You can be a Part of Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant – 16 Oct 14

I yesterday told you of our big project, the Ayurvedic Restaurant with organic food, ice cream and a bakery. I mentioned that we have lots of experience in Ayurvedic cooking and we will be training our cooks for a while before the opening of the restaurant to show them what has to be taken care of. We have also had reasonable practice in baking breads, making ice cream and also pizza and pasta – but nevertheless we would love to learn a bit more about western food!

We will have continental dishes in our menu card, from fresh bread rolls and croissants to pizza and cake. If you are a baker, ice cream maker or Italian chef – or a chef that has expertized in western vegetarian food, we would love to make you an offer of exchange:

Come to the Ashram in India, visit us and share your knowledge and practice with us! Train us and our cooks – who are of course already professionals in their own field – and in exchange, stay two weeks with us completely for free!

I am sure that the cooks will observe well and learn quickly and you may as well get some new ideas and knowledge by spending time in our restaurant kitchen.

While this is an offer that is valid from now on, we have thought a bit further into the future as well, planning another offer which we know will be popular among travelers to India with a lower budget: once our restaurant is open and running, we will happily welcome volunteers to help out with the many tasks at the restaurant – preparing, cleaning, working as waiter or waitress and so on.

We already get a lot of requests by people who would like to work because they don’t have a big budget for their journey. At the moment, we can only offer computer work and not everybody is ready to do that. As soon as the restaurant will open, we will be able to make this offer to many more!

So whether you would like to share expert knowledge in cooking or would like to volunteer in our restaurant, we would love to get your application! Simply send an email with a short introduction of who you are to – and we are looking forward to welcoming you here!

Of course, if you are reading these lines and immediately have someone in mind who has professional knowledge of cooking or baking and would be interested in coming to India, please forward this blog entry’s link to them!

You can see the building progress of Ammaji's Restaurant here

My Sister’s Visit to Germany and how she gave the first of our Cooking Workshops – 4 Aug 13

2005 was also the year when my late sister Para visited Germany. Just like my brothers, she had not travelled in Europe yet but had made a lot of friends among those who had come to visit us at the Ashram. So she was looking forward not only to travel to another country but also to meet friends.

One of our common friends was in Cologne and we both stayed with her in her small apartment. For German standards, her flat may have been considered too small for three adults but my sister and I just slept together on the big bed in her living room.

I went on travelling, as I had program booked already. Para had three or four weeks however and she filled them with experiences of joy and fun. Our common friend in Cologne had two more friends who had also been at the Ashram already and whom my sister knew. They lived in Hamburg and she thus travelled up to the North of Germany to spend a weekend there. From Hamburg it was not far to Luneburg where my first German friend, the doctor lived. She visited there, too, of course before returning back to Cologne.

I don’t know exactly anymore where I worked while she was in Europe but I remember that we met again in Zurich. She had been staying for a week with Indian friends, a family from Vrindavan who had moved to Switzerland some years before. I believe it was from there that we took a train together and went to Heidelberg, in central Germany. I won’t ever forget how we both marveled at the beautiful landscape which was full of snow in that time. It was the beginning of November, I believe, and everything was covered in a layer of white. There was lots of snow in that time and it was very beautiful!

Para had come for a holiday but spontaneously she had a workshop which should later become one of our most popular program points: she gave an Ayurvedic cooking workshop. Our friend in Cologne told her that she and several of her friends loved Indian food and would love to learn. She had been to the Ashram, so she knew that my sister could cook delicious meals. Of course she agreed and this is how my sister gave the very first cooking workshop in Germany.

While Para was in Germany, my best friend Govind surprised us with news: he was going to get married. The wedding would take place in a few weeks! It had been quite a quick decision to arrange the marriage and as my whole program was completely scheduled, I already knew I would not be able to come. On phone however I said ‘I will send Para for the wedding!’ Her ticket was by coincidence booked just right so that she would be back shortly before the wedding.

Needless to say that she had a wonderful time and I with her.

