When Lord Krsna is the centerpiece,
a spiritual taste replaces mealtime romance.
by Visakha-devi dasi
Dinner for two. The words conjure up a posh candlelit scene where a romantic couple whisper sweet words over an elegant multicourse meal, while soft music plays in the background. Our heartstrings twang. If only we could find our true love and enjoy life like that.
But Lord Krsna’s philosophy pops such a bubble of illusion. According to His philosophy, what goes on in the material world under the name of love is simply lust. For example, in Annemarie Huste’s Personal Cookbook, in the chapter, “Romantic Dinners for Two,” we find, “I don’t think there’s a man alive who doesn’t love to be fussed over and pampered, and I have to admit that my very best cooking is done when I’m preparing a meal for a male. . . . I’ve had at least a dozen proposals after serving dinner.” In other words, she’s saying, “I can satisfy a man’s senses so well that he’ll want to marry me.” And she’s implying, “As soon as I stop satisfying his senses, he’ll lose interest in me.” Although we commonly call this relationship love, it’s actually lust.
There’s a gulf of difference between love and lust, like the difference between gold and iron. Lust is based on material qualities, like appearance, ability, personality, fame, wealth, and so on. Since these are temporary, the relationship based on them is also temporary. So if Annemarie forgets how to cook one day, that’ll be the end of her “love” affair.
Real love, however, is eternal; therefore only the relationship between the Supreme Lord and His devotees deserves to be called love. But at present we have forgotten this relationship. We’re covered by a material body and living in the material world—where a man needs a woman and a woman needs a man. So it’s natural that a man and woman will want to spend time together and share their meals. If they’re Krsna conscious, though, they will share not just food but prasadam, vegetarian dishes that have been offered to Lord Krsna. And when they converse, the central topic will be Lord Krsna and His philosophy, service, pastimes, and glories. By keeping Krsna in the center, even while involved in an apparently material relationship, a man and woman make spiritual progress.
But sometimes a problem may arise. Say my husband is interested in spiritual life—he wants to eat prasadam and talk about Krsna—but I couldn’t care less. Then what?
Well, for one thing, he could ask me to cook some of the dishes featured on these pages each month. He could even help me cook them. And as we cooked he could explain that the ingredients have been provided by Krsna and that devotee-cooks have prepared these same dishes for thousands of years. He could also explain that cooking for Krsna, offering the prepared foods to Him with devotion, and tasting this offered food—the prasadam—stimulates our dormant love for Krsna. Through krsna-prasadam, we can come to enjoy our original, blissful life.
If my husband and I got really ambitious, then instead of making just one or two dishes, we could try making a whole meal for Krsna’s pleasure, like the one in the photo. By keeping Krsna in mind as we cook, offer, and eat this meal, we’ll be rewarded with the most precious gift: Krsna consciousness. It’s that easy and painless—even for a stubborn wife like myself. And it can give the relationship between a man and a woman a solid foundation—one that’s based not on the lust to gratify our own senses but on serving, pleasing, and loving the Supreme Lord.
½ cup skinless urad dal (try an Indian grocery store)
¼ to 1/3 cup water
1 ½ tablespoons scraped, minced fresh ginger root
½ tablespoon minced fresh hot green chilis
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon mild asafoetida powder
10 small, broken fresh curry leaves
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter) for deep frying
1. Sort through the dry dal beans and remove any foreign matter. Wash the beans in a bowl of water. Drain and wash 3 or 4 more times until the water remains practically clear. Soak the dal in 2 cups of water for 3 to 4 hours. Drain in a wire sieve.
2. Combine the dal and ¼ cup water in an electric blender and blend at high speed for 30 seconds. Turn off the machine, scrape the dal with a rubber spatula down the sides of the jar toward the blades, and blend again. Repeat until the beans are reduced to a thick, smooth puree. Add only enough water to facilitate the blending.
3. Transfer the dal paste to a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and mix well. The paste should be thick enough to hold its shape. If necessary, add small amounts of urad flour or wheat flour to stiffen the paste.
4. Heat the ghee or oil over a medium flame in a 12-inch wok or 2-quart saucepan until the temperature reaches 310°F. Moisten hands with a light film of oil or ghee. Put about 1 ½ tablespoons of the paste into the left hand and roll it in the cup of the palm to form a slightly flattened patty. With the right thumb, press a hole in the center to form a doughnut. Gently transfer the doughnut to the fingertips of your right hand and carefully slide it into the hot oil or ghee. Shape and fry about 5 or 6 badas at a time, allowing enough room for the dal cakes to swell slightly.
5. Fry the badas for 4 or 5 minutes on each side, or until they turn golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to absorbent paper. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and keep warm in a 250° oven until time to offer the badas to Krsna. They are delicious with a few tablespoons of moist, fresh coconut chutney.
String Beans with Fresh Coconut Pulp
(Barbatti-Nariyal Ki Sabji)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon skinless urad dal, if available
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh green chilis
½ to 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
8 to 10 small curry leaves, if available
1 pound tender green beans
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh grated coconut pulp
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons minced fresh coriander or parsley leaves
1. Trim the green beans, slice into ½-inch pieces, and steam for 10 minutes.
2. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a 10-inch frying pan or wok over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked in sputters instantly. Add the raw urad dal, black mustard seeds, minced ginger, and chilis, and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop.
3. Drop in the curry leaves and immediately follow with the steamed green beans. Sprinkle in the turmeric, salt, coconut pulp, sugar, and a few drops of water. Stir, lower the flame, cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
4. When the beans are tender and dry, add the coriander or parsley leaves and toss lightly to mix. Offer to Krsna while hot.
Tamarind-Flavored Puree with Vegetables
Preparation time: 1 hour Servings: 5
This is a South Indian sauce or soup traditionally featuring a blend of three ingredients—arhar dal, tamarind pulp, and a special spice powder called sambar masala.
Ingredients for the arhar dal:
¾ cup unboiled arhar dal 5 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1. Sort, wash, and drain the dal as directed for the dal in the Urad Bada recipe.
2. Combine the dal, water, turmeric, salt, and ghee in a 3- or 4-quart saucepan and bring to a full boil over a high flame. Reduce the flame to medium and gently boil, partially covered, until the dal beans are tender and soft.
Ingredients for the sambar:
1-inch ball of tamarind pulp
1 cup hot water
½ cup dried or fresh shredded coconut, packed tight
½ cup cold water
4 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
½ tablespoon black mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, if available
1 teaspoon mild asafoetida powder
½ tablespoon sambar masala 12 to 15 curry leaves, if available
1 cup string beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup carrots, cut into ¼-inch rounds
2 small tomatoes, cut in small chunks
1 small eggplant, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1. Soak the tamarind in the hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind through your fingers to separate the pulp from the seeds and fiber. Pour the mixture through a sieve, pressing out all of the juice and discarding the seeds and fiber.
2. Place the coconut and ½ cup of cold water in a blender. Cover and blend on high speed until smooth.
3. Heat the ghee or oil in a 4-quart saucepan over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked into it instantly sputters. Stir in the black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and asafoetida, and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop.
4. Add the curry leaves, string beans, carrots, eggplant, tomato, and sambar masala and stir-fry for about 10 minutes. Pour in the tamarind pulp and coconut puree, partially cover, and gently boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
5. Pour the cooked dal into the vegetables, stirring constantly, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with fresh minced herbs and offer to Krsna.