Recently I was invited to a food blessing ceremony. My yogi friends explained to me that it is called prasad, which is a Vedic ritual where food is offered to a deity (e.g., Durga, Ganesha, or Krishna). Later, the blessed food is distributed in the deity’s name to the followers. The prasad is considered to have the deity’s blessing residing within the offered food. The ceremony has a rich history of meaning in the Sanskrit tradition. I was told that the person who takes prasad should consider himself or herself very lucky—it is the most sacred object for a devotee.
The offerings were prepared by an Ayurveda chef. It was fascinating to hear his views on food. Following is my recap of that conversation and some research:
Ayurveda medicine is one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems. It was developed thousands of years ago in India. In the U.S., Ayurveda is considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine. Modern Ayurveda medicine is considered pseudoscientific.
It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease. Although laboratory experiments suggest it is possible that some substances in Ayurveda might be developed into effective treatments, there is no evidence that any are effective by themselves.
In the Ayurveda philosophy, three elements combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called doshas. They control how your body works.
The three doshas are:
- Vata dosha (space and air)
- Pitta dosha (fire and water)
- Kapha dosha (water and earth)
One dosha is usually more dominant then the other. It is believed that your chances of getting sick are linked to the balance of these doshas, and an imbalance results in disease. One Ayurvedic view is that the doshas are balanced when they are equal to each other, while another view is that each human possesses a unique combination of the doshas, which define this person's temperament and characteristics. In either case, it says that each person should modulate their behavior or environment to increase or decrease the doshas and maintain their natural state.
Vata dosha is thought to be the most powerful of all three doshas. It controls very basic body functions, such as how cells divide. It also controls: your mind, breathing, blood flow, heart function and the ability to get rid of bodily waste through the intestines.
Things that can disrupt this dosha are: eating too much dried fruit, eating too soon after a previous meal and staying up too late. If vata dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop: anxiety, asthma, heart disease, nervous system disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and skin problems.
Pitta dosh controls: digestion, metabolism and hormones linked to appetite. Things that can disrupt this dosha are: eating too much sour or spicy foods, fatigue or spending too much time in the sun. If pitta dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop: negative emotions, anger, Crohn's disease, heart disease, heartburn after eating, high blood pressure and infections.
Kapha dosha controls: muscle growth, strength and stability, weight and the immune system. Things that can disrupt this dosha are: daydreaming, eating after your stomach is full, too much salt, too many sweets and greed. If kapha dosha is your main life force, you are more likely to develop: breathing disorders (e.g., asthma), diabetes, cancer and feeling sick after eating).
The fascinating part is that Hindus figured out 5000 years ago how to eat a balanced diet. In my opinion the Ayurveda diet needs to be adjusted to someone’s a person’s particular location, since too much commercially produced dairy— e.g., ghee (clarified butter) and yogurt— in this country, with all its chemical additives, is somewhat susceptible hazardous for the overall well-being.
Ayurveda Spring Salad
Watercress & Asparagus Salad with Rhubarb on a Bed of Brown Rice
(recipe yields 4 salads)
1 bunch watercress, rinsed, with the thick stems removed, and dried in a salad spinner
1 head leaf salad such as red leaf, oak leaf or butter, rinsed and spun dry
2 cups chopped rhubarb
½ cup water
3 tablespoons agave
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cooked brown short grain rice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 lemon, juiced
4 large leaves basil, chopped
black pepper from a mill
- Combine rhubarb, water, agave, and salt in a pot and cook covered with a lid for 20 minutes on medium heat. At this point the rhubarb has the texture of a thick puree. Chill puree in the refrigerator.
- Distribute the brown rice onto 4 plates and spread it over the bottom of the plate with a spoon in a circle. Add a tablespoon of rhubarb onto each rice circle.
- Tear the lettuce into mouth-sized pieces and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and the rest of the chilled rhubarb dressing.
- Chop basil roughly and sprinkle over the rhubarb and rice.
- Mount salad on top of the rice.
Chef’s Tip: Basil is a magic herb and has endless uses in Ayurvedic cooking.