Book Review: The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook

‘The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook’, by Amrita Sonhdi, Arsenal Pulp Press ISBN 978-1-55152-204-3

In my quest to make wise food choices and add some variety to my diet, I’ve been enjoying The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook, now in its fourth printing.

Ayurveda originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. At its heart “is our intimate connection to the elements in nature, and how they can help us to achieve a physical and spiritual balance in all aspects of our lives,” Amrita writes. Her maternal and paternal grandparents emigrated to Africa from India and Amrita remembers eating delicious Indian cuisine at home. She admits to being “burnt out” in her mid-thirties and so began her journey to Ayurveda.

The all-vegetarian cookbook begins with an explanation of the doshas and a questionnaire so readers can determine their own primary dosha. We’re all born with three doshas that make up our body constitution. They are Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (earth). Most of us have a stronger primary dosha, a secondary dosha, and a third less prominent dosha. The aim of Ayurveda is to bring all three into balance.

Each of the over 200 recipes have symbols to indicate how it affects your dosha. An extensive appendix describes how the seasons affect the doshas; menu plans that emphasize the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent), and a 12-day cleanse.

Living an Ayurvedic lifestyle isn’t just about the food so Amrita has included a section of yoga postures (she’s also a yoga teacher) and alternative therapies such as aromatherapy.

Ayurveda is definitely a different approach to finding balance than most of us are used to. It’s all explained very clearly with modern-day cooking methods and ingredients you can find in your grocery store or by taking a trip to explore ethnic neighbourhoods. Amrita’s personal notes preceding the recipes keep a lighthearted yet passionate tone throughout.

I eat a lot of salads so I made the Creamy Cilantro Dressing which is lovely and light with a subtle taste of spices like turmeric, coriander and ginger in plain yogurt. The dressing is good for all doshas. To reduce Kapha, for those who have it in excess, or have Kapha as a primary dosha as I do, honey is used instead of maple syrup.

I’d love to tell you about the other recipes I’ve tried but best to try them for yourself. Amrita is busy preparing new recipes in her Bowen Island kitchen for her next book. We can find health, energy and a balanced sense of well-being by learning from and following the ancient tradition of Ayurveda.

Mary Ann Moore is a poet, writer and creator of Writing Home: A Whole Practice.