Travels in India: Food Edition

imageIn case you haven’t noticed, I like food, all aspects of food; from thinking about it, making it, eating it, dissecting a dish to recreate it, looking at it, trying new tastes, and sharing it with all. It is my most accessible creative art form, and I like to care for people by feeding them. So when I get dropped into a vegetarian’s dreamland of flavors and new tastes, I’ve reached nirvana.

A little back story on the many stages of what can be called “diets”, I have gone through to arrive at this now interesting mix of healthy vegetarian. Of course I started out eating meat and thankfully I’ve tasted that delicious culinary world, but my body asked me to change directions into vegetarian.  Thankfully I still have no qualms about skipping a whole category of meat inspired flavors and if my body decides meat is back on the menu, ill listen. I’ve been pescitarian (veg + fish), vegan, juiced, raw, and even skipping food all together for two weeks to try fasting. All of these experiences and seeming boundaries have only added to my love of food. The quest to eating healthy has added new foods and creativity into my diet and I’ve arrived with a good foundation of what my body wants and many delicious ways to get there. The only key to eating healthy is to listen deeply to your body (not the mind), each one is different and no set rules will always apply. How to listen? See meditation.

On my most interesting food journey, fasting, I happened to attend a feast and just watched everyone consume every delicacy. Food went in and conversation came out, but I can’t say anyone was more present than I, to appreciate the smells, looks, and possible tastes. I had an interesting perspective on that particular meal and I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed food more than being present for that experience in which I couldn’t use taste. Its the fabled popcorn down the hall smell. Never does it taste so good as when you know you wont actually eat it. Of course actually tasting food is generally more enjoyable, but learning to really be present with your food, to enjoy all aspects of it, even the mental aspects is a lesson well learned. I use a good adage “Eat every bite like the first”; Don’t rush through the meal, explore each bite with your eyes, then your mouth and taste buds, be present with each bite and be careful to watch when you eat for enjoyment or when your pleasure center in the brain takes over and eating just becomes routine, another pleasure button for lab mice. My original adage was “eat every bite like the last”, which helped me slow down, but then the meal is always over, instead of a new adventure beginning each time you lift your fork. This helps with enjoyment and portion control and never leaves you wishing for more, because each bite was a lifetime.

imageSo enough about eating in general, the Travels in India: Food Edition can officially begin and what could be better for a vegetarian foodie than traveling to India? Not only are the menus extensive and different from region to region, but you just can’t beat the prices. I thought I liked Indian food before going abroad, but after eating my fill, I honestly only want more. Thankfully I have been able to sample most of the world’s cuisines, but I must say I could eat Indian food every day.

India is known for their curries or gravies and masala. Curry, being an English word to describe every sauce that comes out of an Indian kitchen and masala, an Indian word meaning every spice known to humanity. So when you read the words ‘masala curry’ you couldn’t be less descriptive. Thankfully the Indians have color coded their gravies as white, brown, orange, red, and two descriptions on consistency being thick or saucy. They kindly also tell you what main vegetables (or meats) are included being aloo, mutter, paneer, gobi, and palak (potato, peas, cheese, cauliflower, and spinach). So armed with this colorful array of descriptions you spin the wheel of deliciousness and see what comes out.

imageI had the unique food privilege to be located in one town for 3 months and thus worked my way through most of the menus at my favorite places. This became a challenge and a goal because almost everything new I tried became my new favorite dish. Once I discovered a new delicacy or sauce, I tried the same at the other restaurants to see who made it best. Many times I was surprised that it could be better, but often I found that the same dish could vary widely in flavor almost making it something completely different. Already at a disadvantage at figuring out how to recreate these masterpieces I had to settle for pictures and names and hopefully find recipes later.

I fell in love with one sauce at my favorite place, the “Yogi Tree”. They serve this sauce in a variety of dishes so I could vary the contents. The dish I started with is called “Malai Kofta” which are basically veg meatballs drenched in sauce. This dish is served all over, but nowhere else did I find the sauce to be better than here. Over the many times I ordered this dish I befriended my waiter and he tried to sneak the recipe out of the chef. Not being a chef himself, he came back with a basic list of ingredients and no cooking instructions. I think I shed a few tears over that sad development, which only means I have to figure it out on my own. The problem with making your favorite Indian restaurant dish at home is technique and the masala spice mix. Everyone uses a different mix which is near impossible to make exactly again and thus every dish will be different. Many restaurants even use premade boxed masala mixes which can help the home chef, but only if you can keep on buying it!

