I’ve heard that years ago, when folks lived out in the country. Mom and Dad and the kids used to sit down to a hearty breakfast together and enjoy each other’s company before Dad went off to harvest the fields and the kids walked over to the one-room schoolhouse. Come lunchtime, the children brought out the sandwiches Mom had packed, while Dad ate a sandwich out in the potato patch. By dinnertime the family was reunited for more of Mom’s cooking before the kids went off to bed and Dad relaxed into his easy chair to do some reading.
The family meal, once as integral a part of the day as sunrise, has hardly survived in our jet-age, urban-suburban lives. Since Dad now leaves home early to commute to the office, a communal breakfast is out of the question. As for dinner . . . well, the kids aren’t hungry anyway. They’ve been snacking on pizzas, sodas, and vending-machine fare. It’s just as well: Mom’s at night school training for a job. And those few evenings when everyone’s together, poor Mom’s bewildered. What Dad likes to eat, the kids won’t touch. And vice versa. Solution? The family heads for the nearest Howard Johnson’s restaurant so everyone can choose his own.
But there is a way to revive the family mealtime tradition (and you don’t have to move to the country to do it). If you make Krsna the center of your family, your meals will naturally become a time of happy reunion. Srila Prabhupada explains that by the process of Krsna consciousness we can make our home very happy and united. He says that we need only chant God’s names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—eat the remnants of foods offered to Him. have some discussion on books like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and engage ourselves in worshiping Him. Srila Prabhupada says that these four will make us happy and that we should train our family members in this way.
To create genuine unity in the family—or for that matter, in the community, the nation or even internationally—what’s needed is a common goal. And according to the Vedic scriptures that common goal—in fact, the goal of human life—is understanding God and learning how to love Him.
But reaching that goal is not so easy. We cannot understand God (Krsna) with our material senses because His name, form, qualities, and pastimes are transcendental. The situation is not hopeless, though, because when Krsna is pleased with us for our devotional service to Him, He reveals Himself to us. To give a crude analogy, if we want to see the President of the United States, it will be practically impossible. But if the President learns of our outstanding patriotism and wants to see us, we’ll have no difficulty. Similarly, it is useless for us to demand to see God. But we can act in such a way that God will want to see us. So the process for understanding God and learning how to love Him is devotional service, which begins with the tongue.
It may seem odd that we can begin to achieve life’s highest goal by properly using our tongue. Srila Prabhupada explains that of all the senses, the tongue is the most important. If the tongue is uncontrolled and hankers for unwholesome food, it implicates us further in material life. But when the tongue is controlled by tasting only krsna-prasadam (food that’s been offered to Krsna), then all the other senses will also be controlled. Of course, tasting is only one of the functions of the tongue. Its other function is vibrating. And that’s perfected when we chant Hare Krsna.
But how does this lead to family unity? Well, when our senses are controlled, we can think clearly. And with a clear mind we can understand that the goal of life is love for God and the process for attaining that goal is Krsna consciousness. When the others in our family are similarly convinced, life at home becomes congenial.
So, we can begin to approach the goal of human life simply by eating krsna-prasadam, and if we can share prasadam with our family, so much the better. When you and your family sit down together to relish krsna-prasadam, you’re not following some whim or sentiment; you’re following an eternal, transcendental tradition that’s scientific, practical, and a proven success.
But what about the menu problem? Dad and the kids just don’t seem to like the same things.
Well, try cooking something delicious that no one’s ever tasted before—a dish like the one accompanying this article, for instance. Then, after you’ve offered it to the Lord, you can call out to everyone in the house, “Scrambled cheese prasadam, anyone?”
By bringing your family together around krsna-prasadam, you’re doing them the highest service, because Krsna’s prasadam makes those who cat it become Krsna’s devotees. And Krsna’s devotees are ideal family members.
So if you want to bring your family together, bring them together around Krsna and prasadam. Nothing tastes better—and there’s nothing higher.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Creamy Scrambled Cheese with Braised Tomato Bits
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Ingredients for the cheese:
1 gallon whole fresh milk
½ to ¾ cup lemon juice (Makes about 20 ounces fresh cheese.)
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
scant 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 small, firm tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground coarse
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced coriander or parsley leaves
To make the cheese:
1. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly, in a 4- to 6-quart heavy saucepan. When the milk reaches a rolling boil, remove from the flame and immediately add the lemon juice. Within 15 to 45 seconds, the cheese should form into large lumps, leaving a yellowish, clear whey. If the cheese forms slowly, place the pan over the flame for a few seconds until the milk again comes to a boil and separates. Immediately remove from the flame. Pour in 3 cups of hot water and let the cheese sit for 10 minutes.
