Be Yourself, the Best Aphrodisiac Blog
“Spreading love, one recipe at a time!”
The back-story that inspired the menu that inspired the recipes! Foodie and Love stories combining love, romance, and adventure (remember this is all fiction my friends)! Let me take my paintbrush, paint the scene and the mood to take you there…
Inspired Quote to love by: “Do your thing. Do it every day. Do it ‘unapologetically’. Don’t be discouraged by criticism. You probably already know what they’re going to say. Pay no mind to the fear of failure. It’s far more valuable than success. Take ownership, take chances and have fun. And no matter what, don’t ever stop doing your thing.” ~ Asher Roth.
Foodie Dateline: Ashram-Cuisine
Where: Southern India, An Ashram
When: January 2013
Mood: Happy Explorer
Emotion: Joy, pure joy
I was inspired to create this menu having spent time at an Ashram in Southern India. It was an amazing experience that’s etched into my mind forever (I smile as I type because the memories come flooding back to me). I know what you’re thinking – how the heck did I end up at an Ashram in the middle-of-no-where India? Well…here goes the story. First of all, I wanted to know more about meditation (the thing that’s so difficult to do that everyone is talking about that’s oh so good for you). I signed up and started taking meditation classes (sadly they were cancelled in short time…no, nothing to do with me even though I couldn’t hold a lotus pose)! The upside to my twisted legs is that the meditation coach had lived in India. Well…I was travelling to India…match made in heaven. We spoke ‘India-speak’ (I’d done some research) and I asked him where he would suggest that I travel (knowing that my journey was partially of a spiritual nature to find some answers of life). I told him that I wanted to spend time at an Ashram – wanting to experience what an Ashram was (not fully knowing) and secondly to savour what I call ‘Ashram healthy cuisine’ (wanting to learn and knowing that it would be good for me)! He told me that one of the most unique parts of India that he’d experienced was Tamil Nadu, India’s southeastern state. Famed for its beauty, Hindu temples and spirituality and need I say, cuisine! So far so good! He highly recommended an Ashram which was home to a sage and philosopher and where thousands of seekers from all over the world flock to. Perfect. Now time for an Ashram definition (I had to look it up, I admit) “An Ashram is a Hindu spiritual sanctuary, a place of religious retreat that typically focuses on Indian cultural activities including yoga and meditation.” Good, now I know what I’m up for! I had to apply to stay at the Ashram (not just anyone can go), I was accepted and I booked it! Here are some photos of the Ashram experience.
Ashram Cuisine 101.
We (my friend and I) arrived at the Ashram after a full day of driving – the drive from our boutique hotel in Karaikudi (where I had taken cooking classes) was peppered with stunning scenes of beauty everywhere! We had minutes to spare before dinner was served in the dining hall (and oh boy was I hungry). Quick, bags in the rustic room (did I mention rustic?), dash to dining hall. I could smell the scent of the delicious Ashram cuisine, so I followed my nose…ahhh. Whew, we made it just in time, we took the last two spots on the floor…yes, I did say on the floor. It was a cold, hard, marble floor, it actually felt nice considering India’s heat. This dining hall was not your average dining hall, at its max capacity it accommodates nearly 800 people! Now that’s a lot of food, a lot of stomachs to feed! Scanned the room to see what was happening, a totally new, foreign experience. Lots of warm-welcoming smiles from fellow ‘seekers’ (seekers of food that is in this hall). Everyone had large dried leaves all hand-stitched together placed on the floor in front of them. A place mat I thought, how civilized, how authentic, how cool. Dinner was already being served, turns out that the place mat was in actuality the plate – oh, OK (when in Rome I thought to myself). Next, a dosa (pancake) was literally dropped with precision from a height onto my leaves, followed by a scoop of dahl (lentils) all from big huge vats. I scanned the room to see what those in the know were doing – roll it up and eat it! I was starving, so I dove in. As I started biting into my pancake, I noticed that my friend wasn’t eating (and we were famished). Why? She looked at me with this combined state of shock, surprise and laughter in her eyes and pointed to her pancake. Ants. They were crawling all over her pancake! OMG, little tiny black ants – how unappetizing – now I understood. “Holy ants!” I thought to myself. I carefully examined mine…nope, clear…I continued to eat and offered her a bite. She flagged the server and showed him her dilemma. He was nonplussed and nonchalantly took her pancake away, replacing it with a fresh new one…nice…however the ants were still there crawling all over her place mat. I offered her some of my dahl, some of my potatoes, some of my vegetables…she couldn’t eat…I don’t blame her! I ate. My food was ant-free and I was starving!! The food was quite delicious (once I got beyond the ants). Actually all of the dishes that I savoured while I was in Tamil Nadu were delicious, I adore the cuisine from this part of India.
