Food for the Body

Thoughts about eating well to feed your body and spirit.

Food is the link between self and spirit (Taittreya Upanishad and the Yoga of Eating Part III)

The Self in man and in the sun are one./  Those who understand this see through the world/ And go beyond the various sheaths/ Of being to realize the unity of life./ Those who realize that all life is one/ Are at home everywhere and see themselves / In all beings.  They sing in wonder:/ ‘I am the food of life, I am, I am;/ I eat the food of life, I eat, I eat./ I link food and water, I link, I link./ I am the first-born in the universe;/ Older than the gods, I am immortal./ Who shares food with the hungry protects me;/ Who shares it not with them is consumed by me./ I am this world and I consume this world./ They who understand this understand life.’  Taittreya Upanishad, 10.5, trans. Eknath Eswaren.

As one who is immersed in the joy of growing, selecting, creating, and tasting food and studying and practicing yoga, it is no suprise that the Taittreya Upanishad (which Eknath Eswaren subtitles “From Food to Joy”) is one of my favorite readings.

The Taittreya Upanishad explains the five sheaths or koshas that make up the self — the food body, the energy body, the mind body, the intuitive body, and the bliss body.  What we take in with our senses and what makes us flesh and blood can, with right observance and practice, lead us to a consciousness of self as joy and spirit embodied.  This is the yoga of eating and of food.

For more details on the Taittreya Upanishad, please see Jon Janaka’s article, “I am the Food!”

Other sources:

Upanishads, trans. Patrick Olivelle (Oxford World Classics 1996)

The Upanishads, translated for the modern reader by Eknath Eswaren (Nilgiri Press 8th Printing 2000)

The Ten Principal Upanishads, put into English by Shree Purohit Swami and Wm. Butler Yeats (Faber and Faber, London, Reprinted 1952)

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Fine Day in the Garden

Yesterday I went out into the garden first thing and fed and deadheaded and trimmed and harvested and pulled seedlings and rearranged and swept for several hours.  One of the most delightful things about planting decoratively with herbs and greens is that trimming and pulling things back transforms directly into meals and gifts for neighbors and friends.  My visitor to the garden walked away with bunches of oregano, lemon balm, and mint and lemon balm with roots to plant in her own garden.  We drank a cool lemon-mint infusion (mixture of spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, and lemon verbena) and ate a few strawberries (some from the garden, some from the farmers’ market).  Later in the day, my lunch included a salad with lettuce, radishes, baby spinach and chard, spring onions, and various herbs.  For dinner, I used chard, beets, and green onions to make a stew of chickpeas and greens.

With today’s rain, everything will keep flourishing, and I’ll be out there doing the same later in the week.  My morning visitor and I agreed that one of the great delights of gardening is that the garden always welcomes more attention.  The garden never asks to be left alone; it drinks in whatever attention and nourishment we are able to offer and returns it with grace.  There are few things that both are comfortable with steady attention and fully nurture us the more attention we give.  I find that meditation, too, always gives and receives graciously steady attention, which is one of its great gifts and joys.

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Some Books on Food I’ve Been Revisiting (Yoga of Eating Part II)

I have been revisiting these cooking and gardening books from among my varied collection as I prepare for the “Yoga of Eating” Workshop.  In addition to having recipes and/or gardening techniques each teaches about health, ecology, plants, and seasonal eating, is written in a way that would appeal to both novice and expert cook/gardener alike (including some recipes in the gardening books), and some have very pretty pictures.  The key words for this focus in the titles:  enjoyment, art, healthy, ecological, seasonal, healthy, earth, practical — essential attributes/attitudes/directions for eating with yoga consciousness.

Cookbooks:

Bishop, Jack, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen:  Easy Seasonal Dishes for Friends and Family (Houghton Mifflin2004)

Sass, Lorna, Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen, Healthy Meals for You and the Planet (Wm. Morrow & Co. 1992)

Shaw, Diana, The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 1997) (Your Guide to the Best Foods on Earth:  What to Eat; Where to Get It; How to Prepare It)

Tiwari, Maya, Ayurveda:  A Life of Balance (Healing Arts Press 1995) (The Complete Guide to Ayurvedic Nutrition and Body Types with Recipes)

Waters, Alice, Chez Panisse Vegetables (Harper Collins 1996)

Kitchen Gardening:

Bremner, Lesley, The Complete Book of Herbs:  A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs (Dorling Kindersley – London 6th Ed. 1993)

Gilberti, Sal, Kitchen Herbs:  The Art and Enjoyment of Growing Herbs and Cooking with Them (Bantam 1988)

Guerra, Michael, The Edible Container Garden, Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces (Fireside 2000)

Lloyd, Christoper, Gardener Cook (Willow Creek Press 1997)

Pavord, Anna, The New Kitchen Garden (Dorling Kindersley Am. Ed. 1996) (A Complete Practical Guide to Designing, Planing, and Cultivating a Decorative and Productive Garden)

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Yoga of Eating Part I (what it is and what it isn’t)

Yesterday, a former student of mine stopped me in the hallway at Willow Street and asked whether the “Yoga of Eating” workshop I will be leading on June 13th  will cover Ayurveda.  “I will mention it,” I said, “but I will not be teaching it.”  I didn’t have time to explain further because I was about to lead class.  As far as I got was to add that I was not sufficiently trained to teach it.

