Cooking, eating, and improvising with ingredients goes back in human history many centuries. Our loved ones-ancestors knew well how to adapt recipes to meet their needs. For ourselves, there’s plenty to adapt to, these days. Perhaps your child or partner is allergic to garlic – or could it be wheat? Or you’re dropping food to a friend recovering from a heart attack. Or you’ve just been told your blood labs are pushing pre-diabetic. Or, you had this great idea for a meal, yet the store’s shelves are bare of three key items. Or your kids have gone on a mac and cheese fast, for the last five years. Or perhaps you’re an Ayurvedic practitioner whose clients are looking for a break from kichadi and mung dal. Or an Ayurvedic practitioner whose clients are facing the challenges above.
To adapt recipes with Ayurveda, we open to what is. We get familiar with our basic constitution (our proportions of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) and current condition (what’s not in balance now). Then we respond with the gunas (qualities, attributes) and tastes balancing to our needs. Lighten up, cool down, or get more subtle, say. It can be fun and kind of light hearted or deadly serious, however you want it to be. There’s lots of ways and styles to be able to adapt recipes with Ayurveda, as many as the number of participants in a course.
Cookbooks as Inspiration
When I first wrote The Ayurvedic Cookbook with my co-creator Mataji Desai, we were drawn to use long lists of harmonious East Indian spices and many Gujarati-inspired dishes. Thirty years later working with my colleague, photographer Renee Lynn, our focus was on short recipes, simple easy one-drink meals. Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda was the result. In between, Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners was born. Our household was getting restless with exclusively East Indian food, and so I’d begun adventuring through my tattered copy of Joy of Cooking to adapt recipes that would bring them fresh happiness.
I love to rummage through cookbooks for inspiration, often it’s the same day I need to come up with some dish for something. One culinarily delightful book I’m just starting to wade into is The Kitchen Without Borders: Recipes and Stories from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs. We’ll be playing with at least one of its recipes in the upcoming course I’m teaching online this month, Dynamics of Ayurvedic Nutrition: Adapt Recipes for Individual & Cultural Needs.
Participants are invited to bring two recipes you’d like to adapt, from any tradition. They could be from cookbooks that inspire your creative juices, or they could be treasured family heirlooms. It’s your choice.
Down to Earth Measures
To adapt recipes, sometimes it’s straightforward. You skip the garlic, or minimize it.
Or you try a gluten-free alternative to the wheat ingredient, perhaps rice flour or sorghum flour and add one teaspoon of xanthum gum to the recipe so the muffins hold together nicely.
Or you make that Ayurvedic dal for the neighbor who loves it, yet you substitute a healthy plant oil for the cholesterol-rich ghee.
You start reducing proportions of white sugar in recipes, and/or substitute organic coconut sugar. This is a familiar strategy many of us are using successfully.
You look for what you can find in your local grocery and weave that into your recipe. Or, if you live in a remote area, literally or figuratively, you search for an affordable source online.
If you’re an Ayurvedic practitioner, you take a careful look at your clients’ food journals and start brainstorming with them on how you or they can adapt recipes for themselves. Learn more about this in the upcoming course.
It’s practical and nature-based. You can adapt recipes with common sense principles, like, “ I need to lighten up. How can this recipe be lightened up?” “I’ve got a fair amount of Pitta and Kapha, I know oily quality exacerbates my issues, how do I make this recipe less greasy and still have it fly?”
We’ll be reviewing each of the 21 gunas/attributes and their effect on the doshas and digestion. We’ll look together at the six tastes and how they can dance together in a meal.
We’ll apply small tweaks to best advantage. Like adding ground coriander to a dish to sooth it and cool it down. Or rose petals and cumin to a tomato-based dish, to make it less heating and sweeter. Baking or roasting in place of frying. You can adapt recipes yourself like this, with guidance and creatively on your own.
It Can Be Fun
I’m one of those people who likes to make do. And who can’t resist messing with a recipe. You may be like that, too. Or you may be more comfortable following a recipe like playing a beautiful piece of sheet music, one note at a time, with presence. However you like to play, you’re welcome to this next course I’m teaching this month, Wednesdays, May 18 & 25, Dynamics of Ayurvedic Nutrition: Adapt Recipes for Individual & Cultural Needs. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, no exceptions. With PACE credits for Ayurvedic practitioners.
Here’s an interview with Amadea on The Healthy Peaceful Podcast with Noreen Dillman about this Adapt Recipes course. Much thanks to Noreen, natural foods chef and inspired Ayurveda educator, for her insightful observations.