to become
vegan without first having been vegetarian. I know I couldn’t have
done it. And yes, of course you are going to reach a lot more people
by inroducing them to vegetarianism rather than veganism. And I am
grateful to you for having done that so successfully. L.

My reply:

Hello L, Thanks for your intelligent and insightful questions. Much appreciated.

You ask: “as
a devotee you feel that following the example of Lord Krishna is so
important that even if the milk one consumes comes from factory-
farmed cows, it is still better to consume such milk than not to
consume any milk, provided it is offered to Krishna first.”

My reply: yes definitely.

prasadam 4:

You ask: “So even
though we are supporting cruelty by buying commercially produced
milk, the negative karma of that is neutralized by the act of
offering it to Krishna. Is that right?”

My answer: Absolutely right.

You ask: “That’s great for the people
consuming the milk, but where do the poor cows figure in this? Is
their karma somehow helped too?”

My answer: Most definitely!

Allow me to explain. Everyone benefits. If the cow’s milk is offered to God in sacrifice she will be elevated to a human birth next life. The cow is one birth away from human birth, and if she is allowed to live out her life, she will move quickly upwards. If her milk is offered to God, she will go straight to a human birth, but not any human birth – a birth in the Mode of Goodness, a happy and peaceful human birth.

prasadam 2:

Not only the cow benefits, but the person making the offering benefits, those that partake of the prasad, or mercifully sanctified food benefit also, and all that take part in the simple act of devotion. If we take one step towards God, he takes 10 steps towards us.

This is all explained in the following verse of the Gita, with my Guru Srila Prabhupada’s detailed purport. Read it slowly to gain a thorough understanding. There’s a lot to absorb. The last paragraph confirms what I have said above:

Chapter 4. Transcendental Knowledge

TEXT 24

brahmarpanam brahma havir

brahmagnau brahmana hutam

brahmaiva tena gantavyam

brahma-karma-samadhina

SYNONYMS

brahma–spiritual in nature; arpanam–contribution; brahma–the Supreme; havih–butter; brahma–spiritual; agnau–in the fire of consummation; brahmana–by the spirit soul; hutam–offered; brahma–spiritual kingdom; eva–certainly; tena–by him; gantavyam–to be reached; brahma–spiritual; karma–activities; samadhina–by complete absorption.

TRANSLATION

A person who is fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.

PURPORT by A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

“How activities in Krsna consciousness can lead one ultimately to the spiritual goal is described here. There are various activities in Krsna consciousness, and all of them will be described in the following verses. But, for the present, just the principle of Krsna consciousness is described. A conditioned soul, entangled in material contamination, is sure to act in the material atmosphere, and yet he has to get out of such an environment.

The process by which the conditioned soul can get out of the material atmosphere is Krsna consciousness. For example, a patient who is suffering from a disorder of the bowels due to overindulgence in milk products is cured by another milk product, namely curds (yogurt). The materially absorbed conditioned soul can be cured by Krsna consciousness as set forth here in the Gita. This process is generally known as yajna, or activities (sacrifices) simply meant for the satisfaction of Visnu or Krsna.

The more the activities of the material world are performed in Krsna consciousness, or for Visnu only, the more the atmosphere becomes spiritualized by complete absorption. Brahman means spiritual. The Lord is spiritual, and the rays of His transcendental body are called brahmajyoti, His spiritual effulgence. Everything that exists is situated in that brahmajyoti, but when the jyoti is covered by illusion (maya) or sense gratification, it is called material.

This material veil can be removed at once by Krsna consciousness; thus the offering for the sake of Krsna consciousness, the consuming agent of such an offering or contribution, the process of consumption, the contributor, and the result are–all combined together–Brahman, or the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth covered by maya is called matter. Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality.

Krsna consciousness is the process of converting the illusory consciousness into Brahman, or the Supreme. When the mind is fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness, it is said to be in samadhi, or trance.

Anything done in such transcendental consciousness is called yajna, or sacrifice for the Absolute. In that condition of spiritual consciousness, the contributor, the contribution, the consumption, the performer or leader of the performance, and the result or ultimate gain–everything–becomes one in the Absolute, the Supreme Brahman. That is the method of Krsna consciousness.”

prasadam 3:

Then you asked:
“Do followers of Krishna believe that milk contains some kind of
spiritual essence that aids spiritual development?”