Harm of Microwaves – No Time to Feed Yourself? – 11 Dec 10

Today Ramona and I cooked our lunch and as I was very hungry, I said to Ramona ‘Let’s make quick food.’ We cooked and within half an hour or maybe a little more we had a great lunch on the table with rice, lentils and a vegetable dish with mushrooms and bell pepper. We really enjoyed our lunch and afterwards talked with each other about what a nice lunch we could make in only that time. I know that other people when they are really hungry just put something into the microwave to heat it up.
I would never ever use a microwave for anything that I want to eat. I always say that a microwave oven simply kills our food. Later on we talked with Michael about this, too, and he told me about something that he learned as a doctor.

The first thing he and Andrea told me was that there was a test done on cats when people were feeding the cats food warmed up in a microwave for several weeks. All of the cats that only ate this food died.

Michael told me then that when surgeons perform surgery in hospitals, they always keep some blood ready for transfusions. They are of course refrigerated but before they are used, they need to be warmed up to body temperature. At some time, hospitals tried to use microwaves for heating up the blood but immediately stopped it: all patients who received blood transfusions warmed up in microwaves died. Since then it is forbidden in any hospital in Germany to use microwaves in operation theatres.

Sounds logical but think about what this means to our food? What exactly are you eating when you eat food warmed up in the microwaves?

Apart from the question what exactly the microwave does to your food, I always need to ask why exactly do you need to use such a machine for cooking? Usually I hear the answer ‘Because it is quicker’ or ‘I come home from work and am hungry and I don’t have time to cook something then!’. Isn’t it sad that we rather put our food for 2 minutes into a microwave oven and kill it than taking out 20 minutes of time for ourselves and cook something healthy for ourselves? If you have these 2 minutes, don’t you have 20 minutes for yourself?

This is what happens often in busy restaurants: they don’t have time to make fresh food for each customer and so they prepare it before and just put it into a microwave oven to warm it up. You are amazed by their good service because you got food in only two minutes but you don’t realize that your food is already dead – murdered by a microwave.

It is sad that eating has so little importance for most people. Take time for yourself, for nourishing your body, for eating good food. If you don’t even have time for eating, when do you really do something good for yourself? This is the minimum of time that you should invest for yourself – time to feed yourself good food.

Forget the Caste System in the 21st Century – 12 Sep 10

Yesterday I wrote about the reservation of jobs for low castes members and how it actually only increases the separation and gap in between the castes. Another such measurement which may have been meant well but which only increased the separation was this: the state government made the rule for its schools that priority for the job of the cook who prepares lunch for children will be given to people of the low caste that people consider as untouchable. If someone from that caste applied for the job of cooking, they would have more chances than other caste members.

It was however unimaginable for some parents that their children would have to eat food prepared by someone from this lowest caste. With the encouragement of some orthodox organization, a group of parents of a higher caste taught their children not to eat food in school. They even threatened not to send their children.

What impact does this have on these children? What do they learn? I do not want to talk about any specific party, I am just talking about the effect that these measurements have! They do not help at all, they make people aware of the castes. Even worse, this increases the hatred and prejudices that people have for other castes than their own.

People of lower castes have the idea that people of the upper castes are rich, arrogant and in some way better people and they envy them. Of course they develop bad feelings towards people of higher castes if they are treated by them with disrespect and even disgust!

People of upper castes sometimes do not get the jobs they are actually best qualified for. Sometimes they do not get into university because a quota had to be fulfilled and people with worse marks but from lower castes get seats! And of course, simply the word ‘lower caste’ already gives people these feeling all on its own. ‘We are better’ although there is no person higher or lower!

As I said, the measurements are taken in order to decrease discrimination but actually it is making everything worse. I don’t think that reservations like that provide any solution to the problem. People will still remember lower and higher castes. It actually increases hatred and separation into classes.

Let people finally forget about the old-fashioned caste system in the 21st century! We have to work so that everybody forgets about castes and nobody cares anymore which caste the other one once belonged to. I would suggest that we need to help people forget. But maybe politicians do not really want this.