Ayurveda is a wonderful science, and I honor and respect my yoga friends and colleagues who study, practice, and teach Ayurvedic principles.  Ayurveda is a much broader discipline than yoga, though, and is really medical practice rather than yoga.  Asana are among the practices that might be recommended by an Ayurvedic practitioner for a client or patient, but eating in accordance with the Ayurvedic principles is not the same as bringing yoga to how we eat.  For me, many of the principles of Ayurveda I have read or been taught are useful, but it has not resonated for me as a governing system, just as I do not believe in applying all of the principles of Western medicine to how I heal and nourish my body.

Bringing yoga to my eating, like bringing yoga to all of my life off the mat,  is both simpler and harder than being taught a science such as Ayurveda with fairly clear, but quite complex, do’s and don’ts and then following them.  For me, practicing the yoga of eating, is practicing conscious eating.  It is practicing reverance and moderation.  It is balancing nourishment and pleasure.  It is knowing deeply when the will to eat is serving us or getting in our way.  It is both simple and subtle.  It is easy to say, but deeply challenging and sometime complicated to practice — just like practicing the Anusara yoga principles of alignment.

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Okra Germinated; First Roses Opened

First flower on a cherry tomato appeared overnight.  Peppers are budding.  They all like the heat.  Dill is going yellow around the edges already.  It does not like the heat.  One of the things I love most about gardening is noticing what thrives to excess and what struggles, depending on the weather patterns.  With the right balance of plants, there will always be a bumper crop of something (both edible and ornamental).  Eating locally, with consciousness acknowledgement of the limits of space and time in an affirming way,  requires accepting what are the crops of the year and being creative with them rather than finding a recipe and insisting that the ingredients be available to the detriment of flavor, pocketbook, and environment.

Fostering such a relationship to my garden and my food helps me also accept that although I can grow and shift, I ultimately cannot change certain fundamental things about myself.  It is better radically to affirm what I have been given than to try and contort myself into something that it seems society (Heideggerian “they”) would prefer.

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Granola (yes, it’s basically cookies in milk without the egg and butter)

On Wednesday, reluctant to turn on the heat despite the cold, I turned on the oven instead.  I already had muffins and bread from the previous weekend in the freezer, so I decided to make granola.  I first made granola at Quaker youth camp in the 1970s in upstate New York.  It was tasty, but loaded with honey and fat, and we made it in such vast quantities that it was years before it occurred to me I could just make the same amount that would be in a cereal box for myself.  If you have never done it, or suffer from the same inhibitions I’d suffered from, give yourself a treat and make your own.

Take a few cups of multigrain flakes (or just oat flakes).  Throw in any or all of the following:  shredded coconut, chopped nuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seed nuts.  If you have them in the house, add a handful of wheat germ and/or flax seed meal, a little salt (makes it taste sweeter) and spices if you like (e.g. cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg).  Stir in enough of any of the following liquid sweeteners (my favorit is brown rice syrup because it gives the best clumping with the smallest amount), honey, maple syrup, agave, fruit juice concentrate (thaw first) and a little vegetable or nut oil (my favorite is walnut), that the mixture is a pleasing combination of coated flakes and small clusters.  (The more sweetener you use and the stickier the sweetener, the bigger the clumps).

Spread mixture on an oiled cookie sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 325-350F.  Let the mixture get golden, but not brown (or to taste).  Turn and respread mixture once at about the 12-15 minute mark.

When you take the mixture out of the oven, stir in dried fruit of your choice (raisins, currents, dried blueberries or cranberries; dice larger fruits such as dried apricots or apples).

Use combinations of nuts, spices, sweeteners, and fruits that make sense:  apple, walnut, maple syrup; brazil nut, coconut, pineapple juice concentrate, nutmeg; cranberry, raisin, walnut.  You get the idea.  If you like peanuts, blend some peanut butter in with the sweetener and oil before mixing it with the grains.

Why is this recipe not exact?  Because it does not need to be exact to come out delicious.  Because breakfast cereal is best if it is the way you like it and not the way someone else likes it.  (Just like doing your own asana practice at home).

