|My friend Daksakanya has just written a new 108-recipe vegetarian cookbook, in her native Castellano, and she’s asked me to write el Prólogo, the preface. It was my pleasure to do so, and I thought it would be nice to share it with you all.
Daksa wrote in her acknowledgements ‘A Kurma, quien escribió el prólogo y en estos últimos años fue mi gran inspiración en la cocina’. Thank-you Daksa.
Preface to Daksa’s book
I first met Daksa in August of 2003. I was teaching cookery throughout South America, and was greatly looking forward to my 10 days in Buenos Aires. I had always felt a certain indefinable attraction to Argentina, and my hopes were to be more than fulfilled during my memorable stay.
After being greeted at the airport by two humble and friendly boys, Facundo and Ramon, we drove to Andonaegui and the Centro Bhaktivedanta, the Buenos Aires branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. While in the car they spoke of Daksa, my culinary contact whom I had not yet met, in glowing terms.
We arrived at Villa Urquiza, and after offering my respects in the little temple with century-old creaky floorboards, I bathed, and dined at the on-site Restaurant Govinda. After lunch I met with Pablo, who was heading up a massive food festival that I was to direct and cook for, called Sabores del Mundo.In the afternoon we drove to the very busy shopping street Santa Fe, and were escorted to a plush (and smoky) upper floor in the bustling Instituto Argentino de Gastronomia. Soon we were introduced to Michelin Star vice director Diego Gera, the head of the Institute, and our host for a 2-day teaching event. It was there that I was also introduced to Daksa, who appeared humble, yet ‘cool, calm and collected’ – in other words more than competent to assist me our forthcoming classes. Later Pablo told me that he had arranged a lunch the day after at the home of Daksa and her husband.
Next day we arrived to find Daksa busy in the kitchen preparing lunch with her friend Mathura. I asked if there was anything to do, and was directed to toss the salad and lay the table as we chatted. It was my pleasure, and a welcome change of pace.
Daksa had decided to do an Italian lunch. She prepared canneloni, home-baked bread, garden salad and a freshly juiced lemonade, plus a stunning dessert (details of which have dropped through the cracks of my memory. But I definitely do recall being stunned!) Some close friends of Daksa arrived with their children, we chatted for a few more minutes, then we all headed outside for lunch, which was spectacular.
Later, as we all relaxed in the lounge, Daksha asked me if I had tasted one of the nation’s sweet passions dulce de leche. I said that I hadn’t, and everyone laughed. Ramon immediately went to the corner store and bought back a few containers. “This is what we eat when we need a quick indulgence of the tongue” said Mathura with a grin, and everyone laughed even louder.
There was a bit of a private joke going on. Apparently this artfully prepared combination of just milk and sugar was supremely wonderful, especially with banana. Suddenly someone was peeling bananas, and before long we had finished off all the dulce de leche and all the bananas.
The next day, Monday, was the first of our two days at the Instituto. Daksa and I arrived early in the afternoon and set up in one of the school’s professional cooking auditoriums. With the aid of a resident chef, we commenced our mis en place.
Daksa assisted me in rolling gulab jamuns, succulent and juicy rose-scented confections that caused quite a sensation that night at the Instituto. We talked and talked as we set up for the class. Her broken English and my very broken Castellano made for an interesting mix; but there is a universal kitchen language that transcends all barriers of linguistics, so we understood each other well. While in the kitchen that day she spoke of her background, of how she had been cooking full-time for 10 years, but had actually commenced her kitchen career in the Hare Krishna temple almost 20 years previously. She smiled as she spoke of her deep desire to write a book, and I encouraged her to do so.
Since arriving in Argentina and staying in my freezing cold room, I had developed a chest cold. I suspect all the cigarette smoke at the Instituto has something to do with it. This was not a good time to be indisposed, with so many classes and cookery to attend to. Daksa, ever the caring mother, suggested a very powerful cure – a tea made from lotus root. She told me of an established Japanese community in Buenos Aires in the Escobar area, and Daksa personally went shopping and bought some fresh root and instructed one of the ladies in the kitchen to make a tea of it every night and every morning. The tea cured me of my cold.
I enjoyed my time so much in Argentina, and especially with Daksa and her family and circle of friends. We went shopping at the markets, selected our produce, and cooked for many a long hour. Since she had done such a good job of rolling gulabs at the Instituto, I delegated Daksa to head up a team to produce 1000 of the sweets for the Sabores del Mundo, which she did with ease. Daksa also produced 1000 slices of her famous ‘Sweet & Spicy Slovenian Pumpkin Cake’ that day, and made quite an impression at the festival.
When I heard from Daksa recently that she had actually written her book, I was overjoyed. I know the deep pleasure she experiences in sharing her knowledge and realisations with others, especially in the shape of a book, and I am sure her infectious joy in cooking will touch all her reader’s hearts. Daksa loves to cook so much. Her cooking is her devotion, and her meditation. This book is a manifestation of her love. Please read it, cook from it, share the food and enjoy!
15 June 2006
Posted by Kurma on 17/6/06; 9:51:14 AM