Sugar, so much under attack these days, 
wasn't always a tainted, ultraprocessed substance.

It has taken three hundred torturous years for medical science to rediscover the obvious and proclaim that the myriad symptoms of multiple diseases with multisyllable names are caused by sugar." ** (William Dufty, Sugar Blues (Randon, Pa.: Chilton Book Co., 1975), p. 53.)

"Sugar is worse than nothing because it drains and leeches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demands its digestion, detoxification, and elimination make upon one's entire system." ** (Ibid., p. 101)

Cooks For Krishna

"The apparent increased incidence of hyperinsulinism and of narcolepsy (abnormal attacks of drowsiness that can lead to serious accidents such as car crashes) during recent decades can be largely attributed to the consequences of an enormous rise in sugar consumption by a vulnerable population." ** (Dr. H. J. Roberts, The Causes, Ecology and Prevention of Traffic Accidents (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Pub. Co., 1971).)

If you believe what you read, sugar would appear to be the most harmful common ingredient in our food. Although in America since 1972 the average yearly consumption of sugar in the form of sucrose has dropped from 103 pounds per person to 71 pounds, the use of corn sweetener (another simple sugar) has doubled, and soon the average consumption of high fructose corn syrup (a simple sugar manufactured by the chemical breakdown of cornstarch) may level off at 39 pounds per person. Nutritionists place the corn sweeteners in the same category as sucrose because, like sucrose, they contain about 115 calories per ounce but provide few, if any, nutrients. So when all the figures are in, we're back where we started: about 125 pounds of refined caloric sweeteners per person per year (that's around six hundred calories daily per person, or twenty-four percent of the total caloric intake per person).

But over the past ten or fifteen years, Americans have cut down on nutritious foods. We eat less of complex carbohydrates pasta, potatoes, vegetables, rice, and cereals that contain vitamins and minerals. And the average daily milk intake among teenagers has dropped from sixteen to twelve ounces. They're not going thirsty, though. Their daily intake of sugared soft drinks has shot from nine to nineteen ounces. Sugars comprise an increasing proportion of the calories we eat.

According to a yearly report in Food Trade News listing the two hundred best-selling grocery items (excluding fresh produce) in the Philadelphia area, of the top seven items sold, five are different kinds of soda. Item number eight is Heinz ketchup, containing corn sweetener. The first solid food on the list comes after an assortment of dog foods, cat litter, Miracle Whip dressing, mayonnaise, and so on. It's number thirty: Skippy peanut butter, containing dextrose (corn sugar) and sucrose.

It may well be that our undeniable predilection toward sweets is natural, as even newborns favor sweetened drinks over plain or sour ones. And as the statistics show, we just can't cut down on our sweetened foods, even after we're informed of their apparent evils.

If you've ever been to a Sunday Feast in one of the Hare Krsna temples, or if you've been following these cuisine articles, you know that our diet includes plenty of complex carbohydrates, no canned or processed foods, and some dishes sweetened with either sugar or a natural sweetener.

The dishes in Lord Krsna's cuisine come from a timeless tradition, from days when sugar was not the ultraprocessed, ubiquitous ingredient that we know today. Sugar-making has been known in India for thousands of years. (The word for sugar in Sanskrit, the original language of India, was sarkara. This becomes sukkar in Arabic, sakharon in Greek, zucchero in Italian, Sucre in French, and sugar in English.) In the agrarian Vedic society of ancient India, sugar cane was grown primarily for home use. The tall, sturdy canes were not sent to industrialized mills, where lime, evaporators, vacuum pans, crystallizers, and centrifuges destroy the vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in sugar-cane juice.

Even today, as in former times, one can see Indian villagers patiently stirring large vats of sugar-cane juice (or, in some places, date-palm juice) until all the water has evaporated and what remains is the sticky, tan or brownish gur. Gurdoesn't keep as well as refined sugar, but that doesn't matter to the villagers. Whatever they don't use at home they take to a nearby market to sell to their neighbors.

But in the West, we don't find tasty and nutritious varieties of gur in our neighborhood supermarket. What to do?

Those who shun sweetened food can prepare any number of the dals, rices, breads, vegetables, kiccharis, savories, and snacks that we've presented on these pages over the years and eat a healthy, delicious, and diversified diet without ingesting sweeteners. This diet, you will find, is more satisfying and easier to follow than others. (As one former abstainer wrote in his autobiography: "I was unable to maintain the severe restrictions [of macrobiotic dieting] and would break my week-long fasts with ice cream and doughnuts." ** (Tamal Krishna Goswami, Servant of the Servant (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1984), p. 4.))