My answer: Most definitely. Not only followers of Krishna. All spiritually minded persons from whatever discipline in India know all about this.
Many yogis live their whole lives drinking only 1 cup of milk a day. Milk, especially fresh pure unpasteurized unhomogenised warm milk contains miraculous ingredients which build the ojas – the subtle spiritual power – of the human organism. There are many books written on this subject and it is well known in Ayurveda. Cow’s milk is mystical and wonderful.

You ask: “I seem to
remember hearing this. And is it only the milk of the cow that is
ever consumed?”

Yes, you are correct. No other animal’s milk has the special effect on building fine subtle spiritual understanding. Buffalo milk is rich in protein but does nothing to build brain development, same with sheep, goats etc. Good for the body perhaps but of no special spiritual value.

Then you asked: “Do devotees believe that killing a cow is worse karma
than killing other kinds of animals?”

Yes. It is the absolute worse crime that one can commit. Societies that are based on cow-slaughter will be plagued with war, and the young men will be sent to slaughter in return.

You concluded: “Yes, I would say that it would be very rare for anyone to become
vegan without first having been vegetarian. I know I couldn’t have
done it. And yes, of course you are going to reach a lot more people
by inroducing them to vegetarianism rather than veganism. And I am
grateful to you for having done that so successfully.”

prasadam 6:

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share these secrets with you. Generally this subject matter is far ‘beyond the ken’ of the average card-carrying vegan.
Best wishes, Kurma.

The dialogue continues…

A Day at Govinda's

govinda:

Frank from Bondi Junction, NSW Australia, asks:

Hi Kurma! When are you coming to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs next to teach? I’d love to attend a class of yours?

My reply:

I am teaching a hands-on cookery workshop at the famous Govinda’s in Kings Cross in October. Here’s some details…

govinda's map:

Book early to avoid disappointment.

Thali

rajashtani thali:

Tom from Jindabyne, NSW Australia asks:

What’s Thali? Is it a type of Indian food?

My reply:

Thali is actually a style of serving an Indian meal with contents varying from one regional cuisine to another. A thali is a selection of different dishes, usually served in small bowls on a round tray. The round tray is generally made with steel with multiple compartments, or flat and topped with small bowls. Typical dishes include rice, dal, vegetables, chapati, papad, yoghurt, small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it.

Depending on the region you are in, the thali consists of delicacies native to that region. The North Indian Thali starts you out with pooris, chapatis, different vegetarian curries, usually a sweet, and other miscellaneous items. The South Indian Thali comes with papad, rice delicacies and similar items from the North Indian.

Kerala thali:

Thalis sometimes go by the regional characteristic of the items they have. For example one may encounter a thali from Kerala, (pictured directly above), a Rajasthani thali (pictured top of page) or a Gujarati thali, as picture below.

hare krishna thali:

Cakes, Cakes, Cakes…

Fruitcake: Carrot Cake:

S.M. asks:

“I have tried looking for your vegetarian cake recipe on the internet website
and I can’t find it. Could you please tell me which section it is under?”

My reply:

I have a number of cake recipes published on my blog. There is a SEARCH box on the blog home page, up the top right of the page. If you type in key words there you will find many things.

Anyway, click here to find a complete blog selection of cake recipes for you to visit. Happy baking!

Cheesecake: black forest cake:

That Hare Krishna Taste

V from Adelaide, South Australia asks:

“Please can you help me find recipes for the food I enjoyed at Hare
Krishna restaurants in Brisbane and Cairns? I am new to vegetarianism but I can
no longer ignore the ache in my heart for senseless animal suffering and I
would like to introduce my family to the flavours of Govinda’s at home.”

Hare krishna Food #2:

My reply:

“Well all Govinda’s and Gopal’s and other Hare Krishna restaurants serve things cooked specifically by the cooks there, so I would say that they all vary immensely.

Some cooks would cook direct recipes from Hare Krishna Cookbooks like mine, but many, since they are cooking such big quantities, would cook spontaneously, without specific recipes. So duplication of these exact flavours may be difficult.