Other favorite dishes that soon came forth as clear winners:

1 The famous Malai Kofta, slathered in sauce, topped with ghee and cream for good measure. Best served with naan.

Torey Malai Kofta 12 Masala Dosa. A very thin pancake made in part with rice batter, served with spiced potatoes in the center. Can come as big as 1 meter long.

Torey Dosa3 Various sauces of spiciness. The green one is spinach sauce, which is always fantastic.

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Torey Mix plate 24 Tali. Served home style with a couple vegetable choices, dal, rice, and chapati. Real home cooking

Torey Tali5 Masala Papad. Unleavened flat bread topped with various goodness, tastes a lot like a mexican pizza

Torey Masala Papd6 Cardamom Parantha. Like a European pancake with a delicious layer of caramelised apples and onions in the middle topped with fruits and cream.

Torey Parantha7 Fried lotus root in a sweet and sour sauce. Not Indian food, but this was so good I went out of my way several times to eat a whole plate of it.

image8 They even serve a pretty good pizza

Torey PizzaIndia also has its own category of bread called naan. There are other similar choices such as chapati, roti, parantha, and papad; all of which are used to scoop up sauce and deliver it to your mouth instead of your other choice of flavored rice or the old standby of using your fingers. India also like the rest of the world has croissants, generally more like a roll in the shape of a croissant. They do their best to copy the french delicacy, but I think they missed the memo that more butter is the key.

“There is no cheesecake in India!” – Torey Julian

This quickly became an inside joke as many places served what is clearly labelled as cheesecake. While it may indeed contain cheese (among who knows what else), these dense dry cakes clearly cannot be compared to cultures that actually have cream cheese, which is what is used in making the famous New York Cheesecake. So whenever India served us a western cuisine dish with what we would have expected to be of a certain texture and flavor and which had been clearly Indian-ized, all you could say was “There is no cheesecake in India!”

Torey Sizzle Brownie

*Sizzling Brownie

I did find some wonderful desserts though. I managed to try every apple pie and brownie in town and happened upon a really good carrot cake. Some places knew how to work with chocolate and some clearly did not. Our favorite was the sizzling brownie served on a hot plate with chocolate poured over the whole thing. It sizzles, it smokes, it makes chocolate lava and melts all the ice cream as you dig in trying not to burn your mouth too much.

Torey Popo brownie face

*After consuming your brownie you may be possessed to attack your neighbors brownie.

Both contenders for best apple pie

Torey Apple Pie 1

imageIts always sad to realize when you leave a place that you forgot to take pictures of the most routine things. For instance my favorite breakfasts have been completely forgotten, even though I ate them every day for 3 months. This includes:

Poha: A delicious yellow rice with lemon and spices with potatoes.
Sago: Tapioca pearls sautéed in sesame oil with peanuts and curry leaves (this is a very chewy dish, which I called the most meditative to eat).
Idil and Sambar: Little Indian rice buns served with a coconut gravy and sauces.
Uttapam: An Indian pancake with onions, tomatoes, and fresh herbs on top.

As I sit here salivating over my own memories, I can already taste my next trip to India and the wonderful tastes ill encounter.  Blessings to your own culinary adventures and may you be lucky enough to visit India (or try your local Indian joint).

Health and Energy management, with your awareness.

Continued from Sweden Part 1:
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You have an amazing power within you. With your awareness you can participate with your body in a relationship of understanding to maintain and promote optimal health. You must cultivate this power with patience and trust, but once you have a degree of how it works the possibilities are endless. To be in communication with the signals from your body, the vehicle in which you express your beingness, extends far beyond being physically healthy.   I will attempt to contain the scope of information to physical health, but remember this process applies to every area of your life, including mental, emotional, and spiritual.  It is my sincere hope that you learn to use and master your “emotional guidance system” as coined by Esther and Jerry Hicks.

I dont get sick.  Not ever and I just dont believe in it.  Meaning I believe in my health, and that I am always healthy.  I am not so foolish to think that pathogens do not enter my body and are fended off by my immune system.  I believe in a healthy and perfect immune system.  Obviosuly self re-enforcing experiences promote this conclusion and I support what currently is or I would create something better.  However I see people in various degrees of sickness all the time.  Sick in bed, sick at work, sick at school, apathetic kinds of sick and serious kinds of sick, pain so overwhelming manners go out the window and you would donate this pain to your best friend if it would just go away.  There are other kinds of sick as well, sick of working, sick of monotany, even sick of living I am sure.  Understand that the physical world is the slowest state of vibration. Meaning slowest to change and typically the last place for symptoms to show up. Higher vibrations such as mental or emotional forms are always the source of illness in the body, long ignored and thus manifested physically.   What sickness comes down to in my understanding is probably just two things.  Inability to manage vital body energy, and the inability to listen to your body signals.  

