The risk of obesity, high blood pressure,
constipation, and cancer evidently aren't
enough to get meat eaters to change their diet.
I received a publication from the U.S. Government Printing Office entitled "There's Something to Be Said for Never Saying, 'Please Pass the Meat."' It was a compelling statement for vegetarianism written by Roger W. Miller, editor of the Food and Drug Administration's Consumer magazine.
According to Mr. Miller, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences studied the vegetarian diet legumes, grains, nuts, vegetables, and milk and concluded that it provides all necessary proteins and other nutrients.
"The idea that vegetarians can't get what their bodies need without meat was pretty well put into the myth category" by the academy.
In addition, Mr. Miller explained that, as a group, vegetarians may be much healthier than nonvegetarians. They have less risk of developing cancer, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and constipation.
Vegetarians can "also be credited with adopting a very efficient means of getting their bodily essentials a consideration of no small merit on this planet of finite resources." Meat is expensive to buy because it's expensive to produce cattle must eat sixteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. "The world's food shortages," Mr. Miller says, "might lessen if vegetarianism swept the world."
Thus, "economists, philosophers, and nutritionists who look at vegetarians often have to come up with plus marks for these flesh teetotalers." Many vegetarians, he concluded, "have earned and deserve their wholesomer-than-thou attitude."
But, when I read in the small italicized paragraph at the end of the paper that Mr. Miller "enjoys steaks, pork chops, and hamburgers and admires vegetarians," the entire paper and Mr. Miller took on a new light.
Here was a qualified person who compared vegetarianism to nonvegetarianism and saw that, from an impartial viewpoint, vegetarianism was the better alternative. Yet only intellectually was he impartial. When it came to his own menu, he was partial to meat.
As an avowed vegetarian, at first I was incredulous. Then it began to make sense. Nowhere in his paper had Mr. Miller expressed compassion for the millions of innocent animals who are born and raised in confined and crowded conditions, then fattened with artificial roughage (including cardboard, shopping bags, computer paper, corrugated boxes, and newspapers), pumped full of antibiotics, and finally slaughtered for the family supper. Empathy with the animals impels many a vegetarian. Although he did mention that "Hindus avoid meat because they believe in transmigration; thus butchering an animal would be tantamount to butchering a person," Mr. Miller himself has no faith in such beliefs.
But even aversion to slaughter is not the primary factor that makes me partial to a vegetarian diet. Over and above considerations of health and nonviolence, devotees of Krsna are "flesh teetotalers" because they eat only food they have lovingly offered to Krsna. Since Krsna requests, and will accept, only vegetarian foods-fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, and milk products devotees are vegetarian primarily out of love for Him. They are partial not to vegetarian over nonvegetarian food, but to Krsna.
And Krsna is partial to them. Although as the supreme father He is equal to all, Krsna naturally favors His devotees over the atheists, just as a parent favors an affectionate child over a delinquent one. "I am equal to all," Lord Krsna says in the Gita, "but whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend and is in Me, and I am also a friend to him" (Bg. 9.29).
The Lord's devotees easily and happily serve Him by cooking vegetarian meals, offering them to Him with devotion, and then enjoying the Lord's prasadam, or spiritualized food. In this way the devotees get all the material benefits of the vegetarian diet, and, when they're advanced spiritually, they return to the kingdom of God.
We are free to place our faith where we want. Some, like Mr. Miller, place their faith in their own likes and dislikes and conduct their lives accordingly, whereas others place their faith in Lord Krsna and conduct their lives according to His likes and dislikes. So while Mr. Miller and others may continue to laud vegetarianism from an impartial viewpoint, devotees will continue to enjoy the benefits, both material and spiritual, of being partial to Krsna.
Date and Tamarind Chutney
(Khajur imli ki chatni)
Preparation time: 35 minutes
3 ounces tamarind
1 ½ cups water
7 ounces dates, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1. Break the lump of tamarind into small pieces and boil them in the water for 10 minutes. Then pour the tamarind and water through a strainer. With a wooden spoon push as much of the pulp as possible through the strainer into the water, scraping the bottom of the strainer every few seconds. Continue until all the pulp has been extracted from the seeds and fiber.
