Sharon Johnson reviews Kumud’s second cookbook, under the title ‘Our holiday eating will get a nudge.’
This year I’m going to give the preparation of traditional holiday food a little nudge.
I will, of course, roast a plump turkey and serve the big bird with long-time, family-friendly trimmings. There will be cottage cheese and lime Jell-O Salad everyone counts on, even though I’ve looked up the nutritive value and caloric content of just half a cup of that “comfort” food and am sobered by my findings.
As in past years, I will make several kinds of stuffing, the family recipe of apple-cranberry relish and, of course, my buttery mashed potatoes. Remembering as I do when my daughter broke up with her long-time boyfriend more than a decade ago and asked him: “So, what will you miss the most about our relationship?” and he responded, after a very slight pause, “Your mother’s mashed potatoes.”
Observing food-related traditions can be central to a family’s holiday happiness. I will honour that. But this is where I’d like to nudge things forward a bit. It all started when I went in search of the perfect gift for a cherished friend and I encountered Feed the Beloved Soul, a tome that focuses on Ayurvedic vegetarian eating. The author is Kumud Gokani. Yes, it’s a cookbook – and it’s so much more. It’s a story about nourishing yourself, thinking not just about what you eat, but how you eat it. And even more importantly perhaps – how you prepare the food you eat. All of it presented me with a new consciousness about eating well.
“What you eat and how you eat, so you shall become” is a statement in the preface to the book. It is followed by the sentence, “Even offering a glass of water in a loving way can deeply nourish a person and sow seeds of love, peace and friendship.” In the trying times we are currently experiencing world-wide, those words speak to me.
For the uninitiated, Ayurveda is an ancient Indian science of natural healing. I’m learning that “every herbed spice has a purpose.” I have always wanted to know how to “unleash the power of ginger” and all the ways to maximise the health benefits of turmeric and cumin. This book is guiding me. The author is a delightful, ever-smiling, ageless woman who was born in India and now lives in Ashland. Her food-preparation knowledge and skills are aided by perspectives from her retired physical/surgeon husband. In fact, it all seems all of her extended family was intimately involved in creating this, her second book.
Kumud Gokani’s philosophy centres on creating “delicious nourishment” as an act of love akin to prayer or meditation. I’m not sure what that means for their family’s holiday meals – it probably involves paneer and naan and foods like Paun Bhaji (an absolutely delicious vegetable curry).
This year, my new knowledge means more thoughtful attention to how I add spices to traditional dishes. I will slow my pace with Thanksgiving Day [or Xmas] meal preparation, allowing it to be more relaxed and less hurried. The dessert tray will have all the to-be-expected pie, along with a “halwa” made with carrots and cardamom. Feed the beloved soul – over easy.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org
Previously published in Mail Tribune, Medford, Oregon
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Below the visual story as a video of how the photos for the cookbook were created. Photos by Champak, cooking by Devapria, styling by Chetna. Location: Berringhausen, Germany.
Kumud Gokani grew up in India where she studied psychology, economics and philosophy. She lived many years in Kenya and India and cooked for Osho’s community in Pune and in Oregon (a sannyasin since 1975). She currently resides in Ashland, Oregon, USA – together with her husband Dr Gokul (Krishna) Gokani) – teaching various Indian languages, conducting cooking classes at community centres and universities. She is the author of two cookbooks, ‘Cooking with Kumud’ and ‘Feed the Beloved Soul’. www.cookingwithkumud.com