This is the first article of a series on the wisdom of cooking according to Ayurvedic principles. The word Ayurveda comes from two Sanskrit words Ayur meaning life and Veda meaning science.
This science of life or longevity is the holistic alternative in India and it is more than 5000 years old. My aim is to share basic knowledge which opens the door to a much healthier and more responsible way of nourishing the body and the mind and to include a recipe with each article. The medicinal application of Ayurveda will not be explored and I suggest consulting a specialist if you wish to experience this medicine.
Food is the first essential part of our lives. I was born in 1965 in the midst of cooking abundance. My grandmothers (one French: Rolande Teulere; the other Catalan: Hernanda Ripoll-Dausa) were very good cooks and expressed their love with food every time they had a chance. Rolande used to celebrate any young stem or fruit from her farm with delicious simple recipes like baby fresh peas simmered with spring onions, while Hernanda would wait for the first green broad beans and make an amazing stew with them. Food is a medium through which one person’s feelings can be transferred to another (remember Like Water For Chocolate?). In India, it is believed that food prepared by one’s mother can satisfy the child more than the same food prepared by another. So, pay attention to your state of mind before you start cooking!
When I qualified as a chef in my late teens, I was introduced to the concept of healthy eating (balanced diet) in a scientific way. This had the first impact on my cooking habits – I reduced my intake of sugar and meat and felt the benefits almost instantly. In 2007, I had the chance to attend a week of Ayurvedic Cooking Training in Cape Town given by Kaushani Desai, who came from Bangalore, India, from the Art of Living Foundation. It was a second awakening. I realised that Ayurvedic food can be diverse and delicious. Seeds, grains and beans are stores of energy that charge with the sun and water. The uses of spices are exciting and nutritious. Cardamom and cloves, for example, are very high in calcium and magnesium. The methods used to prepare food are easy, requiring no previous training. We also learned how to choose ingredients according to our own constitution or body type (Doshas).
I chose the recipe below because it’s easy to make and delicious. Dates have been consumed for centuries in North Africa and South East Asia, because of their high nutritional value. Apart from being high in natural fibres, they are also rich in calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Dates have a tonic effect and their high nicotinic content makes them an excellent cure for intestinal disturbances. As for the benefits to the mind, there is no greater spiritual boon to the meditator than the adoption of a vegetarian diet. Ayurveda also emphasises the importance – to body and soul – of truly enjoying your food. So enjoying some naturally sweet foods is not only permissible, but recommended, as natural sweetness is one of the 6 tastes which your body needs to experience to ensure total balance.
Now let’s make yummy Date & Nut Balls. You will need: 250 g pitted dates 50 g chopped almonds 50 g chopped pistachios 50 g rice crispies & 25 g desiccated coconut. Chop & heat the dates on low heat till they become soft. Switch off the heat, add almonds, pistachio & rice crispies. Make small balls & roll them in desiccated coconut. Enjoy!
In the next articles we will explore ingredients, preparation methods, the 5 elements, the 3 constitutions, the 3 classifications of food, the 7 basic and vital tissues of the human body and the 6 tastes.
By Dominique Ripoll-Dausa
Dominique is a life and business coach passionate about healthy food. He specialises in supporting individuals who run their own business. Contact him via email or at 072 123 8216.