A wholesome breakfast is the basis of healthy and harmonious family life, in the same way as spices and herbs are the key to tasty and delicious food. Wondering how to impress the whole family with your cooking? If the time and place are right, as well as the circumstances, the meal can make everyone feel happy at the family table.
Healthy Body or Healthy Mind: Which Comes First?
In the rush of everyday life, it is often difficult to find a stable pillar in our lives, a haven of refuge amidst the rolling waves. The hurry, the stress, erratic weather and exhausting activities can make everyone feel depressed and worn out. It is important that we find those daily methods and easy systems that fill us with energy and make us keen and motivated.
If we belong to the fair sex and happen to be wives or mothers, it is especially important that we pay attention not only to our own health, but to that of the whole family. Mental harmony and inner contentment and peace often depend on nutrition. Empty, useless calories, or starving oneself on crash diets both make it difficult for the body to maintain optimum function—our vital force may significantly decrease. Mental freshness and a conscious, constructive lifestyle require a healthy body.
Vedic scriptures describe the relationship of body and mind as that of the dress and the person wearing it. The body is merely a dress, an outfit, in which the soul, the actual living entity, is but a guest. It is in our best interests to take care of both our body and our mental state. If we pay attention to the needs of both, the two can function together as a harmonious whole.
As for the body, we can achieve optimum health by feeding it with healthy, wholesome, delicious foods that are categorized as foods in the mode of goodness. They are vitalizing, and they improve one’s concentration and general awareness. They are juicy and ripe, rich in fats, proteins, and vitamins, and are freshly made. These delicious foods can also be nourishing for the soul when they are offered to God, or Kṛṣṇa, the all-attractive Lord, who is the source and creator of all foodstuffs. This way we may enter into a relationship of love and devotion with the source of everything that is necessary for our sustenance, including our very life and food.
Quality Time: Family Life Begins at the Breakfast Table
For the health of the family, it is of vital importance that family members feel an inner completeness in themselves and, at the same time, experience an emotional harmony with other family members. This is easily achieved if they regularly spend enough quality time together, such as taking meals together.
The shared breakfast is an important aspect of Vedic culture. Shared meals in general have a unifying effect, but the family breakfast in particular is beneficial, since it gives the day a good start. Even in temples or communities of renunciants, devotees have their breakfast together, which provides an occasion for a sociable interaction. A good breakfast is worthwhile even if we have no time to lay the table at home, but pick a good breakfast restaurant on the way to work that offers freshly-made and nutritious food for a relatively good price. If we insist that our children have a hearty morning meal and eat regularly and abundantly during the day yet moderately in the evening, we can establish a healthy daily routine for them.
Let Food Be Your Medicine
In Vedic culture, the science of cooking is inseparable from maintaining health. If a disease or health problem arises, inappropriate lifestyle or unhealthy eating habits are often to blame.
According to experts of Ayurveda, your food can be your medicine. However, in applying this maxim we have a few important rules to follow:
1. We must avoid stale, putrid, decomposed, and unclean foods, such as meat and mushrooms, as well as foul-smelling food prepared with onions and garlic, because they literally exhaust the body.
2. It is worthwhile to eat plenty of sun-ripened foods rich in protein and fibre—grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes—as they tone the internal organs and fill our body with energy.
3. It is important to take into account the physiological effects of spices. In doing so, we should rely on the recommendations and insights of experts, instead of hearsay.
4. We should pay extra attention to food hygiene and freshness: foods should be freshly made, if possible straight from the garden. They should be healthy, and handled carefully and cleanly. We should not taste the food that we later want to offer to others, even to God, but instead learn the recipes by heart and cook according to the instructions.
5. We should have our meals in a peaceful environment, without any hurry, and offer the foods to God or at least express our gratitude by saying a grace or a simple thank you before meals.
The Physiological Effects of Spices
Some say that it is best to eat foods that are locally grown and easy to get. However, there are certain spices that are best known as typical of Indian cuisine and are very effective in improving our digestion and making food tastier. When taken moderately, they can be applied as natural remedies and as supplements to our diet.
The most common spices used in this part of Europe are the typically Hungarian combination of salt, pepper, and paprika (ground sweet bell-pepper) or those which belong to the category of culinary herbs. But perfumes and flavors of exotic India were craved for even by medieval man. As a matter of fact, the discovery of America and the New World was a result of this desire. Most Indian spices are now easy to find in Hungary, and they can be stored on the kitchen shelf.
The art of seasoning in Indian cuisine has a unique tradition. Instead of being poured directly over the vegetables, spices are most often toasted in hot ghee or oil at the beginning of cooking. Put whole, dry spices in the ghee first, then ground spices, let them brown for a few seconds and then add the prepared vegetables afterward. By using this method, less spice is necessary for the dishes and the taste released from the spices is more intense and distinctive.
Spices are of many types, with both warming and cooling effects. They are ground or used whole depending on the type and intensity of the flavor required for the specific food, and the order in which they are added varies according to how quickly they brown. Dishes prepared this way will become tasty and delicious, thanks to the science of gastronomy, for the health of the whole family.
The 7 Key Spices in Vedic Cooking & Their Physiological Effects:
Coriander (cilantro): alleviates intestinal problems and improves digestion (pregnant or breastfeeding women should take its oil with caution).
Black Mustard Seed: cleanses the intestines and is a powerful fat-burner; a warming spice.
Fenugreek: Soothes the stomach, strengthens the weakened body (e.g., after childbirth), and increases lactation in young mothers.
Turmeric: Enhances liver and bile function, makes the joints flexible, and is an antiphlogistic.
Cumin: Regulates the function of stomach bacteria and improves intestinal function.
Ginger: Known as the “king of spices,” ginger has a wide range of uses. It is a cardiac restorative, reduces blood cholesterol levels, strengthens the immune system, relieves the symptoms of flu, and warms the body.
Cardamom: Antispasmodic, improves memory, heart and brain tonic, and has an anti-mucus function in the nasal and facial cavity.