Hare krishna Food #1:

I suggest you do any of these things:

1. Ask the cooks on-site if they have recipes they can share for specific things you have eaten there.

2. Get some Hare Krishna cookbooks, like mine (see my website for details) or the Higher Taste, a nice paperback cookbook available at all Hare Krishna eateries.

3. Find out if there are any cookery classes held at or near any of these places. I do travel twice a year and teach around Australia. For instance, I will be teaching at Govinda’s in Kings Cross NSW later this year, and at Govinda’s in Adelaide and Darwin early next year.

4. Go to the recipe section of my website and collect the permanent recipes from there plus my weekly offerings.

Hope this helps, Kurma

Pregnancy, Iron and a Vegetarian Diet

what to eat:

L.M. from Bunbury, Western Australia asks:

“I am pregnant (and vegetarian), and my iron is getting low. What
foods/food combinations are best for boosting my iron intake?”

My reply:

“Pregnant vegetarians should choose high iron foods like whole grains, legumes, tofu, and green leafy vegetables daily and consume them with foods rich in vitamin C to increase the bioavailability of the iron.”

more…

Hey Little Badi!

Laura from Melbourne asks:

“I haven’t been able to buy Badi – used in your Vrindavana Stew recipe so I
thought I would have a go at making it from your brief description in the
recipe book – and it turned out ok, just a bit crumbly and not quite as I
expected. Can you give me a little more detailed ingredients/instructions and
maybe a picture to let me know what it’s supposed to look like? By the way –
Vrindavana Stew is a winner in my family :)”

Kurma replies:

“Hello Laura. Indian grocers have them but they invariably call them so many different regional names. The Kashmiri badis, or vadis, or varian, or warian, look like golf ball-sized brown jagged rocks and need smashing with a hammer.

The mung bean (moong dal) badis/vadis/mangodis, etc., are smaller and daintier in size, like larger-than-life chocolate bits for baking, except yellow-brown and made from dal.

Here’s a photo of homemade moong dal vadis meant for baking. The split moong (split mung beans) was soaked then drained and ground (with no water added) in a food processor along with salt pepper and chili, then piped out with a piping bag into tiny little mounds on non-stick baking paper.

moong dal vadis:

Traditionally they are then sun-dried, but since you live in Melbourne (!!) they can be baked till very very hard and crisp like little rocks in a long overnight slow oven.

Then you fry them and add juicy things and other spices and vegetables like in my recipe, and stew slowly to reconstitute them. Hope this helps, Kurma”

Homemade Buttermilk

Buttermilk:

Patricia from London asks:

“Thank you very much for your helpful website, It is nice to have different
recipes to cook easy and wonderful prasadam. I saw in different recipes the use of buttermilk and I would like to know how can I make it at home. Thank you very much.”

My reply: “Here’s the recipe from my first cookbook, ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes’.

Cultured Buttermilk

Cultured buttermilk is prepared in the same manner as yogurt by inoculating milk with a special culture and allowing it to grow under certain conditions.

However, the type and the amount of culture, and the temperature conditions, differ from yogurt production. Buttermilk requires twice as much culture as yogurt; it must be incubated for up to 2 – 3 times as long and at a considerably lower temperature.

For these reasons, it is best to use an electric yogurt maker or a thermos when making buttermilk. Buttermilk has a milder taste than yogurt and is lower in calories because it is produced from skim- or low-fat milk.

PREPARATION TIME: 30 minutes

SETTING TIME: 8 – 16 hours


4 cups (1 litre) fresh skim or low-fat milk

3/4 cup (185 ml) commercial cultured buttermilk

2/3 cup (165 ml) skim- or full-fat milk powder

Heat the milk over moderate heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-litre/quart pan, stirring constantly. Don’t boil the milk; just heat it until it reaches 42°C/108°F. Remove from the heat.

Blend the buttermilk and milk powder in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Whisk the warm milk with the buttermilk and milk powder, until smooth. Immediately pour the mixture into an electric yogurt machine or wide-mouthed thermos and cover loosely.

Wrap the container in a thick towel or blanket and set aside at a temperature of about 26°C/80°F for between 8 and 16 hours or until it sets.

Note: Buttermilk can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.