It's a fragrant, lemony scented afternoon in Florence. Having come far from distant lands, the hot, dry wind has settled in my garden for a long-awaited rest. Yawning in a sweet slumber, little puffs of breath escape him, lingering in scents of rosemary and mint. Nestled under a summer hat and tickled by the light that is playfully drawing on the canvas of my face, I am thinking about dinner. A fast-cooked macaroni and cheese certainly will not do! Because amidst the magnificence and glory of all that surrounds me, I feel compelled to believe that the food we have here should also be a joyful feast for all the senses. I have never spent so much time thinking about food. I have a dazzling couple of friends coming over for dinner. Like a film reel, pieces of a story are drifting through my mind: Elena's tender footsteps will echo faintly on the warmed stone pavement of my front yard. She will step inside and the house will blossom to embrace her. The wind will proudly carry the edges of her dress as she steps into my garden and her smile makes all the trees blush. She will lean towards the man beside her and whisper words that caress his ears like rose petals. Indeed! A proper dinner must be fashioned out!
In my lunatic, fast-paced, crazy-flavored life, I don't have time to think about food, barely have time to eat it and surely never have time to love it! Who does? I always felt society made you feel guilty if you spend too much time thinking about food, or making it or eating it. Enjoying your food is a "me" time that was simply not permitted! And now, gazing at yellow, round moons and listening to the songs of ancients stones, I felt like Time had pinned my blue-laced dress to the floor and my frantic whirlpool had come to a halt. I was breathing, and thinking about food, and the most important thing to think about seemed to be the sheer perfection of the statues' god-like shapes.The time has come to love my food!
There is an ancient saying that the food we eat affects our mind: our perception, observation, and expression of the world in and around us. I had been reading lately much about the Science of Life, the ancient knowledge of the book of Ayurveda. A science born in the mystic soul of India that helps us understand the nature of our body, what kind of food and lifestyle is suitable for us so that we can have a healthy body and a mind free from distortions and disharmony. As a woman, this was like tinker bells resounding sweetly in my ears. Is there a woman in this world who does not yearn for that? So there was a book that teaches you about how to eat beautifully, how to turn your table into a symphony of ethereal flutes and harps and all the music instruments of gods. Yeah, I'd really like to tell that to the hot dog vendor on the grey street outside my office. Now, in the violet beauty of the rolling hills over Florence, the memories of these pages came swooshing back to me and there was nothing but thoughts of beautiful food on my mind.
The Science of Life
Ayurveda does not only apply to Indian food, it applies to all food! According to the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in the world, our body is a gift from God, an opportunity for the captured soul to set itself free from the bondage of the life and death circle. A healthy lifestyle is of great physical importance: bad eating habits like over eating, eating in a state of tension or worry, and consuming unhealthy foods can lead to bad digestion and that is the "root of all disease". More than that, a healthy life style can help you tame your senses and emotions so that you become their mistress, not the other way around.
Food should firstly be a pleasant sight for the eyes, then it should capture your sense of scent and lastly-it should be a delight for your tongue. Food is not only destined to sustain life and give energy, it also helps to purify the mind and consciousness. Foods such as milk products /mind you, the ancient books did not mean the ones we get at the local supermarket that come from stressed, ill-treated animals/, grains, fruits and vegetables prolong the length of life and bring satisfaction, health, strength and happiness. Foods that are too bitter, sour, salty, spicy, dry or hot can cause suffering and discomfort. So here are a few things to know when we decide that we deserve to turn our eating habits into a rhapsody of bliss:
Try to eat every day at the same time
Always try to take your main meal for the day in the hours around noon, when the sun is at its highest, because that is the time when your stomach works most actively. After a light breakfast, wait at least 3 hours before you eat again, and after a bountiful lunch-wait at least 5 hours.
A good mood can help your digestion
Eat in a pleasant environment and peaceful surroundings /the bench near the busy, noisy intersection outside your office does not count/. Try to uplift your mood with your favorite velvet melodies while you cook and serve the food. Your food will love it when your heart sings to it and it will come out incredibly delicious!
Combine your foods wisely
Eat combinations of foods that are similar in taste and are easily digested together. Rice and other grains are well combined with vegetables. Yogurt is well combined with grains, boiled food and veggies but milk is incompatible with vegetables. A light, hearty and nutritious lunch would be a combination of rice, boiled food, vegetable and a light bread. Avoid eating vegetables with raw fruits. Fruits are best consumed separately or with a glass of warm milk. Do not mix sour with sweet fruits, and milk with yogurt.
Share your food with others
An ancient Bulgarian tradition believes that if you have stomach problems, you should share your food with 10 people for a period of 10 days. So use that as an excuse to stage a lovely garden party or candle-lit dinner and surround yourself with friends and loved ones. While you listen to the jingle of their words that echoes off the crystal glasses in their hands, your heart will know true happiness!
Our energy and strength depend not on how much we eat but to a what degree we assimilate the food. For its proper functioning, the stomach needs empty space, so do not stuff it all the way. Eat only half of what you think you are capable of eating. One quarter of the stomach fill up liquids that you can consume before or during eating, and leave one quarter of it empty. This will ease your digestion and will let you enjoy the food. When you eat with measure, this keeps your mind serene and your body in harmony. Overeating excites your mind, making it frantic, or leads it to the other extreme-make it feel withered, heavy and tired.
Do not put out your digestion fire with water
We often speak of "burning" fats and calories, and the word calorie itself is related to heat, released by the burning of food. The ancient Vedas say that our food is digested by a fire in the stomach. And because we often drink liquids while eating, we should notice their effect on our digestive fire.
Drinking liquids before eating quenches your appetite and stops you from overeating. Drinking moderately while eating helps the stomach function properly, but drinking right after eating dilutes the stomach juices and reduces the strength of your digestive fire.Wait at least an hour after food before drinking anything, and after that you can drink at ever hour before your next meal.
Waste not food
Try to put on your plate only as as much as you intend on eating. if you cannot eat it all, save the rest for your next meal. When reheating, do so in a covered pot, add a bit of water and stir frequently. If for some reason you have to throw away food, do give it to an animal, put it in the earth or throw it in a river or a lake.
Fasting strengthens your will and your physical health. It gives a much needed break to your digestion system and freshens up the mind and senses. In most cases, it is advisable to fast only with water. In the West, people drink juices when fasting because Western medicine prescribes long periods of diets. But according to Ayurveda, fasting should be short-from 1 to 3 days. During this time, you should not drink more water than needed to quench your thirst. Your digestion fire is not busy digesting of food and instead of that it absorbs the byproducts that have accumulated in your body. The unduly quantity of water will only hinder its work.
The blissful remains of the day
So, the time came for the wind to set back on the dusty roads to worlds unknown, and for me to start working magic. For every woman is indeed enchantress of the kind that never tires of the world. My dazzling movie couple was soon to walk through my stony-arched pavement and time was of the essence. I was not in ancient India, but I was in tender, vibrant Italy; a country that can teach you much about life and how to live it right. And the art of beautiful food is universal and all-permeating. Just like the essence of us. So, I lick my lemonade-scented lips, I calm my heart that runs with the beat of eternal Florence and step into the dusk of my basil-scented magic workshop.