2. Line a colander with cheesecloth. Ladle the hot, white cheese into the colander. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and rinse the cheese with warm water for 5 to 10 seconds.
3. Twist the cheesecloth around the hot cheese, then place it in a colander and lay a heavy weight or large bowl of water on the cheese to press out the whey. Drain the cheese for 7 to 10 minutes. Unwrap the cheese and break it into rough, 1 ¼-inch chunks.
To assemble the preparation:
1. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a 4- to5-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame until a drop of water flicked in sputters instantly. Drop in the cumin seeds and fry to a light almond-brown color.
2. Stir in the tomato pieces and saute them until the outer skins soften and glisten with ghee but the tomatoes are still intact.
3. Gently stir in the cheese, sprinkle in the turmeric and salt, and cook for 1 minute.
4. Remove from the flame, pour in the cream, and sprinkle with black pepper. Stir gently and then garnish with the chopped coriander or parsley leaves. Offer to Lord Krsna while piping hot.
Shallow-Fried, Batter-Coated Cabbage
Rolls Stuffed with Vegetables and Farina
Preparation time: 2 hours
Servings: 5 to 6
1 young head of green cabbage, about 2 to 2 ½ pounds, trimmed Ingredients for the stuffing:
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon peeled or pureed fresh ginger root, minced fine
2 to 3 teaspoons seeded hot green chilies, minced fine or pureed
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
10 to 12 small sweet nim (curry) leaves, dried or fresh
½ cup red or green bell peppers, chopped fine
2 cups cabbage, chopped fine
½ teaspoon turmeric
¾ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Malt O’Meal (preroasted farina cereal)
¾ cup whisked plain yogurt or water
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced fine
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
Ingredients for the batter and frying:
1 cup water or whey 1 tablespoon peeled, fresh ginger root, minced fine
½ to 1 tablespoon seededhot green chilies, minced fine
3 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced fine
1 ½ cups chickpea flour
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon mild asafetida (optional)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup ghee, vegetable oil, or nut oil for shallow frying
1. Place the whole cabbage in a basket steamer resting in a large pot filled with 2 or 3 inches boiling water. Cover and steam over a medium-high flame for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the cabbage, cool it in cold water, and drain it in a colander. Carefully remove 10 to 13 large outer leaves, place each one on a cutting board, and cut away the thick mid-ribs from the base of the leaf about 2/3 of the way up the leaf; set aside. Chop fine 2 cups of the remaining parboiled cabbage. Preserve the remainder for further use.
2. To prepare the stuffing, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame until a haze forms over the surface. Drop in the ginger root, chilies, cumin and mustard seeds, and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and crackle. Stir in the sweet nim leaves and fry for about 5 seconds, then add the chopped bell peppers. Stir-fry the bell peppers until they glisten with ghee and faintly blister; add the cabbage, turmeric, and salt, and fry until the cabbage is tender-crisp, wilted, and browned on the edges. Reduce the flame to medium low, stir in the farina cereal and yogurt or water, and stir until the mixture is fairly dry. Remove the pan from the heat and blend in the minced herbs and lemon juice; set aside to cool.
3. To prepare the batter, combine the water or whey, ginger root, hot chilies, and fresh herbs in an electric blender jar, cover and blend on high speed for about 1 minute. Remove the feeder cap and slowly add 1 cup of the chickpea flour to make a smooth, pour-able batter. Transfer the batter to a 1- to 1 ½-quart mixing bowl; add the spices, baking soda, salt, and remaining flour; and whisk the ingredients into a smooth, cakelike batter. Set the batter aside for 10 to 15 minutes while assembling the cabbage rolls.
4. Open each cabbage leaf, close the cutaway mid-rib slit, place about 2 rounded tablespoons of the stuffing in the center of each leaf, and fold over to make neat stuffed rolls. If necessary, splice on additional pieces of soft cabbage leaves to make the rolls secure; place them seam side down on a plate.
5. To fry the stuffed rolls, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over a medium-high flame until the surface begins to ripple with the heat. Remove the pan from the flame. In one smooth movement, pick up a roll, fully dip it into the batter, and carefully lower it into the hot oil. Fry 5 or 6 pieces at a time for about 5 minutes on each side or until the crust is crisp and reddish golden-brown in color. Transfer the rolls with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. The rolls may be kept warm on a baking dish lined with paper toweling in a 250°F preheated oven for up to 1 hour before they are offered to Krsna.