BOOK REVIEW: Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine, by Harish Johari

Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine, 200 Vegetarian Recipes for Health, Balance and Longevity

(1994, 2000) by Harish Johari

The Author

Harish Johari (1934-1999) was a distinguished North Indian author, Tantric scholar, poet, musician, composer, artist, and gemologist who held degrees in philosophy and literature and made it his life’s work to introduce the culture of his homeland to the West.

The Book

Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine by Harish Johari explains the healing qualities of various Indian foods and spices and recommends combinations appropriate for specific conditions of body and mind.

The book is divided into two parts: Part I comprises of sixty-eight pages containing an Introduction to Ayurveda, and Part II is The Recipes, and Appendices.

PART I AN INTRODUCTION TO AYURVEDA.

Chapter 1 Principles of Ayurveda

This section is a description of the five elements, the tridosha theory and individual temperaments. Johari goes on to give a brief explanation of as he terms them, wind dominated individuals (v), bile dominated individuals (p) and mucus dominated individuals (k).

Then he goes on to explain the dhatus, the three doshas and their subcategories. The six tastes and their characteristics with examples are also explained and there is a chart explaining the composition, qualities and effects of the six tastes, and a list of foods and spices according to their attributes.

Chapter 2 Balanced Nutrition

Johari writes that most diseases are the result of wrong eating habits and/or of eating antagonistic foods. He explains that we need to understand the qualities of foods and how they interact with each other, in order to prevent disease.

The chapter contains quite detailed information about proteins, carbohydrates, fibres, sugar, starches, vitamins and minerals, water, and salt. He compares and contrasts western and Ayurvedic principles such as the fact that in Ayurveda there is no mention of vitamins because the ancients combined their food so skilfully that they created a fully balanced diet.

Chapter 3 Foods And Their Healing Properties

A significant chapter is dedicated to cow’s milk and its qualities. Its religious and cultural relevance, nutritional value, and its curative qualities. Some claims I find a bit controversial such as the fact he mentions milk fats can even cure tuberculosis and cancer as long as the milk is fresh and the cow is not fed with formula foods.

Chapter 3 also contains information on grains, wheat, wheat flour, and rice. It lists all fruits according to their characteristics and their effect on the doshas and the uses of various fruits.  He writes about various ways to fast such as a forty day milk fast and a three day grapefruit juice fast, followed by a forty to sixty day milk fast (!)

The chapter continues with a description of some common vegetables, and goes through a description of each vegetable’s properties, taste and effect on the body.

He does the same in the chapter on flavourings and spices. He even gives a recipe to counteract foods that “taint the breath”. There is a list of sattvic, rajasic and tamasic spices, that I found very handy. I learnt a lot from the descriptions about the properties for example on turmeric. There is a chapter on sweeteners, which is limited to honey and raw cane sugar then descriptions of various nut types.

Chapter 4 Guidelines For Preparing And Eating Foods

The chapter starts with an explanation of vibrations. He explains that food picks up the vibrations of the cook. He suggests not tasting food while cooking but to cook by feeling. Also, to eat only after the food has been offered to god first.

Then a list of incompatible foods and what to do to promote healthy eating. The list is exhaustive, from what to have in the room to what to wear, whom to serve first, second and third. He recommends washing the hands, face and feet before eating. Also, to only eat when the right nostril dominates and drink only when the left nostril dominates. Only eat when hungry, and preferably six hours after the previous meal. Washing ones hands, face, mouths and eyes after meals is also good for the digestive system. Rest after lunch but do not sleep. If one cannot walk outside, one can take 108 steps indoors. Take no solid food before a bowel movement. Do not face south when eating as it drains energy. Avoid laughter while eating, silence is preferable. It is preferable not to defecate for two or three hours after eating.

The chapter ends with a list of cures for indigestion caused by a particular food and how it can be cured by eating another type food.

Chapter 5 Food and the Cycles of Nature

The chapter starts with a description of food according to the seasons. He explains the characteristics of each season and the importance of eating foods that are in season. The author even goes so far to write about food for each day of the week. There is a chart, illustrating which foods to eat of a specific colour on the day that corresponds astrologically to that colour or quality. For example, on a Wednesday, one should eat coriander leaves, spinach, mung beans, broccoli and other green food because Wednesday is ruled by mercury and its colour is pear green.

Chapter 6 Food And Consciousness

In this chapter, the author describes Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in detail and the purpose of the gunas.

PART II THE RECIPES.

Introduction To The Recipes

In this chapter, tips are given there about the utensils one could use in the kitchen, with a description of each utensil and what its purpose is.

Appendices.

In the last section, you will find meal combination ideas, recipes for the sick and elderly and again, a section on milk.

Conclusion

I cooked several recipes from this book and was underwhelmed by all of them. Despite the use of spices, I found them bland. What I found missing was a clear instruction with each recipe as to which dosha it was suitable for.

Overall, I think this book does have an excellent introduction to Ayurveda. The author is clearly a scholar of Ayurveda, but I think it might be too much detail for someone who is just learning about Ayurveda. It is not a beginners guide, and I think it does assume you already have a basic knowledge of Ayurveda. I missed most a note next to each recipe about the dosha it is suitable for. Then again, because that information was not given, you had to think for yourself!

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