OK, so perhaps the ant-laced Ashram experience wasn’t exactly the dining experience that I’d expected, but the cuisine definitely made up for it. It was so uniquely and deliciously different to any that I had previously known. And so, it inspired me to create my own ‘Ashram-light’ menu based upon the food that I tasted when I was there (and during my cooking classes). This Menu is a light vegetarian taste of India. I hope that you’ll make it for yourself and that you like it as much as I do! It’s delicious (OK, I admit, I’m a bit biased)! Trust me, I didn’t travel all the way to India to be inspired and not come back with great recipes to share the flavours of this amazing country with you as your Gourmet Coach!!
Last Words of Inspiration.
We headed to Pondicherry post-Ashram, affectionately known as Pondy and where the story Life of Pi was based. What a beautiful city situated on the Arabian Sea, a welcome relief to inland hot ‘n steamy (and sometimes dusty) Tamil Nadu. It was nice to be there to take in the salty air and to walk the city. We had a fun final evening touring Pondy by night and savouring the delicious food and some wine (we were now Ashram-free) and it was our final night after all. And I just have to share one inspirational message that someone was wearing on their t-shirt that I wrote in my journal – “Always believe that something exciting is always waiting around the corner!” I LOVE the message, it says it all. Namaste, go and visit India where something exciting is always waiting around the corner! What a country! I LOVED it and highly recommend the experience. Open your heart to exploring the world and its tapestry of cultures, it makes us so much more understanding and tolerant. In my travels I have realized that we are all one, we are all the same and yet we are all unique. Be the best you that you can possibly be!
Wish you were here!
Check out the complete “Be Yourself, the Best Aphrodisiac” menu
Love Dateline: Love Yourself
Where: Paris, France
When: Winter 1986
Mood: Eyes wide open drinking in the experience
This one’s for you, ‘the’ most important person in your world. What are you going to do with your one & only life? Start with you, be you, empower yourself. LOVE your life! Hope doesn’t have to be a 4-letter word, begin a love affair with your life today and “Be the change you want to see.” in the famous words of Gandhi. You are so worth it! LOVE yourself! LOVE your food and what feeds your soul! I know that’s a lot to take in, but it’s all so, so true!
Paris 1986. It was quite a year for me. I left my small hometown for Paris and ended up working for a French film actress. That was intimidating enough in itself (especially considering that she was an absolutely beautiful, stunning woman and…I had gained 20 pounds of weight during my very short time there). That’s NEVER easy to cope with. As an aside – chocolate had become my companion. I know what you’re thinking – that’s never good – but I was just so homesick (forgive me). At the same time, I met a lot of young models who had flocked to Paris to be discovered (it was the thing to do and I think still is). I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words actress or model, I’m automatically intimated and filled with a tiny little bit of insecurity. Now, here’s the thing – initially yes I admit, I was intimated, but once I got beyond the veneer, the title, the label – they were exactly the same as you or I. When I first met the film actress for my interview, she looked just like anyone else who you might cross paths with on the street (in fact I wasn’t even certain that she was who I was told she was). The same goes for the models – they just looked like everyone else – they didn’t look like the runway models that you would half-expect to see (make that fully-expect). They were just people, people with labels, people put up on pedestals, stages and worshipped, that’s all. So much of what we see on television, on the silver screen, in magazines is all airbrushed, false and pure fantasy. They are just people like you and I. Take if from me, I know, I lived amongst it. You don’t have to be an actress nor a model to feel good about yourself and be adored. Just be you, love yourself. I got beyond all of that and was just OK ‘in my own skin’ (even with my extra 20 pounds), it made my experience so, so much better. I was simply being me. In my young years, I learnt early on that people, both men and women are drawn to confidence. Pure and simple confidence. In the words of Coco Chanel, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” Final words for consideration – don’t try to be anyone else…they’re already taken.