Vital body energy is your available energy to function and includes all your biological processes.  If you run out of this energy, you would be left without any resources to do much of anything.  If you can recall the last time you were sick in bed, perhaps you understand what it is like to have no extra energy other than be at the end result of the disease doing battle with your immune system.  You probably lack the energy to move much, eat, read, use brain power and manage anything but resting.  You may even feel like dieing, metaphorically of course, but this feeling isnt so far from the physical truth.  Managing your vital energy then is to never let it fall below a point where you are at the mercy of required body functions.  With regard to health, if you maintain enough energy you will never have the physical experience of being sick.

Your major energy souce is obviosuly the intake of food converted to energy via digestion and surplus energy stored  in your body.  Other sources are more intangable.  We all live within an energy field and are constantly interacting with it.  Think of all the electrons holding your body together, this constitutes a field.  One major source of energy is the Earth itself.  Placing your bare feet on the earth instantly connects you to a flow of free electrons which naturally settle in your body to balance out the particles missing them.  Similar to this source is contact with all living and non living entities.  Huging a tree, embracing a human, petting the cat, touching stones, making dinner or anything else you come into contact with exchanges energy that can bring energy into your system or give it away. Think at the atomic level, everything your hand touches instantly connects to and then seperates from the electrons of the object being touched.  Having communicated in some tangable way the sensation of the object to your hand (Hard, soft, cold, warm, rough, smooth, etc.)  That is energy and information moving in the field, giving you valuable sensations and guidance.  This transfer of information is happening with everything, all the time and understanding it will allow us a measure of control in our response to new signals.

Energy loss similarly occurs in many ways that are obvious and some that are more subtle in nature.  Using your body physically and mentally requires the largest costs of energy and this is to be expected.  40% of your energy costs may go into using your brain for complex thought processes alone, with major contributions to digestion, elimination, and muscle recovery following up.  Im going to lump the other costs into one category: stressors.  Any time you are in a state of resistance you can easily feel the sensation of it.  Stress is basically a chronic state of energy loss. Whether these are physical stressors such as ingesting toxins or emotional stressors from work or relationships, they cost you energy.

Maintaining vital body energy then is gathering and retaining enough energy in your system than all the stressors costs you.  To be feeling rundown would be to cost yourself enough energy that you dip into the red and spend more energy on physical or emotional stressors than is being balanced by energy input.  To become sick is the same state, but you introduce a disease process into the mix.  This creates a physical experience of pain or suffering felt immediatly in the body without resources at your disposal to change the circumstance.  Thus finding the proper balance of energy, will keep you from this low energy experience and in a state of health.  To know if you are in a proper environment, by environment I mean a physical, emotional and mental state of being stress free, falls to your wonderful internal system of signaling that is constantly informing you moment to moment of your energy state and your environments effects on you.

Listening to your body signals and emotions:
How often does that little voice in your head suggest something to you?  How often do you listen?  More importantly how often do you act upon that suggestion?  Training your awareness to listen to this internal guidance and intuition starts building the foundation of understanding the energy changes happening to your body at the moment of occurance.  They need not be ‘voices’, any pang, poke, buzz, stab, flutter, gut instinct, emotional state or any sensation at all is the same thing.  This is a process of trusting small seemingly insignificant messages which are actually the continual state of change which you can tap into.  Your body is designed to be a reciever of this information always, but your active participation and awareness are needed to do anything useful with this information.  The key is to start acting on each piece of information.  You dont go from getting advice such as exercise a bit more or slow down on the drinking, to major knowledge overnight.  This is because if you cant listen to the easy changes, managing a big change which might turn various areas of your life upside down for a bit, would end up costing you more energy than staying in your current state of misery. (But really they are all small changes depending on your viewpoint…shhh)

This is exactly what happened for me and my diet.  I had begun to listen to my body and started working on some smaller changes and things were begining to change.  I was sitting on the couch one evening and this plesant sensation sprang on me out of nowhere.  Soon my own voice spoke to me in my head and said “How would you like to be vegetarian?”.  It didnt really use the word vegetarian, it was a bigger concept all rolled into a simple meaning that was transmitted to me.  That is one clear indicator of true inner guidance, it speaks in concepts.  I understood at once, without words, that if I follow this advice this plesant feeling would be a part of a lifestyle of eating healthier and more in tune with my body’s wishes.  It didnt even take me half a thought to say yes and thus started the moment I have been meat free.  I looked back on this event from a few months down the road and it was amazing the transformation that took place.  I didnt even have a last meal, cannot remember the last piece of meat I ate or have I once craved or desired meat since.  I feel sorry for anyone that makes such a lifestyle decision for purely mental reasons and struggles against their body signals.  

