From plain, pure water to exotic sharbat, whatever we drink should make us think of Lord Krsna.
Without water, we'd die within a week. And we wouldn't be the only ones. Sooner or later, every last bird, beast, insect, fish, and plant would die too. Without water no cow could produce a drop of milk, not a blade of grass could grow, not a flower bloom or a fruit ripen. We couldn't even brush our teeth without water.
But these days most of us probably don't think much about a water shortage. The scientific know-how that makes the water flow from our bathroom tap and garden hose gives us a sense of security. By the flick of our wrist, there's water when we want it. On a larger scale, technology enables us to irrigate arid land. On a recent drive through central California, I saw hundreds of acres of orange, avacado, and grapefruit groves irrigated by a system of pipes and sprinklers.
Yet the greatest scientists, despite all their technical expertise, can't end a drought. The rain falls by God's arrangement: the sun evaporates some of the ocean water, which then turns into clouds and falls on the land as rain.
Besides providing the very means of sustenance for all the earth's creatures, rain, in the form of drinking water and other beverages, can produce God consciousness. Srila Prabhupada explains, "The knowledge received from Krsna enables us to see Krsna. Someone may challenge, 'Can you show me God?' And our answer is 'Yes, God can be seen at every moment. Krsna says, "I am the taste of water." We drink water every day, and the taste of water is there. So if we think of this taste as Krsna, we will have begun realizing God. Even if one is drinking liquor, if he thinks, "The taste of this drink is Krsna," he will one day turn out to be a great saintly person.'"
If we don't get enough to drink every day, we impair our ability to function. Tests by the United States Army have shown that if a man loses five percent or more of his body weight from dehydration, his efficiency decreases tremendously, although he may not realize it. The obvious remedy: drink water two quarts a day for the average person, say the Army's researchers. So there's ample opportunity to drink water, think of Krsna, and become Krsna conscious.
Krsna consciousness means always to be aware of Krsna's presence everywhere. Since Lord Krsna is all-pervasive by His diverse material and spiritual energies, even the beginner in spiritual life can perceive Krsna. Water is one of Krsna's energies, and in the pure taste of water we can perceive Him. And naturally, we'll glorify the Lord for His kindly supplying water to quench our thirst.
Who would have thought we could become God conscious just by drinking? Yet it's true. Through beverages we can realize our complete dependence on the mercy of the Lord and become attracted to serving Him with devotion. And this transcendental process can begin the next time we drink something.
Lord Krsna's cuisine has a wide variety of beverages for quenching the thirst and pleasing the palate. The foremost of these is fresh water. (You'll wonder why we consider water pleasing to the palate only if you've never experienced the special taste of cool, clear, sweet water drawn from a mountain spring or a deep well.) It's traditional to welcome a guest with fresh water, a comfortable place to sit, and pleasing words. In this way anyone, rich or poor, can make his guest feel refreshed and thoroughly welcome.
Fresh water is also the standard beverage for full meals, while fresh juices squeezed from tree- or vine-ripened fruits may accompany a savory or sweet for a light meal. (Fruit juices are rich in vitamin C. A small glass of orange juice will supply the day's requirements.)
You can make more substantial beverages by combining fruits, spices, nuts, and essences with milk, buttermilk, or yogurt. Milk, also the basis for cold shakes, makes a soothing nightcap when served hot. With yogurt and buttermilk you can make cooling refreshments that are ideal for counteracting the heat of a midsummer's day. And if you're at all hesitant about yogurt, try a lassi, a sweet yogurt smoothie. It fills the body with strength and cools the head and stomach.
More exotic are the classic Vedic beverages, sharbats and squashes. Sharbats (not to be confused with the flavored ices called sherbets) are drinks made with a syrup containing extracts from herbs, flower petals, bark, nuts, or fruits. A squash is a drink made from fruit syrup. Both sharbats and squashes are delightful drinks, as well as remedies for minor ailments. They're fragrant, full of nutrients, and great-tasting altogether a pleasure to offer Krsna. And, while you share them with your family and friends, you can meditate on how wonderful the Lord tastes.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Easy Lime or Lemonade Squash Mix
This mix is convenient to have on hand in the refrigerator or on trips. Just add water and ice for a cooling, delicious refreshment.
Yield: about 1 ½ quarts of syrup (enough for 9 quarts of lemon- or limeade)
Preparation time: 40 minutes
5 to 8 lemons or limes
½ cup water
1 ¼ cups sugar and 2 cups light corn syrup, or 3 ½ cups honey
4 ½ cups lemon or lime juice
1. Peel long strips of rind from the lemons or limes, avoiding any white pith, and place the rinds into a small bowl.
2. Bring the water to a full boil, pour it into the bowl, cover, and allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes. Then pour through a strainer, collect the liquid, and discard the rinds.
