The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking is more than just a
collection of 120 Indian recipes: it is a taste of that special fusion of
wisdom and beauty that is Ancient India.
The recipes are so easy to prepare that you'll wonder how they could
taste so good. Once you try some, you'll know why they have become
worldwide favorites of the friends and guests of the Hare Krishna
You can read about the advantages of vegetarianism and the arts of
eating, of serving, and of combining dishes to get the most pleasure
and most nutrition from your meals. And, for the spiritually curious,
there is an introduction to Krishna Consciousness, the world’s oldest
Whatever you’re looking for in a cookbook—a few new recipes, a
healthier diet,or a new outlook on life—The Hare Krishna Book of
Vegetarian Cooking will fulfill your desire with the magic touch of Old
"The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is doing a superb
job of letting people know that vegetarian food is healthful, delicious,
and pleasing to the eye."
This is no ordinary cookbook. You could say it's more a way of life. I have
always believed that we are what we eat. This book of basically Indian recipes
supports that philosophy, answers many questions, and offers a viable alternative
for so many people who, like myself, were never entirely convinced of the virtues
of eating meat. I did not realize it at the time, but that small doubt was the
beginning of a whole new way of looking at everything.
I had never been completely happy about being a meat eater. Even being
brought up on a farm did not condition me to it. Rather, it made it harder. I could
not blind myself to the facts. They were there, part of my life every day. I could
never come to terms with the knowledge that those beautiful little calves I had
watched being born and had later stroked as they came to nuzzle my hand would
end up on my plate. That they should unnecessarily die in fear and pain seemed
appalling; and with a third of the world starving, it did not make any sense at all
to give animals grain that could nourish people. A field of grain that can feed two
cows can feed sixty-four people.
It is very easy to label vegetarians mere sentimentalists and health nuts, but
we are all aware that there is so much more involved than that. The question
concerns us all, on moral, health, economic, and religious grounds.
Still, it was a difficult choice to make, and a difficult path to follow in many
respects. The alternatives to meat-eating seemed rather boring and, what's
worse, fattening. I imagined that it would require huge amounts of will power.
Then there was the family aspect. Keeping my hungry, active, young children
fully satisfied and happy at mealtimes was a headache. And, of course, there was
the question of nutrition: I was naturally concerned with their getting enough
protein. So I gathered a few good vegetarian recipes, which I trotted out again
and again, with monotonous regularity. Sure enough, the ever present baked
potato was the cause of many a mealtime mutiny. Indeed, I even began to think
that if I ever had to look another bean in the face, I would not be answerable for
I was beginning to despair and lose heart, but help was at hand. You will find
it in this book of interesting, varied, and wholesome recipes. It shows how easy it
can be to maintain a delicious and balanced diet without ever touching flesh of
any kind. Added to this, the recipes are simple and easy to prepare. The days when
one’s plate looked bare if bereft of meat are a thing of the past.
Of course, underlying all this is the philosophy, the attitude towards eating.
You are what you eat. The how and why of it is inextricably tied up with the most
fundamental questions of belief and feeling about life, about the true value of
life-all life, not simply human.
I first tasted this food at one of the Hare Krsna temples in this country. It was
absolutely delicious, and made even more so by having been prepared by
devotees with pure hearts, and offered with love to God.
Here, then, is a cookbook with a philosophy behind it. Even if you only enjoy
making the recipes, that's good. But if you want to, it can change your life.
This is a practical cookbook, designed to help you prepare authentic Indian
meals in your own home and to acquaint you with the tradition behind India's
great vegetarian cuisine. It explains not only the techniques of Vedic, or classical
Indian vegetarian cooking, but also the Vedic art of eating, which nourishes both
the soul and the body and mind.
The first four chapters discuss Vedic philosophy and vegetarianism with
corroborations from classical and modern science, religion, and ethics.
The next three chapters talk about the meal itself: the utensils used for
cooking, dishes that go well together, and everything else you might need to
know about preparing, serving, and eating an Indian meal.
Then come 130 kitchen-tested recipes. Although this is only a fraction of
the thousands of possibilities offered by the Vedic culinary tradition, these
recipes, chosen for their diversity as well as their ease of preparation, give an
idea of the vastness of Vedic cooking. The recipes were contributed by the best
cooks in the Hare Krsna movement, some of whom were taught by Srila
The appendixes include a glossary, conversion tables, advice on where to get
essential ingredients, and addresses of Hare Krsna centers, where you can sample
the recipes in this book.
To be fully appreciated, Vedic cooking must be understood in the context of
Vedic culture. The word Vedic comes from the Sanskrit word veda, meaning
"absolute knowledge." The ancient Sanskrit scriptures of India are known as the
Vedic scriptures, or the Vedas, because they present knowledge of the Absolute.
The Vedic culture of ancient India, based on these scriptures, Is still followed by
many people today.
According to the Vedas, a human being is meant to realize his true identity
as an eternal servant of God. This Vedic understanding begins with the knowledge
that we are not our temporary material bodies but the eternal spiritual souls
within our bodies. Because we mistake ourselves for material beings, we suffer,
though by constitution we are eternal, full of knowledge, and blissful. The process
of reviving our original, joyful consciousness and awakening our dormant love for
God is called bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness.
The name "Krsna" has a special significance. Even though there is one God,
people call Him by different names, each name describing an aspect of His
personality. But there is a name given in the Vedas that expresses the sum total
of God's infinite characteristics. That all-encompassing name is Krsna, which
means "infinitely attractive."
