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Heaven's Banquet - Ayurvedic Cooking Made Easy

You've heard about the cabbage diet, Pritikin diet, Zone diet, macrobiotic diet (the list goes on), and you may have tried one or two of them. Most likely they left you unsatisfied, craving your favorite foods and wishing you could find an easy way to eat delicious, nutritious foods.

Well, look no further. Miriam Kasin Hospodar's long-awaited Heaven's Banquet (Dutton) — the quintessential ayurvedic cookbook — is hot off the press. It is filled with more than 740 international recipes, each one tested four times!

They are easy to follow, simple to make, delicious to taste and, most importantly, good for you. Much more than a cookbook, Heaven's Banquet is a unique guide to an enormously fulfilling way of supporting a long and healthy way of life.

Miriam is a self-described "home cook" who understands the challenges of cooking for a big family with a crazy schedule. She gathered and refined her recipes and knowledge of ayurveda over the past 20 years.

During that time, she served as chef at international courses and ayurvedic spas, where she cooked for dignitaries, students and families. She also had the profound experience of meeting with Indian Vaidyas (ayurvedic doctors) who shared their knowledge of ayurvedic cuisine with her.

We're thrilled to interview Miriam and have her clarify why ayurveda isn't a diet fad that will be here today and gone tomorrow.

MAPI: What is ayurvedic cuisine?

MIRIAM: Ayurvedic cuisine is about cooking and eating for greater balance, better health and bliss. Ayurvedic cuisine is one of the core components of ayurveda, which is the oldest health care system in the world and has been time-tested over the millennia. Ayurvedic texts emphasize the importance of food for maintaining health and happiness. The goal of eating is complete fulfillment for the individual: nourishing the senses, mind, body and spirit — which enlivens bliss in the body and in turn balances the mind and body. One method used in ayurveda to bring about this balance in the mind and body is the sense of taste. As Hippocrates once said, "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food."

MAPI: Do I have to be a vegetarian?

MIRIAM: Not necessarily. Although the long-standing tradition of ayurveda is vegetarian, every type of food will have a certain value for someone at some time. Ayurvedic cuisine respects the needs and preferences of each individual rather than trying to fit all of us into one nutritional mold. When you start eating ayurvedically, it will help enliven your body's inner wisdom. Then, your body will crave foods which pacify the Vata or Pitta doshas. Don't force. Depriving yourself of foods you are craving can create an even bigger conflict. Most important, pay attention to how you feel. Remember that your body has within it all the intelligence it needs to maintain balance. Be receptive to what it is telling you. If your craving remains insatiable, your imbalances may best be identified and treated by a health care practitioner trained in Maharishi Ayurveda.

MAPI: Can ayurvedic cuisine be classified as a low-fat diet or a sugar-free diet?

MIRIAM: Cooking ayurvedically can be both, if people need it. Different people need different things. It's easy to adjust recipes accordingly. For example, if you have a Vata imbalance, you need more sweet and rich foods. If you have a Kapha imbalance you should eat less sweets, except honey. And Kaphas need to cut back on fats and oil. At different times in our lives we may be able to eat more of one thing than another. This isn't a one-size-fits-all diet.

MAPI: I notice from your book that you bake without eggs.

MIRIAM: According to ayurveda, eggs can have a subtle effect of causing the mind to wander. So I've developed special methods for baking without eggs. All the quick breads and muffins in Heaven's Banquet are eggless. I worked 19 years on developing the world's first eggless, corn syrup-less pecan pie, and I think you'll agree — it's healthy and delicious.

MAPI: One final question, why is an ayurvedic diet healthier than others?

MIRIAM: Ayurvedic cuisine is based on a complete system of health. It doesn't have a limited focus such as "low-fat," "high-fiber," etc., which may change as new scientific research is available. Ayurvedic cuisine is based on specific principles that remain true over time. Health problems can always be traced to an underlying imbalance in the mind and body. By following the principles of Maharishi Ayurveda, you can determine which foods, tastes and herbal supplements will help reestablish balance for your mind and body.

Sample Recipes from Heaven's Banquet — cookbook by Miriam Kasin Hospodar

Miriam's Tips for Quick Ayurvedic Meals

  • Buy dry goods such as dhal, beans, grains and pasta in bulk to save extra trips to the grocery store.
  • Use a Crock-Pot® (slow cooker) to cook beans, soups, stews, Khichari (savory dhal and rice).
  • Prepare one-pot meals in a crockpot: dhal soup with barley, minestrone (with pasta added before serving), or any type of stew or soup containing dhal, grains and vegetables.
  • Add a sprinkling of olive oil and fresh herbs to pasta for a one-dish meal; add tofu, panir, or nuts for a more substantial meal.

It's well worth the time it takes to nourish your body well. Whatever time we "lose" by preparing fresh foods we may gain by adding more years to our life and more vitality and happiness to those years.

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Ghee

  • Ghee is a good source of vitamin A.
  • In recipes calling for butter, you can use 30% less ghee.
  • Ghee has a very high burning point, but a low melting point. So it stays viscous in the body in all circumstances.
  • Baked goods keep longer when cooked with ghee.
  • Ghee contains no hydogenated oils, or trans fatty acids.
  • The Charaka Samhita (an ayurvedic text on health) says ghee promotes memory, intelligence, and ojas, and improves digestion without increasing Pitta.

An Ayurvedic Sweet-Busting Tip

Here's a tip that will help you stop craving sweets:

  1. After a meal or after eating two or three dates, drink a cup of Be Trim Tea. Be sure to drink a whole cup.
  2. Now try those cookies or that yummy-looking cake that you've been wanting to snack on all day.
  3. Experience the taste of your snack. It may look good. It may even smell like it's going to taste good, but most people report that the taste is a very big disappointment.

Be Trim Tea is a flavorful blend of mint leaf, fennel seed, Indian kino, cinnamon stick, cardamom, licorice and other herbs and spices combined together in precise proportions to help slow down carbohydrate absorption and improve fat metabolism. However, it also works to help break the mind-body connection between sweets and fulfillment. Try the above tip — we're sure you'll agree.

© 1999, 2021 Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, Inc. (MAPI). All Rights Reserved. MAPI does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. See additional information.