2. Add all of the other ingredients to the pulp-and-water mixture. Cook over medium flame, uncovered, until most of the liquid cooks off and the chutney takes on the consistency of marmalade. Offer to Krsna.
(Jagannatha Puri channe ki dal)
Preparation time: 1 hour
9 ounces channa dal
5 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
4 bay leaves
5 or 6 medium-size tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon powdered asafetida
3 tablespoons grated fresh (or 4 tablespoons dry) coconut
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1. Soak the dal in water for 3 to 4 hours and leave in a strainer to drain. Bring the water, with the salt, to a boil in a large pot; then add the dal and bay leaves. Cook partially covered over a medium flame for 30 to 40 minutes, removing any froth that collects on the surface. Then lift the cover, stir the dal several times, and lower the flame to a simmer.
2. Wash the tomatoes, cut each one into 8 wedges, and add to the dal with the butter. Replace the cover and let the dal simmer while you prepare the seasonings.
3. Heat the ghee or oil in a small saucepan and fry the cumin seeds for a few seconds. Then add the grated ginger, asafetida, and grated coconut. Fry this mixture for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Now pour the ghee and spices into the cooked dal, along with the sugar and molasses. Stir well and simmer for 5 more minutes before offering to Krsna.
Rice with Spinach
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
10 ounces basmati or other good long-grain rice
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ¾ cups water
½ pound fresh spinach
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 bay leaves
4 ounces unsalted peanuts (optional), lightly fried
1 pinch ground black pepper
1. Wash the rice thoroughly, soak it, and let it drain. Put the water and the salt into a pot and heat over a high flame. Remove the tough stalks from the spinach, wash the leaves in several changes of water, and drain. Then wilt the leaves by plunging them into the boiling salted water. Put them into a colander and rinse under cold water; then drain them and chop them into small pieces.
2. In a medium-size saucepan, heat the ghee or oil and fry the ground coriander and bay leaves. Add the rice and stir-fry until the grains are coated and become translucent. Add the chopped spinach and stir for a minute; then pour the salted water into the saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. Cover the pan and cook gently over a low flame for 20 minutes. If you use peanuts, put them in (without stirring) 5 minutes before you finish cooking. When the rice is completely cooked, add the pepper. Mix the ingredients with a fork before offering to Krsna.
Potatoes au Gratin
Preparation time: 1 hour
1 pound panir (milk curd)
10 medium-size potatoes, precooked
½ teaspoon asafetida
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
3 tablespoons ground coriander
2 ½ cups sour cream mixed with 1 teaspoon turmeric
4 ounces butter
2 tablespoons powdered milk
1. Rinse the paneer well under cold running water. Then gather the cheesecloth tight around the paneer and squeeze out most of the water. Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices.
2. Cover the bottom of a greased casserole or cake pan with one third of the potato slices. Sprinkle this layer with one third of each spice, in this order: asafetida, salt, pepper, fresh coriander, ground coriander. Cover with a layer of one third of the crumbled panir and a layer of one third of the sour cream. Dot with one third of the butter.
3. Cover this with a second layer of sliced potatoes and other ingredients, in the same manner as the first layer. Make the third layer with the rest of the sliced potatoes, and repeat the procedure using the rest of the ingredients. Finally, sprinkle a thin layer of powdered milk over the top. Tightly cover the casserole with a sheet of aluminum foil, and bake it in the oven for about 45 minutes at 400'F. Remove the aluminum foil 10 minutes before the end of cooking so that the top can brown. Offer to Krsna.
Potato and Coconut Salad
(Alt narial raita)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
6 medium-size potatoes
1 ½ cups plain yogurt 2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces grated coconut
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 fresh chili, minced
2 firm ripe tomatoes several sprigs of parsley
1. Boil the potatoes until they're soft. Peel them, cut them into ¾-inch cubes, and put them in a bowl. Refrigerate.
2. Wash the tomatoes and cut each into 8 wedges.
3. Mix together the yogurt, salt, and grated coconut. Heat the ghee in a small pan; then toss in the mustard seeds, covering the pan immediately so that the frying seeds won't pop out. When they finish popping, add the ginger and chili. Stir for a few seconds. Empty this masala into the bowl of yogurt, drop the potatoes in, mix, and toss gently to give the potatoes an even coating of yogurt and spices.
4. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and wedges of tomato. Offer to Krsna.