I have read several times these days and fully agree on it that this was Gandhi’s life work, his aspiration and goal. Nowadays everybody talks of him as the father of the nation. Respect his life, his work and his idea that we are all the same! If you see someone is doing wrong, work against it by being a good example and showing what is right. It is important that we act and stand up for equality!

Food Camp in Flood Affected Area – 31 Aug 10

As we had been planning, Purnendu, Yashendu and Ramona went with altogether 20 people and brought big pots, gas for cooking and food to the area where the houses are flooded. We know a man who has an Ashram there and as it has two floors and lies a bit higher, it is one of the few buildings in which the water has not entered yet. This is where the kitchen was set up. They left around two o’clock and came back at six.

When they came back, Ramona told me about the situation there:

“It has become even worse. We had difficulties finding a place to park the car somewhere close to the boat that now takes people to their homes. Where there were cars and rickshaws before, everybody now has to wait until this one boat has unloaded everybody and is empty for them to climb on.

For reaching to our ‘food camp’ we had to walk through knee-high water and people had marked a way with bricks in the water to make it a bit easier to walk. When we reached there, we saw a woman standing in the door and crying. She showed us her house which was standing in the water, big cracks in the walls and already starting to fall apart.

Many people had already gathered in the Ashram with the hope to get food. They had to wait until the vegetables were cooked and the bread was ready but then they all came with pots, plates, bowls, glasses and even plastic bags to fill the food in. We saw that some children came two or three times but who would tell a child of three or four years that it should not ask for more bread? We also know that some people took more so that they can put some food aside for later. They are not sure when they will get the next meal. So we distributed and distributed until the buckets were empty.

On the way back we went by the children’s houses and saw that also there, the situation has become worse. Those rooms which were dry two days ago also have water on the floor now. Sanju, one of the boys, wanted to go home and stay with his mother. But she told him to go back to the Ashram, at this area there are too many mosquitos now and life has become difficult. It was a long day but it is wonderful that we could help!”

We also asked the owner of the Ashram and he agreed on keeping even more families there who need a dry place to sleep.

I want to thank everybody who donated after yesterday’s newsletter and diary! It is only with this help that we could go there today and give these people food! We will publish the donors’ details on a later day, at the moment we are just very busy helping and thinking of ways that we can support those families. And thank you for the mails with best wishes for the children, their families and all people in the area.

I was surprised today that some people who have always been talking about their love to Vrindavan and our school children did not give any sign of compassion. I would have thought to receive a donation from these people first but even if not a donation, then at least a few words telling that they are sending prayers and good wishes. This is a critical time and we would wish to have everybody on our sides with their support, thoughts and blessings.

Anyhow, my thanks again to everybody who already helped and everybody who is going to in the next days!

Pictures of today’s food camp and new pictures of the flood situation in Vrindavan



Cultural Differences USA-Germany-India – 31 May 10

I wrote yesterday already about the cooking workshop that we had with so many people. It was really lots of fun. We had a smaller group for cooking and then many more who come only for food. So when all the dishes were prepared, everybody filled his plate and we spread in the dining room and the living room as well as at the kitchen table until everybody had found a place.

And then somehow it was a little bit funny for the three of us to see, some people were done and got up and left the house. They said goodbye to one or two people and left. We had to laugh about this and decided that this might be a cultural difference. For us it seems very impolite to leave while others are still eating but nobody else seemed to mind. Several people left, others stayed and we had a nice talk after the food before we officially said good-bye to people.

I guess this is cultural difference. If you compare this with Germany, we believe this would not happen and has never happened in any workshop yet that people left the house while the house owner was still eating. Some said good-bye to Joanne while she had the plate full of food and the spoon in the hand. In Germany it is custom to wait with anything until everybody has finished eating.

In India it is again a little bit different. You cannot even think of disturbing anybody who is eating. You would not talk to that person because eating is so important. We joked and said that Indians would then rather sit around in your house for another five hours before leaving. However they would not mind if you went into your room and to bed either. These are cultural differences. We decided that as travellers you need to have an open mind and heart. You always keep seeing differences and then adopt the best parts of each culture.

