The Ayurvedic Kitchen

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When “greening” a kitchen, we tend to concentrate on building materials and other elements that harmonize our external environment. Often overlooked, though, are efforts to harmonize our internal environment. To truly embrace natural living, think about how you can use your space to promote balance within yourself. Think about remodeling the way you procure, prepare, and consume food in your kitchen.

The ancient science of ayurveda–a 5,000-year-old healing tradition from India–offers insight into principles and practices that complement a natural home and kitchen. It offers Westerners specific tenants we can borrow to live more in accordance with nature.

Rightly Procured Food (Lalshya)

Ayurveda teaches that where our food comes from is as important as what we do with it. Focus on foods that grow in your area and eat them in season. Be sure your produce is fully ripe and at the pinnacle of freshness; a food’s vitality affects its digestibility. Fresh, local foods have the most healing qualities.

Co-op groceries, community-supported agriculture programs, and farmer’s markets are excellent ways to get sustainably produced food.

Right Preparation (Kaarana)

Eastern Indians believe the most important feature of food preparation is the cook’s attitude. Ayurvedic philosophy assumes the cook’s ability to infuse his or her food with positive or negative energy; an angry chef is more likely to prepare a meal that’s hard to digest. Often mantras are said over the food while it’s cooking, imbuing it with healing properties.

Be mindful of your mental state when preparing food. If you’re having a bad day, try playing your favorite music while you cut the vegetables. If you’re having a good day, stir that energy into your stew. Take a second to think about who you’re cooking for and what you hope the dish will provide for them.

Right Quantity of Food (Raashi)

A basic tenet of ayurvedic medicine is that the body can successfully digest only a certain amount of food at one time. Consistently exceeding capacity can lead to improper digestion and disease. Ayurveda offers a sure-fire way to determine the correct amount of food to eat at each sitting: The serving size is called one anjali. Put both hands together with pinkies touching in the shape of a bowl and imagine a rounded serving of food filling that space; that is exactly one anjali.

Right Conditions (Bhaara)

Concentrate on when, where, how, and with whom you eat. In ayurveda, the digestive process is seen as one of transformation–the food is literally being broken down and changed into molecules the body can more readily use–and, as such, we must create an environment conducive to that process. First, it’s important to eat only when you’re hungry. Second, digestion is affected by mood, so avoid eating when upset. As a general rule, ayurveda advises eating in a quiet, soothing environment with people you trust, as eating is considered an act of intimacy.

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