How do we practice asteya in the kitchen?
Sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, the gratification of the moment takes precedent over well-being in the long-term. We’ve all had moments when we have done something that we know won’t make us feel good later. Many people have this relationship with food. Ice cream is good now. Bad later. I know this, but I’m going to do it anyway.
Consider the idea that this behavior is stealing from yourself. You’re stealing your future well-being.
You’re refusing to honor future you, and you’re resigning yourself to a low standard of health.
Sometimes we do things that make us feel bad but we refuse to make the connection between cause and effect. This is commonly the case with onion and garlic. These foods are rajasic, meaning they create an overly active mind. They’re also irritants. Their potent pungency increases acidity and heat in the digestive tract, which has an inflammatory effect. Many people don’t realize this, and cook most meals with these foods because they believe they’re necessary for flavor or, in the case of garlic, that there are health benefits. Garlic has some antibacterial properties, but is best used occasionally if digestion is strong and pitta is in balance.
Garlic and onion are now commonly used in many types of cuisine, but this actually wasn’t the case 30 years ago. They are taken to be traditional ingredients, but what we are really looking at is more of a long-standing food trend. Remember, things are always changing, and what is is not what must be.
It’s not necessary to use garlic and onion to create a satisfying meal. There are a range of magnificent spices available to play with. But if you’ve been eating garlic and onion over a long period of time, your taste buds are likely numb to more subtle flavors. It can take a little while for your taste buds to adjust, but stick with it because you’re opening yourself up to a greater range of tastes and experiences.
Cooking medicinally is about moderation, and this certainly applies to the use of spices, which will enhance the taste of food and support the digestive process when integrated in a modest manner. They’re especially useful when combined with legumes, which present more of a challenge to agni - our digestive fire.
Here’s a delightful recipe for Ayurvedic hummus. This one uses adzuki beans which are small, red beans originally from China. Because of their astringent taste and pungent post-digestive effect, the beans are nice to consume during the spring - Kapha season. However, they are also cooling and should be complemented by spices to support digestion.