America's excess sugar consumption has in reaction produced another extreme: the denunciation of sugar as poisonous. We don't embrace either extreme, but suggest one can indulge moderately. Leading health and nutrition experts also advocate moderation and regulation. "Avoid too much sugar" (USDA Dietary Guidelines). "The best thing to do is to exercise care and common sense by eating a balanced diet from a wide variety of foods and by practicing moderation in eating any single food" (FDA Bureau of Foods).

These views are confirmed in the eternal, transcendental teachings ofBhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna declares, "He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation, and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system" (Bg. 6.17).

An important part of the yoga system referred to by Lord Krsna is to prepare food for the Lord's pleasure and to offer the food to Him with love. Lord Krsna relishes all vegetarian dishes so offered sweets included. Cooked chutneys, for example, like the ones in the photograph, are hot, spicy, and sweet and are ideal to offer to Krsna.

Cooked chutneys are zesty and tongue-tempting. They will surprise you with their variety of unique flavors some mild and refreshingly pungent, others pleasantly nippy and hot. Cooked chutneys are prepared from a wide range of ingredients. They may be pureed and thick or textured and fluffy. They may contain either whole or powdered spices. Cooked chutneys complement the dishes they accompany and are always served in moderation just a spoonful or two on each plate. Besides accompanying the main lunch or dinner, a dab of chutney goes especially well with hot deep- or shallow-fried bread, for breakfast, brunch, or an afternoon snack.

These chutney recipes call for nutritious ingredients, like fresh fruits and vegetables, and for either brown sugar or the natural sweetener of your choice. With love and devotion, we can offer these or other, unsweetened dishes to Lord Krsna and then enjoy them ourselves. By this simple process, our meals will become satisfying, our minds and senses will become peaceful, and, as theGita declares, we will "mitigate all material pains." What other cuisine can accommodate both pro- and antisugar advocates and at the same time be sensible, balanced, delicious, and, most importantly, so elevating?


(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)

Apple Chutney

(Seb Chatni )

Preparation time: 1 hour 
Servings: 10

2 tablespoons ghee 
¼ to 1 fresh hot green chili, seeded and cut into long, thin strips 
1 to 3 teaspoons peeled fresh ginger root, minced fine 
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds 
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds 
1 pound cored crab apples or tangy green cooking apples 
¼ cup golden raisins 
¼ cup dried ribbon coconut strips 
1 2/3 teaspoons cinnamon powder 
1 2/3 teaspoons nutmeg powder 
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup water

1. Heat the ghee in a 1-quart saucepan over a medium flame. Add the chilies, minced ginger root, fennel, and cumin seeds and fry until brown. Toss in the apples and fry for about five minutes. Reduce the flame to low.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, reserving 1 tablespoon of the coconut strips for garnishing. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes, or until thick and dry. Offer to Krsna warm or at room temperature, garnished with coconut ribbons.

Fresh Pineapple and Raisin Chutney

(Ananas-Kishmish Chatni )

Preparation time: 1 hour 
Servings: 16

2 ½ tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) 
1 to 3 teaspoons fresh hot green chilies, seeded and minced fine 
1 to 3 teaspoons peeled fresh ginger root, minced fine
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds 
1 ½ pounds peeled and cored pineapple, cut into pieces 1-inch long and 1/3-inch thick 
½ to 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed 
¼ cup golden raisins 
½ tablespoon coriander powder 
½ teaspoon cardamom powder 
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder 
¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder

1. Heat the ghee in a 2-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame until a drop of water flicked into it instantly dances. Add the green chilies, ginger, and cumin seeds. Fry until the seasonings turn golden brown. Add the fresh pineapple and allow the juices to come to a boil.

2. Reduce the flame and gently boil, partly covered, until the pineapple is tender and the water has been cooked off. Allow the fruit to fry in the ghee. If necessary, raise the heat, remove the lid, and boil away the pineapple juice.

3. Add the brown sugar and raisins. Continue simmering until the chutney is thick and dry. Remove the pan from the flame, stir in the spice powders, and cool to room temperature before offering to Krsna.

Cranberry Chutney

(Topokul Chatni )

Preparation time: 30 minutes 
Servings: 10

1 pound fresh cranberries, washed and stemmed
1 2/3 cups brown sugar 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
2-inch cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon peeled ginger root, grated fine 
1 cup water

1. Combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, grated ginger root, and water in a saucepan, and boil on a medium flame for 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the cranberries, reduce the flame, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the cranberries pop and soften. Cool to room temperature or chill; then offer to Krsna.