I gained more than I thought in that moment.  I had been wanting to cook more, eat healthier, and experiment with varied cuisines.  These were all little desires in my head and I was trying to work with them, but only in small ways.   Switching a staple food from my diet instantly forced me in the best possible way to explore new foods and styles and I have been forever happier from this experience.  The same process occured when alcohol left my life.  Had you told me at the begining I wouldn’t be eating meat, drinking or eating French fries anymore I might have told those voices no way.   I needed enough energy to manage the transformation, and enough trust in the guidance to see it through.  What really costs you is the resistance from outside sources such as established habits, friends and environments that attempt to keep you in stasis with how you used to be.  Having enough energy to stick with your body’s guidance no matter the criticism or disbelief or advice from others that contradicts the information you have received is really the test.

In my recent case in Sweden, I was opening a stuck emotional and energetic space in me that was ready to be cleared.  Whatever the cause, physical or emotional, the signals roughly tend to be similar.  The day before I noticed early on the extra demands for energy.  A lack of enthusiasm, a diminished vocal capacity and need to express myself in speech, slight muscle ache as my body repaired itself slower.  I understood that a process was happening to me, that this was going to require energy, my participation was requested, and thus I acted accordingly.  I cancled all my plans, I rested and I fasted*.  I could easily have kept along with my plans, I would have been tired, but I could have kept going like so many people do day in and day out.  Never feeling their best, but certainly can go on.  Despite our belief that multitasking is efficient and a skill to be honed, we can actually only process one task at a time.  Human beings are only very efficient at ‘switching’ between tasks rapidly which looks like multitasking.  Thus instead of multitasking and taking on the job of processing this healing phase and continuing about my daily life I chose the higher priority: My health.  My health is my number one priority, because without health the possibility to enjoy life is drastically diminished.  That isnt to say I am perfect, but when I am aware enough, I make the best choice available to my understanding.  I gave my body one day and all my energy to literally transmute something physical needing to be changed and woke up the next day perfectly recovered and ready to ride some roller coasters.  Why this particular process required so much energy and a physical response I may never know, but I have been living in and experiencing the new (actually old) emotions coming out of this space and gaining more awareness into my inner world.  If you ever find yourself heading towards a healing phase or see the signs of an oncoming sickness, pay attention and perhaps the this information will be of use.

*Fasting: There is substantial research on the effect of fasting for health.  A typical human body can go around 30-90 days without food before the demand for sustenance returns.  During this abstaining process the substantial demands of energy for digestion are instead used for healing and house cleaning purposes.  Many miraculous healings are attributed to following a fasting regimine under physician guidance.  A short fast of 3-10 days can improve many simple ailments and knock out simple sicknesses if started early and ample rest is added.
  
Steps to start managing your energy and signals:

-Energy coming into your system:
The nourishment you consume is directly the energy that will be available to you.  You are literally what you eat as it becomes the building blocks of new cells.  Eating as clean as possible will allow your body to easily digest the food and turn it into energy.  This is your one real responsibility concerning managing your body directly, everything else is mostly an internal process handled without your conscious involvement.  Remember, digestion costs energy, thus eating properly mixed foods, light on time consuming meat products will leave you with energy after digestion and will not cost you a nap (think of the thanksgiving nap effect of over eating).

-Remove all artificial products from your diet.  High on the list is artificial sugars, chemicals and msg.  Not only does your body treat these substances as toxins and thus must expend extra energy to contain and expel them, they are neuro toxins inhibiting your brain’s normal signals.  This physically reduces your awareness over such body signals as satiation, craving, addiction, and signs of distress.  If those chemicals didnt give your brain a boost of pleasure, you would feel immediatly the toxic effects of these substances rather than feeling the effects at a delayed response.  Read your labels!  If you consume many processed and packaged foods or fast food, tough as it might be to change your habits, try to eliminate as many of these energy costs as possible.

-Reduce your intake of meat.  
Muscle fibers are the toughest food substances for the body to break down. If you want more energy available to you the first place you can recover some is from reducing the work load on your digestive system.  Most meats take up to 14 hours to fully break down, so remember to really chew.  Several studies have shown that meat and dairy consumption over a certain limited amount may cause many of the “Western Diseases” due to inflamation such as coronary disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.  Your body is an amazing machine able to digest much of the variety of foods ingested across the globe.  However too much of certain foods your body already spends a lot of energy digesting actually reach a point where your body goes into defense mode rather than digestion, storing these extra toxins as fat because it cannot expel the material quickly enough without auto intoxicating. 

