Friday, January 6, 2012

food not made for taste

the ideal diet protocol during panchakarma is...drum roll please...two times a day, a bowl of rice porridge and a small bowl of veg. when i first heard this i had started ghee drinking. i had one meal a day. rice porridge and veg. i noticed something remarkable. i love the porridge. i love the cabbage, opo, green bean or bitter squash, whatever veg being grown here. simply cooked. little spice. no chili. bits of coconut. that’s it. sure they use different varieties of rice for the congee. ancient varieties that are used in the countryside. still when i think about it, it’s rice cooked in a lot of water. couldn’t be simpler. yet i surprise myself. i savor every spoonful and morsel of them. there’s this natural,  subtle sweetness in veg that i didn’t notice before. and how about that nectarean after-taste floating on the palette from the bitter squash. so calming. so satisfying. i don’t feel i need any other food. i feel light and centered. just by focusing on appreciating this food it’s so effortless to be in a witnessing state. stunning. i truly have the experience what food is medicine is about. 
it surprises me that i have not experienced any craving since arriving here three and a half weeks ago.  for a start, there’s no chai here. on that note i have discovered that the common way to have tea in india, at least the places where i have been, they just dip a tea bag into hot water. back to vaidyagrama. they don’t serve tea or coffee, not even decaf. yes we do have tea twice a day, late morning and mid afternoon, but, to be accurate, they are herbal drinks. dry ginger, coriander, cardamom, tulsi leaves, sweetened by jaggery. some deep alchemy must be happening because hwubby has not experienced any gripping wanting for latte, espresso, and so on. having said that there is a running joke here that there is a secret latte stand in the bush behind the internet corner. 
so, are we actually getting the ideal panchakarma food the entire time we are here? well, the doctors are compassionate and tolerant. they understand that just getting our bodies here is already a big deal. the treatments are very intense. for a while i have to remind the mind that i might not be actively doing things like reading, writing the treatments themselves are very exhausting. this is like gutting out the plumbing and sewage in a fixer upper. as a matter of fact, dr ramkumar has a fabulous metaphor. it’s like a house that has been in need of repair and in neglect over long period of time. so before you can start doing any cleaning and repair, you need to move out of it. you can’t keep living in it and go about your life while all that gutting is going on. in fact a good contractor will say, until you are out of the house i can’t do a thing. and how about this? you think your house just needs cosmetic repair. but then when the contractor starts opening up walls and pipes he finds yucky, rotting stuff that you were not aware of. we planned a sixty grand fix up on our house. it ended up a hundred.
i digress. 
where am i? yes, regular food. unless we are in major treatments like ghee drinking, herbal enemas, purgation and the like we have three meals a day, a whole variety of food and in the words of the doctors, we can eat as much as we want. how so? because the food here is simple and pure. if we want for it’s the stomach saying, i need it. not the tongue.
for me they are delicious. couldn’t be more organic and local and seasonal than this. still it’s not what i would call strong, vibrant, bold, sizzling flavors. definitely not gourmet. they are not made for the taste. the core principle is to have the liver work as little as possible, to go easy on the digestive tract. so here ‘s another funny thing. hwubby is thrilled to hear that he can ask for more. he asks dr harikrishnan, can i have another papadam? dr says, no, that’s the only thing made for the taste. yes, there’s a time for tolerance and there’s a time to draw the line in the sand. and here’s a really funny thing. i don’t even have the desire for another papadam.
i can see the work cut out for me when i go back. a major makeover in cooking and eating habits. i don’t think i will stop cold turnkey all that yummy food out there. i can see a phenomenal transformation looming. it’s gonna be fun.

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