3. Over a medium flame, heat the rind-water and sweetener in a saucepan until the sweetener dissolves. Then remove from the flame, add the citrus juice, and allow to cool. Now pour the syrup into a 2-quart jar, secure with a tight-fitting lid, and refrigerate.
4. To offer the first glass of lemon- or limeade to Krsna, do the following: Shake the jar, measure out ¼ cup of the syrup, pour it into a 12-ounce glass, add cracked ice, and fill with cold water.
Ginger-Flavored Orange Squash
Preparation time: 5 minutes
1 tablespoon finely minced, scraped fresh ginger root
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup honey or sugar
1/3 cup strained lemon or lime juice
¼ cup washed, lightly packed fresh mint leaves
3 ice cubes
2 ½ cups chilled fresh orange juice
1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder
1. Combine the ginger, warm water, sweetener, lemon juice, and mint leaves in a blender and blend for about 1 minute.
2. Stop the machine, add the ice cubes, and blend for another minute. Pour the juice through a fine strainer into a 1 ½ quart pitcher. Now add the orange juice and cardamom powder, stir well, pour out a glass, and offer to Krsna.
Iced Yogurt Drink
Preparation time: 15 minutes
3 cups thick plain yogurt
1 cup ice water
4 crushed ice cubes
1/3 to ½ cup sugar or equivalent mild honey
½ tablespoon rosewater (optional)
4 one-inch-square pieces of the thick yogurt that forms on top of homemade yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar or honey for garnishing 4 chilled glasses
Note: If you use honey as the sweetener, heat it in the water until it dissolves and then chill the mixture until it's ice cold.
1. Combine the yogurt, rosewater, and sugar or honey-water in a 1 ½-quart mixing bowl. Churn vigorously with a lassi churn, or whip with a wire whisk, or beat with a rotary beater until the mixture is light and smooth. If you used sugar as the sweetener, add the ice-water and beat until blended.
2. Place ¼ of the ice into each chilled glass, pour in the yogurt drink, and stir. Before offering to Krsna, place a small piece of thick yogurt on the surface of each drink and garnish with a sprinkle of sugar or a few drops of honey.
Chilled Five-Nectar Party Punch
Preparation time: 15 minutes
3 cups milk
2 ½ cups plain yogurt
1 cup chilled water
1 fresh coconut
1 cup peeled, diced mango (make sure it's ripe)
1 cup honey
6 to 8 ice cubes, cracked
¼ cup dried coconut ribbons
¼ cup split, deep-fried puffed lotus pods for garnishing (optional)
¼ cup fine bottled rosewater
1. Boil the milk and then chill it.
2. Extract 1 cup of milk from the coconut.
3. Combine the milk, yogurt, water, and coconut milk in a large bowl and whip until blended.
4. Place the mango pieces and honey in an electric blender and blend until smooth. Then add the cracked ice and blend for a few more seconds.
5. Combine the ingredients in a gallon punch bowl resting on cracked ice. Sprinkle the surface with the dried coconut, deep-fried lotus pods, and rosewater. Allow the drink to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before offering Krsna the first glass.
Spicy Hot Coconut-Milk Tonic
(Garam Nariyal Dhood)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
1 fresh coconut
4 cups hot water
½ teaspoon roasted cardamom seeds
6 whole black peppercorns
½ tablespoon lemon or lime juice
a round piece of fresh ginger root ¾ inch across and ¼ inch thick
3 to 4 tablespoons fine honey
1. Peel the coconut and dice the meat into ½-inch cubes.
2. Place the coconut and ½ cup of water in a blender and blend on high speed for about 1 ½ minutes. Now remove the cap on the lid and slowly pour in an additional 1 ½ cups of hot water. Then add the cardamom seeds and peppercorns, and blend until the coconut is reduced to a smooth puree.
3. Line a strainer with a double thickness of cheesecloth or cotton muslin and strain the coconut puree, collecting as much liquid as possible. Press with your palms to extract all the liquid you can, and then gather the corners of the cloth and twist out the remaining liquid. You should have a little more than 2 cups of coconut milk. Now add enough water to bring it to 4 cups.
4. Heat the diluted coconut milk, lemon juice, piece of ginger root, and sweetener in a small saucepan until the mixture almost boils. Offer to Krsna hot.