Ayurvedic Cooking Workshop in Texas – 30 May 10

Today was a very busy day. Our preparations for today started yesterday already when we went for shopping with Lola and bought the groceries for the people we were expecting for today’s cooking workshop – we knew it would be more than 30. And so we put the chickpeas into water for soaking yesterday and started boiling them this morning. We already prepared some vegetables before people came and then when they were here we chopped the rest for a great dinner!

It was amazing, we had 6 different dishes: Paneer, mixed vegetables, Pulaw, Kadhi, Chickpeas and Potatoes. I think everybody really loved it.

Now we are pretty tired after many hours of cooking but we are happy about the beautiful day that we had.

Dal – Lentils, a Basic Indian Vegetarian Recipe – 14 May 09

Many people liked the recipe that I wrote last week and I was asked by several friends also to put one of our main recipes. And this is how I decided today to explain how you cook dal, lentils, in a very delicious Indian way.

It is actually not very difficult. If you want to cook one cup of dal, you need three cups of water. We like to cook Toor Dal. First of all we wash the lentils. Then we warm a spoon of ghee in a pot and, when it is hot, you can put the lentils into the pot and roast them until they are slightly pinkish.

Ramona always says that they get more brown and never get pink no matter how long you cook it but you can say that if they change colour, then it is the right point of time to put the water in. Anyway you should take care by stirring that nothing starts burn at the bottom.

At this point you can add curcuma and salt. You need half a teaspoon of curcuma and one and a half teaspoons of salt for each cup of dal that you are making. As soon as the water is boiling, you can put the heat lower. And then you let it boil for at least half an hour, until the lentils are nicely cooked. In the meantime you can prepare the tomatoes. For one cup of lentils you can use two big or three medium size tomatoes and chop them into small pieces. After that you need to heat another spoon of ghee in a pan. And the following spices have to come into it:

1 ½ teaspoons cumin, garam masala and coriander, a tip of a knife of nutmeg and mace, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (or more if you like it), ½ teaspoon ginger powder and some curry leaves.

For making the food more spicy you can add fresh ginger in very small pieces. Altogether you fry the spices a little bit but take good care not to burn them! Before that you add the tomatoes and cook them until they look like puree. When the tomatoes are ready and the lentils are so soft that they are mixing with the water, you can add the tomatoes into the dal. There you go, a wonderful basic dish which should not be missing in any Indian dinner. You can add some lemon juice, that gives another nice note to it!
Hope you enjoy cooking!

Distributing Potatoes on a Special Pilgrimage Day – 9 Nov 08

Today was a great day. The whole day and the whole night, around the clock thousands of people were doing the Parikrama of Vrindavan which is a walk of 9 kilometers. Local people, pilgrims from elsewhere, young, old, men, women, children, some alone, some in groups with family and friends, all without shoes. There was chanting going on and some were dancing. It was a great atmosphere.

Our Ashram is on the Parikrama road, so we prepared potatoes in a special way to distribute them to the pilgrims who were all coming by. Today is a very special Ekadashi of the whole year. Ekadashi is the eleventh day of the moon so it is twice a month. Many people keep a fast on this day. In this fasting potatoes and some green vegetables are allowed to be eaten so we boiled potatoes and prepared them with cumin, coriander, black pepper and crystal salt. We started in the morning and until six o’clock in the evening we distributed these potatoes to thousands of people. Everybody in the Ashram had fun in preparing, cooking and distributing and the people of course enjoyed the potatoes very much. We had the live cam on, too, and many people were watching what was going on. In this way I like technology. Only with that our friends around the globe were able to be with us.

It is also a special day in Hinduism. According to the Hindu belief Tulsi, who is considered a holy plant and Goddess, got married to Shaligram, a form of Vishnu on this day. With this day a time started which people consider as very good for starting something new. This is also a day on which many couples get married and everybody does a pooja in their home. My parents also got married on this day and this year we are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.

Click here to see pictures of today's distribution of food and the pilgrims