My passion for cooking began at a young age. Even as a child, I could guess what was cooking, just by the aroma! You see, my mother is an exceptionally great cook. She cooks every meal with devotional attention. I would be blown away by the dishes cooked by my mother, overflowing with the flavors of cardamom, saffron, turmeric and other rich and fragrant spices. I would hurry back from school, knowing a simple but divine meal awaited me and my younger brother and sister. We kids would all laugh and chat as we ate our after-school meal, and our mother would look on with satisfaction, knowing in her heart that every single ingredient from her recipes, was going to transform into a blessing! My tryst with food continued as I grew older and my mother saw my fascination with the cooking process. She gradually asked me to accompany her to the vibrant and colorful local farmer’s market and showed me how to choose the freshest vegetables by looking, touching and smelling them. I learnt to use my intuition and also select, mix, roast and grind spices to perfection. I even stirred her magical pots once in a while, from which would emanate delicious aromas and she would smile and share a secret tip. As I hung out in the kitchen with her (after my homework) I recognized a certain happiness or shall I say contentment in my heart. I did not know then that my mother’s kitchen, her recipes and the magical flavors to everything she touched, were becoming part of my Chef-DNA! She continues to teach me till today and I often call her to ask “how she did it!”
THE CITY THAT SHAPED ME
THE CITY OF FLAVORS
Lucknow is a cultural and artistic hub, in northern India. The city and its signature Awadhi cuisine influenced me tremendously. Lucknow became home to settlers who originally arrived from Persia in the fourteenth
century, slowly the immigrant flavors blended with the native Hindu/ Vedic palette, and a unique Awadhi cuisine emerged. This cuisine blends well with Ayurveda principles and that is why my preparations are delicious yet healthy! As a young man, I would often venture out through the city, tasting the snacks offered by street vendors under trees on the byways and in the hidden alleys of Lucknow. These food joints were often run by families cooking recipes over several generations. I would talk to the chefs, and by and by they came to know me as the young lad with infinite curiosity about recipes! They would not only feed me but also share their food history and I cherish those memories. These gustatory impressions too are part of my cooking today! I don't have to read books to create recipes, I check into my heart and out pops a memory!
My life partner Acharya Shunya is a master teacher of Ayurveda, a sister science of Yoga, wherein food is treated as medicine into itself. When I married Shunya over twenty years ago, I did not know that my interest in cooking flavorful dishes, would reach another level and my passion for cooking, would find a whole new direction, and a whole life purpose that includes teaching, promoting and preserving an ancient Indian healing cuisine - the Ayurveda cuisine.
Ayurveda believes if your diet is right no medicine is needed and if your diet is wrong, no medicine can help. Very soon after our marriage, I found myself becoming fascinated with Ayurvedic cuisine (because that’s what we ate at home), and I started devouring Ayurveda source texts in Sanskrit that go back to 2 BCE. The texts are full of amazing and uncannily accurate information on the use of healing spices, seasonally appropriate foods, rules of healthy cooking and tons of body-healing, mind-pleasing, joy-evoking recipes. I was saddened to find that Ayurveda’s amazing cooking principles are being wrongly interpreted and even trivialized in the twenty-first century, and its recipes are being forgotten with the march of time. I took it upon myself to represent this ancient cuisine, in all its authenticity. Through Vedika Global, a not-for-profit teaching and learning foundation that my wife and I co-founded, I have shared over 200 Ayurvedic recipes to my global student community, archiving traditional approaches to healing with foods. We have also documented countless testimonials of improved health and wellbeing as a result of eating the delicious but deeply healing Ayurveda cuisine.