“You Look Like Model.” Laos, Southeast Asia
I decided at the last minute that I should share this story with you as this was the one and only time in my life that someone thought that I looked like a model. Come along, pack your bags and let me take you there. Imagine if you will – I was in Laos (Southeast Asia) on a culinary exploration trip all by myself (yes, I know – how adventurous)! The thing is that I wasn’t feeling well by the time I landed in Laos. I started my travels in China where I had become ill and therefore I hadn’t eaten for an entire week (so much for my culinary adventure huh). I was weak, thin and starving. Imagine not eating for a full week, you’d be hungry as well (I know, so many sadly experience much worse than that). My mission, once I landed in Laos, was to pull myself together, take a cooking class and then hit the streets and find a good, safe place to eat. First of all, the cooking class – despite how I felt, I went anyway for the culinary learning experience (oh what I won’t do for you as a Gourmet Coach). The class was excellent as I learnt so much about delicious Laotian cuisine. The only downside was that I couldn’t eat it…I wasn’t up for it. A bite of delicious white rice was all that I could stomach. Another day, no food. Hunger pain amplified, I had to eat. The following day I asked at my hotel front desk for a dining recommendation and they directed me to a 5* Hotel conveniently located right across the street from my non-5* hotel (my hotel was more like a 2 or 3* = travelling on a shoestring budget). I decided that I should ‘look the part’ as though I belonged at a 5* hotel. Make-up applied, hair up, skirt on, stomach grumbling in hunger – all ready to go. As I strutted my stuff (make that slowly shuffled) past the Hotel Reception Desk, one of the girls who recognized me glanced up, said “Oh…you look like model.” I said “Khawp jai.” (thank you in Lao) and smiled to myself thinking “You’d look like model too if you hadn’t eaten for over a week!” What was so interesting to me was her perception of what a model should look like (media driven, I think so). I looked like ‘model’ to her because I was so paper thin (and yet inside I was so unhealthy, so frail and so sick). I ventured off across the street (looking but not feeling like a model) and slowly dined solo at the hotel’s buffet. It felt so good to eat tiny bites of food. I felt so much better, energy regained. Ahhh, OK good, I’m back on my feet. Temporarily. No I wasn’t ‘back’, not quite so fast… Yep, that’s another story…it didn’t end well after dining at the 5* hotel, but the good news is that I’m still here to tell the tale and to be your Gourmet Coach! Resilience says it all.
Watch these inspiring TEDx talks by inspirational women, you’ll be glad that you did!
Reclaiming my body and finding true love: Carre Otis at TEDxFiDiWomen
Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.
The person you really need to marry | Tracy McMillan | TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen
Dying to be me! Anita Moorjani at TEDxBayArea
The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen
Here’s a quote that I received in my inbox one day that I had to share with you: “Happiness, is what greases the wheels of life. It’s also what opens the floodgates, marshals the forces, commands the elements, raises the sun, aligns the stars, beats your heart, heals what hurts, turns the page, makes new friends, finds true love, calls the shots, waves the wand, connects the dots, feeds your mind, frees your soul, rocks the world, and pays compound interest.” The Universe