-Try switching as much of your dairy intake to non cow sources such as goat.  Goat dairy lacks the casien protien found in cow milk which studies show human beings have a hard time digesting. This is also why babies are given goat milk if the mother cannot provide. 

-Reduce drastically or permanently alcohol use.
As for alcohol, moderation is key. Unless you are seriously committed to retaining every bit of energy and awareness, alcohol will continue to cost you some degree of energy and will, as its primary effect reduce your awareness.  These effects resolve themselves usually by the next morning and based on your desire to be more aware, consumption is at your discretion.  

-Begin to meditate.
Any kind of meditation will serve the purpose here, which is to pay more attention to your state of being.  Stop for a moment and really check in with your body.  Really feel what is going on there.  You live in this amazing thing and the amount of senses it contains which are always giving you feedback is astounding.  Having a clear mind really helps with this, but isnt required to begin to benefit.  Your body knows what is needed at all times to be in a state of health and is constantly trying to tell you.  There will be no major roadsigns or sheets of instructions.  There will be subtle sensations and feelings, always guiding you towards the one state of health if you choose to listen.  Our minds and egos would love to do steps 1-2-3 and be finished, but managing our energy is a moment to moment responsibility.  

-Learn Kinesiology, also known as Muscle Testing.
If you are seriously interested in learning a direct technique to ask your body questions and get answers then this is the method for you.  It requires two people to be done, but it can be learned to be done solo.  This technique tests the energy state of the body in response to a stimuli.  There is a small amount of electricity in the body at all times.  If a positive stimuli is tested on the body it will remain strong, likewise if a negative stimuli is tested, it interupts your circuitry and your body will go weak.  It’s pretty cool once you experience it for yourself. The trust comes when something gives you a negative response, perhaps something you like to eat, will you remove it from your diet or not listen to the information your body gives you? Things may change again in the future, but if you cannot experiment with changes in your habits and exercise some self control to see things change then hold onto this technique until you are ready.  I will devote an entire post to this single topic as I use it every day of my life.  In the mean time please read David Hawkins “Power Vs. Force” which is certainly at the top of the list in being informative as to the studies and power of this technique.  The begining is a bit heady on the science, but then it mellows out into easy reading.
 
Once a certain degree of communication is reached between your body and awareness, the process becomes automatic.  You will feel the instant something goes off or goes right.  You can then at that moment start a new process of self discovery into the cause of the change.  Did something I just consume cause a noticable difference?  Did my environment change in some way?  Did my emotional state just change?  Am I feeling my best, and if not what can I change?  These changes are happening all the time, below the surface of common awareness.  To give them the attention they deserve is the first step in listening to what they tell you.  Which leads to following what guidence you understand.  This will leave you with a better internal communication system, better health and the knowledge that you can always take care of yourself because the guidence is always present and speaking with you.  Your body is the very instrument, like a string always vibrating.   

“Remember this pain is not to cause you suffering, this pain is to make you more aware!”  -OSHO

Become more aware and pains of all sorts begin to melt away.  Other pangs and pains may appear to guide you as your new guidance system develops which is how I mostly receive my guidance.  Leave the judgements at the door and be thankful for any sensations in your body. They are all messages whether ‘painful’ or ‘pleasurable’. Gaining a greater degree of physical health leads inevitably to greater emotional, psychological and spiritual health.  You have started on the journey.  Blessings.

-Other resources for further research
Most of this information first reached my understainding by books and recommendations.  Here are many that fit within this topic and I hope they help you as much as they did me.
– www.earthing.com – Products for grounding your body inside a home or workspace to gather those free electons.  I use one of these everytime I work on a computer and I sleep with one of these every night!
– Ask and it is Given, By Esther and Jerry Hicks –  Teaching by Abraham about using your emotional guidance system to manifest anything you want, including your health.  Another comprehensive resource on listening to your body signals.
– Green for Life, By Victoria Boutenko – The importance and ease of including a green smoothie in your diet to fulfill your actual nutritional needs.  This is like rocket fuel when consumed for breakfast!
– Fasting and Sunbathing, By Robert Shelton –  The resource on fasting.  Dr. Shelton has supervised over 50,000 water fasts for health and healing of disease.  http://www.soilandhealth.org/02/0201hyglibcat/020127shelton.III/020127.toc.htm
– Forks Over Knives, Film.  Information about the health benefits of eating a whole foods, plant based diet to combat many “Western Diseases” that we face today.  Covers research from two prominent scientists and the China Study.  
– The China Study – http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Study
 A 20 year comprehensive study into nutrition and its effects on humans.