Indian ‘Light’ Inspired Blog
“Spreading love, one recipe at a time!”
The back-story that inspired the recipes that inspired the menu. Foodie stories with adventure and sometimes intrigue, co-mingling together! Let me take my paintbrush, paint the scene and the mood to take you to this wonderful, alluring country. With every bite comes a memory; it’s all about experiencing a captivating journey…
Inspired Quote to love by: “It is love that makes the impossible possible.” ~ Indian Love Proverb
Where: Southern India, An Ashram
When: January 2013
Mood: Happy Explorer
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 “Indian Ashram Inspired” menu