The Vedas are a treasure-house of knowledge about Krsna and our eternal
relationship with Him. They differ from the other scriptures of the world in that
they describe God's personal features in great detail in order to awaken our love
for Him, and the ways in which we can express this love in everything we do.
This is India’s gift to the world: a culture that unites all fields of human endeavor
with the spiritual perfection often thought to be the exclusive property of recluse
meditators. Indeed, in Vedic culture Krsna consciousness permeates every aspect
of life: not only art, music, architecture, and literature, but cooking and eating
What distinguishes Vedic cooking from other types of cooking is the cook's
spiritual consciousness, his awareness that he is preparing an offering for God. In
most religious systems, people ask God to give them their daily bread, but the
devotee of Krsna offers the daily bread to God as an expression of love for Him.
And God reciprocates. In the Bhagavad-gita, one of the Vedic scriptures, Lord
Krsna says that He accepts a vegetarian offering, be it no more than a leaf or a
fruit, or a glass of water, if it is presented with devotion, and out of His
inconceivable mercy He spiritualizes the offering by personally tasting it. What
was ordinary food then becomes Krsna-prasada, the mercy of Lord Krsna. And
what would have been ordinary eating becomes worship, a loving exchange with
The effect of eating prasada is different from that of eating food cooked
merely for profit, for the pleasure of the tongue, or even for survival. We think
about a lot of things when we cook, but pleasing God isn’t usually one of them.
And when food is cooked without God consciousness, the materialistic thoughts
of the cook subtly affect whoever eats it. But when we eat prasada, food cooked
with devotion to God and offered to Him in love, our hearts become purified.
Mukunda Gosvami, one of the present spiritual masters of the Hare Krsna
movement, has said, "If you eat ordinary food, you simply develop lusty desires
to enjoy this material world; if you eat prasada, you increase your love of God with
Naturally, we don’t expect all of our readers to switch over completely to
Indian-style cooking. Although you may think that Vedic cooking is exclusively
Indian, the principle of offering food to Krsna is transcendental to worldly
designations. A recipe does not have to come from India, as long as the
ingredients and procedures follow the Vedic principles. For example, in Italy
where most of our devotees and friends are still very fond of their native cuisine,
almost every Indian meal includes a serving of pasta. The style of cooking is not
So important as the devotion to Krsna that goes into it.
The term "Indian cooking" when used in this book refers to Vedic cooking,
not to any of the "chicken-curry" schools of Indian cuisine. Meat-eating was
practically nonexistent in the ancient Vedic culture. It was introduced into India
by foreign conquerors, especially the Moguls, who came via Persia in the sixteenth
century; the Portuguese, who ruled Goa for four centuries; and finally the British
colonialists. But despite centuries of domination by meateaters, India is still the
home of vast numbers of vegetarians.
India is traditionally vegetarian (meat-eaters are called "non-vegetarians’)
because her timeless Vedic culture teaches that all life is sacred, and to kill
innocent creatures unnecessarily is a gross violation of the laws of God. All forms
of plant and animal life are bound by nature's laws to follow their instinct in
selecting what they eat; but man, with his advanced intelligence, can consider
higher spiritual principles in choosing his food. In his writings Srila Prabhupada
explains, "Although the law [of nature] states the human being must subsist on
another living being, there is the law of good sense also, for the human being is
meant to obey the laws of the scriptures. This isn’t possible for animals."
The Vedas define a true vegetarian as one who eats no meat, fish, or eggs.
Those who abstain from meat but eat eggs or fish are not considered true
vegetarians because they are eating flesh, even though it may be hidden, as in
eggs, under a calcium coating. One who becomes a vegetarian only to avoid
killing may see no reason to refuse unfertilized eggs, but if we take the Vedic view
that all flesh is unfit for human consumption, it makes sense to shun eggs, which,
fertilized or not, are nothing but the assembled materials for the bodies of
chickens. Krsna’s devotees are strict vegetarians in the Vedic sense of the word:
they eat no meat, fish, or eggs.
Some vegetarians, called vegans, abstain not only from meat, fish, and eggs
but also from milk and milk products, because of moral concern about abuse of
cows in the dairy industry. The devotees of Krsna also condemn animal abuse,
but rather than abstain from milk, which the Vedas consider essential for human
beings, they show their compassion in a positive way by teaching the Vedic
principle of cow protection, and, as far as possible, drinking milk only from Hare
Krsna dairy farms, where the cows are loved and protected.
Many people become vegetarian but then later, because of a lack of taste
and conviction, fall back into former eating habits. How many more people
would consider giving up meat-eating if they knew of an alternative diet which
was tastier and scientifically perfect We hope that the magic touch of Ancient
India found in this book will inspire you to see that for health, taste, and spiritual
advancement, there is no better way of eating than to eat vegetarian food
offered to Krsna. It’s not only easy, it’s absolutely enjoyable. And once you
experience the satisfaction of eating food prepared with the consciousness of
pleasing Lord Krsna, you will know what we mean when we say you have
acquired a higher taste.
Vegetarianism, then, from the Vedic point of view, is part of something larger,
the natural way of eating for those who want to make the most of their human
life. In whatever way we follow the Vedic teachings, whether we become perfect
spiritualists or simply purify our eating habits, we become happier and lessen the
suffering in the world around us. "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever
you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform-do that as an
offering to Me." (Krsna speaking to Arjuna, His dear devotee, in the Bhagavadgitd. 9.27)
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