Recently, as some of you may know, I’ve been staying at an ashram in southern India. Kerala to be exact. And while I had my Julia Roberts fantasy of eating, praying and loving going into the experience- I didn’t quite come out of it with enlightenment (or a crazy Texan friend that was way too up in my business).
Despite these setbacks, I did come out of it with some awesome traditional Keralan recipes and increased flexibility (four hours of yoga a day does have some benefits, and being able to bend in weird positions is one of them).
The rules of the ashram were pretty intense (read: get your ass out of bed at 5:30am every morning) and the diet certainly matched this strict and regimented atmosphere. I’m talking no alcohol (fine), no drugs (that’s legit), only vegetarian food (no harm there), and no garlic or onions (wait *record stops* WTF?!).
Yup, no garlic. No onions. What else is there to eat you may ask? I don’t know. But I was not happy about it. According to some yogic principles of belief, onions and garlic fire up your system too much, whereas a yogi lifestyle should be more calm and relaxed. I think I would have been more relaxed had I not had to praise elephant and monkey gods every evening, but whatevs. I rolled with it.
What I found really interesting was the incorporation of coconuts into literally everything. Coconut chutney, coconut curry, coconut oil (amazing for your hair by the way), coconut juice, coconut gumbo (just kidding), and of course- coconuts! As a (coco)nut myself, I was loving it.
Me being very happy about this coconut
Keralan food is certainly delicious and the coconut is just one example of its unique flavor. Another traditional dish is the dosa, which is kind of like a crepe that you eat with other curries and vegetables. Idlis are spongy rice cake/dumpling things, and they’re also pretty good. We often had pineapple curry, red rice, and cabbage salad- though I’m not sure if that’s cheap ashram food or staples in Kerala- anyone any ideas?
Keralan Thali, served on banana leaf
All in all it was a nice experience. Different, but nice. I entered the ashram very tense, very hard and very angry from dealing with all that India is, and I left surprisingly refreshed, with a new attitude and reinvigorated for the last leg of my trip. Yes I could have woken up more for morning meditation, or learned the Sanskrit prayers, but I did what I could. And so I give myself an A for effort.
And a B for Biryani.