Eating is a fire ceremony….Say what?
Well, in Ayurveda it is understood that the foundation of your health is based on the strength of your agni, or your internal digestive fire. Agni transforms. Whether it is sensory impressions or physical food, what we take in has to be metabolized and find it’s place in the ahamkara, the I-maker of our own individual being. What is not properly digested, again whether it be food or sensory impressions or experiences, becomes ama, which is the Ayurvedic word for toxins. This is certainly understood in the west in terms of the idea of trauma, that which you are unable to process in the moment which lingers and causes dis-ease into the future until it can be properly assimilated and moved through our being.
So how is eating a fire ceremony? Each time we ingest food, something has to die for us to live. We are taking/making a living sacrifice of our brothers and sisters in the plant and animal world in order to exist as ourselves. The image above is from the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium several years back, of an altar placed out in front of the commercial kitchen where 500-700 meals (times 3) a day were being made. Each meal is an opportunity to recognize and thank the creatures that have given their lives for us to survive as well as the earth herself and her maternal generosity in providing for us all of our food and medicine for daily health and well being. Offering a short prayer or gratitude before our meals helps to remind us what a precious thing it is to be fed and nourished. It also can remind us of the native philosophy which says that whoever we eat, we join into a mutual indebtedness with, so that if we eat fish for example, it is our responsibility to preserve the life and family of those fish going into the future. Of course it is also always good to acknowledge and thank those who prepare the food and work to get it to our kitchens and tables. Hare Om. We are one. We are in this together.
Below are some recipes to offer to your inner fire with gratitude and reciprocity to lighten up, enkindle the inner flame, and burn clear through the oncoming spring season. Here is a simple blessing to say at the beginning of your meal; “Blessings on the blossoms, blessings on the roots, blessings on the leaves and stems, blessings on the fruits.”
Carrot Ginger Soup
4 cups water or vegetable stock
2tsp coriander powder
1 pound carrots
2-3 inches fresh peeled ginger root
dash of salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan begin to boil the water or stock and coriander powder. Peel and coarsely chop the carrots and add to the pot. Grate the peeled ginger root and add to the pot. Boil for 15-20 minutes on medium with the lid on, until carrots are tender. Add ghee and salt and pepper. Transfer carefully to a Vitamix or blender and blend on low and then high until smooth. Serve with Beetroot Palya (recipe below) for a gorgeous and light spring supper.
1tsp coconut oil
1tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asfoetida powder (optional)
2 cups peeled and grated beets
1/2c shredded coconut
1/2 cup water
Warm coconut oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Add mustard seed and asfoetida and fry in the oil for 2-3 minutes. Keep lid on so mustard seeds don’t ‘jump’ out. Add the beets and shredded coconut and toss to coat in oil and herbs. Add the cinnamon and salt, m ix to incorporate, then add the water. Cover again, turn the heat down to low and simmer for ten minutes.
The colors of the carrot soup and the beet palya are stunning together. They are loaded with antioxidants (which, remember, are pigments of color), and work hard to protect you from oxidation and free radicals. Plus, they are delicious!
And now, for one more, the ginger lime lassi. Dairy is best avoided during the spring, which is kapha season of cold, wet, heavy earth and water qualities, but if you indulge, make sure to use warming spices like ginger, black pepper, mustard, cumin, etc, to stoke that internal fire and burn and transform dairy into useful building blocks for healthy tissues instead of toxic ama which impedes healthy functioning of our overall system.
Ginger Lime Lassi
1/4c organic whole milk yogurt
1c room temperature water
1 inch piece of fresh peeled ginger root, grated
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp raw honey
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for 1-2 minutes. Enjoy!
The above recipes were adapted from the Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell, filled with beautiful food photos and great basic education on Ayurvedic lifestyle practices.