People dear to me know that I have been a life-long health nut-food-hippie. My mom shopped at the natural food co-op from the seventies onward… I’ve been to Wholefoods in at least 25 different towns. I am particular (picky) and meticulous… and cook nearly every single meal. I prefer eating at home to eating in restaurants, where I know what the source and quality of the food is.
But sometimes, I’m traveling, or out and it is meal time, and you go to a cafe or restaurant and among the few vegetarian items on the menu, the restaurant happens to be out of what seems like the healthiest option.
This past weekend, finding myself in this circumstance, my eye caught the kids’ menu!
I’m pretty sure that it has been 15 years since I’ve eaten peanut butter. If there is any nut butter around it is something healthier and less pitta-agravating like Cashew Butter or Sunflower Butter or Almond Butter. But there it was… peanut butter and jelly on wheat toast with french fries.
So that is what I ate for lunch! And in fact, it was delicious.
Ayurveda is not about being perfect, neurotic, picky… simply know the basic ideals and do the best you can. Ayurveda embraces food and nature, and encourages that you open your heart and mind to the food in front of you!
Balanced eating, from the Ayurvedic perspective has three basic considerations:
What you eat is ideally seasonal foods, emphasizing the foods that are most balancing for your constitution and utilizing all 6 tastes.
When you eat is ideally no more than three meals a day, eaten at equal intervals, with your mid-day meal being the largest and enjoyed around noon, when the sun is high in the sky.
How you eat is ideally not too fast nor too slow. Sit in a clean and pleasant environment, chew well, engage in a relaxed mood, enjoying the company of others and light conversation, if any. Avoid anger, television, working, standing, walking, driving or excessive laughing while eating.
So there I was, in a cafe in Austin Texas with my warm and toasty peanut butter and jelly, a few french fries and two lovely friends. I enjoyed it with some natural lemonade, knowing that the citrus would serve as a digestive. Then I washed it down with a little bit of hot tea… the hot water helps to cleanse the system of excess fats and hard-to-digest food particles.
Later I went for a nice long walk to build up my agni (digestive fire) once again and metabolism.
And the next day, it was back to slightly more “perfect” Ayurveda.
And really, if your appetite is there, and it is meal time, and your agni is strong, it is better to handle the WHEN over the WHAT. From the Ayurvedic perspective, if your digestive fire is balanced, you can eat anything and digest it well, the wisdom of your body will know how to absorb the nutrients and discard the rest. The day before I had peanut butter and french fries for lunch, I had walked 10 miles, taking a break from the car… so I knew my digestion was strong!
One of my teachers in Ayurveda school, Dr. Aparna Bapat, spoke of a poor family she befriended in India. They often subsisted on chillies and chapatis (flat bread), and occasionally some left-over vegetables… but they worked hard, enjoyed life, and their bodies knew how to appropriately metabolize the simple and seemingly “imperfect” food they ate.
Here’s to the “When” & the “How” of eating, and learning to sometimes let go of the “What”!