If you have never done it before and are afraid of picking your own proportions and oven temperature, find a couple of recipes on the internet or in a cookbook and then use the recipes as a basis for experimenting.

For muesli, leave out the sweetener and the oil, omit the baking, add the fruit to the flake and nut mixture and then prepare as you like your muesli (soaked or not soaked, with yoghurt or with milk, etc).

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Green

greensThe haze of pink on the flowering trees is turning to green, and the maples and oaks are starting to leaf.  I love the pale green of new leaves before they have gotten dusty from smog and heat.  I hope this time we will get the promised rain (last storm we only got a fourth of what was forecast).

Another green:  in the garden, my spinach is coming up, as is the new chard, kale, cilantro, and salad greens.   I have been eating the romaine that seeded in the fall and the chard plants that weathered winter.  Delicious!

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Vegan Cranberry Walnut Oatbran Muffins

At what point does a recipe cease to be the one from the book and become one’s own?  These muffins are loosely based on Martha Rose Shulman’s “Overnight Bran Muffins” from her book Great Breads. Her ingredients are:  raisins, bran, boiling water, eggs, sunflower oil or melted butter, honey, molasses, buttermilk, whole wheat flour, white flour, baking soda, and salt.  She bakes hers at 400F for 20-30 minutes.  If I had just replaced the raisins with cranberries (sometimes I use other berries or dried fruits), or replaced the buttermilk with soy milk or juice, or used all whole wheat flour instead of a mixture of whole wheat and white flour, and added a few spices, it would not have been my cooking.  But when one changes nearly every aspect of a recipe, is it a new recipe?  I just happened to start with this one, but I could just have easily started modifying the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries for cranberry bread or any one of a number of the recipes I have for apple, cranberry, or bran muffins and came to the same place.

I used chopped cranberries, succanat, walnuts, oat bran, egg replacer, walnut oil, soy milk, ground flax seed meal, whole wheat pastry flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt and changed some of the proportions, the order in which I prepare and mix some of the ingredients, and the baking temperature and time.  Ms. Shulman’s muffins are richer and more classic for having the eggs, buttermilk, and white flower, but the ones I made this morning tasted pretty good, and I recommend her book as an excellent place to find solid, easy to follow recipes.  I honor her recipe as a starting point, the way I honor my teachers on the yoga path, but still bring in my own experience.

Want to make your own?

  • Take a cup of cranberries (these are the last of the cranberries I bought last fall and then froze to use through the winter; you might not be able to find cranberries this time of year, so use whatever you have on hand), chop them in a wooden bowl, toss with a few spoonfuls of succanat (dried fruits or sweeter berries do not ask for the extra sugar) and set aside.
  • Wisk together in a large bowl egg replacer (one egg’s worth), 1/4 cup walnut oil, and 1/4 to 1/3 cup maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener, including fruit juice concentrate).  Soften 1 cup oat bran with about 7/8 cup boiling water.   Mix oat bran into liquid ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 cup ground flax seed meal, a pinch of salt, and a slightly rounded teaspoon of baking soda.
  • Quickly fold the dry ingredients into the wet without over mixing.  Add the cranberries and then the walnuts.  Bake at 350-360 for 18-24 minutes in lightly oiled muffin tins.  Makes 12.
  • Modify to your delight.  If you are allergic to nuts, skip the walnuts and use safflower or canola oil instead of walnut oil.  Go to Ms. Shulman’s recipe as a starting point and create your own.

I freeze muffins and then take one to work (I transport muffins wrapped in a cloth napkin or a reused bag from nuts or dried fruit)  instead of buying coffee shop muffins.  Saves on packaging, calories, and I know it was made with love.  Keep the coffee store pastries for a special treat or for when you’ve temporarily run out of your own.

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Sprouted Lentil Salad

When I came home from teaching today, I put together a salad of sprouted lentils, celery, spring onions, and walnuts, dressed with walnut oil and aged, organic balsamic vinegar.  What made the salad special was freshness of the lentil sprouts, the subtlety of newly ground pink himalayan salt and the little luxury, the balsamic vinegar.  In the summer, it would be great with a new cucumber from the garden on a bed of fresh mixed greens.

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An incredibly comprehensive list of energy saving tips small and large

I was reading an article in the NY Times about what one can do to  “green” a home that led me to this list.  There is always something else to learn:  unofficial list of energy saving tips.

FYI, PEPCO Energy Services does offer “green” and “wind” electricity.  Not perfect, but better than regular PEPCO.  I think there are some other alternatives in Maryland.  I have not investigated recently in the District, but switched to the “green” electricity a number of years ago.

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