Do you recall that Sex and The City episode; the one where Carrie and Stanford go to a gathering where they’re asked to remove their shoes before entering the posh apartment of the hosts? In just the slip of a shoe Carrie went from a tall stylish statuette of a woman to the short-stylish-little-woman-that-could. I thought it was so hilariously ghetto how she was dressed up in her trendiest of the trend outfit and got her shoes jacked at the door.
This was the thought what initially popped into my mind after taking a rose-scented elevator up to the Ayurvedic Vegetarian Cooking lecture I attended recently. I had arrived early and as I stood right outside the entrance I was very politely asked to remove my shoes before entering. Look at those sneakers that seem out of place…Yup those are mine! I was immediately greeted by Divya, our instructor. I could tell almost instantly she was going to be a burst of zen-ness (my first impression was spot on). As I walked in, the floors had the kind of shine and cleanliness I recall from that of a freshly waxed gymnasium at school. The faint aroma of warming spices wafted through the room making me feel as if I had entered a home and not just another cooking school.
As I sat and waited for class to begin, I was taking in all the little details of the room and with each glance I was met with soothing relaxation, so much so, that I was afraid of falling asleep during the lecture (I had already dozed off on the train ride over). But thankfully Divya offered us some sweet homemade Chai Tea. I have to admit I somehow must have missed the part on the Living Social Deal that noted this would be a lecture and not a hands-on class. In the end though, I was glad how it all turned out because I walked away with a wealth of new-to-me knowledge about the practice of Ayurveda and how food plays such an intricate role in our bodies inside and out.
I learned about the three types of Doshas (energies that circulate within the body), Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which are said to dictate the physiology of your body, like how people with high Vatas tend to be spacey, tall, and slender; Pittas tend to be firey and medium-build; or Kaphas tend to be heavier and thick-build. As she ran through all these descriptions I felt like I was constantly jumping from Kapha, to Pitta, to Vata, and back to Kapha. I resolved in the end that I seem more like a Kapha physically and emotionally vacillate between Pitta and Vata.
Once the lecture part was done Divya began preparing our vegetarian feast. We all stood around the table where she passed along the spices she was freshly grinding up for the homemade Korma Curry and lentils she was making. I had never known what freshly ground-up cinnamon smelled like; to quote one of my classmates, “It smells like I’m chewing 5 Big Reds”. It smelled nothing like the stuff I buy in a jar at the market. (note to self: buy a spice grinder PRONTO). One of the most interesting spices I encountered was Asafoetida. It literally smells like a combo of garlic and onion all at once. This spice is apparently great for digestion. I immediately loved its savory pungent smell (definitely buying it). One of the other favorite parts of the class was learning how SIMPLE it is to make your own almond milk. You literally just soak almonds in water for at least 12 hours, drain, rinse, and then add the almonds and fresh filtered water into a blender. Once it looks like a milkshake, strain it through cheesecloth or a milk-cloth and Voila! Almond Milk.
The evening wrapped up with Divya leading us in a prayer of thanks for the beautiful, wholesome, and delicious food we were about to enjoy. One thing that stood out about her prayer was how she was grateful for all the hands that had helped get this meal to us from earth to table. I know that our lives are busy. There are schedules, kids, family, friends, and all else that pops up in between, so using shortcuts to make this all possible is something we all do. But one thing that became apparently clear to me after this class was that we as an American society, more often than not, tend to be very far removed from what it takes for our food to reach our tables, and therefore we do not always truly appreciate what it is to eat a healthy wholesome meal. We end up falling prey to all the quick and easy and highly processed foods we are marketed to on a daily basis.
I was amazed at how flavorful vegetarian food could be. I could literally taste the different layers of spices in the curry; taste the nuttiness of the almonds in the rice pilaf; and taste the sweetness from the bananas and dates in the Buckwheat cake we had for dessert. But what made this meal even that more pleasurable was the love and care Divya put into its preparation. She really cooked from a genuine place and we truly felt it inside and out. If you are looking to learn about Ayurvedic and Vegetarian cooking I highly recommend Divya’s Bhagavat Life cooking lectures and classes. Her teaching style is inviting, funny, down to earth, and most importantly full of useful knowledge.