‘Ayurvedic Cooking For Self-Healing’ by Usha Lad and Dr Vasant Lad – Book Review

There is a quote, from the scriptures about Ayurveda, in one of the web pages of Dr. Vasant Lad’s site. It is given as follows: “Ayurveda is beyond beginning and ending. A science of eternal healing, it is compared to a vast ocean, and studying Ayurveda to swimming across. A true teacher can teach one how to swim, but the swimming is up to the student;…it is a lifelong journey.”

From using it as a heart-warming cookbook, I succeeded to experiment and then appreciate the simple and natural ways of healing some common ailments, such as fever and cold. But as I open myself to the depths of learning that has been designed into this work, the book reveals the microcosmic journey of swimming the seas of Ayurveda. The fundamental principles that make-up a human body, like the five elements, the three bodily humors or doshas, the step-by-step processes of digestion according to Ayurveda, and much more are covered in this book.

This book has been written by Dr.Vasant Lad and his wife, Usha Lad. Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc, ‘is a world-renowned Ayurvedic Physician from India with more than 40 years of Indian medicine clinical experience.’ He is also the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The book shows the painstaking work of the authors to present to readers the complex details of food and cooking, uniquely derived from the fundamentals of Ayurveda. Even those readers who have little background in this ancient method, will find it easy to understand because of the simplicity and clarity in the presentation.

Tables are used wherever possible, making it easy to look things up. Sketches drawn by Dr.Lad himself, lend a distinct attraction for readers. It tends to unburden the reader from feeling any kind of heaviness while going through the exhaustive information provided. It would be beneficial to also consider publishing a ‘large print’ version of the book, which I have not come across as yet.

If you are not a healer, particularly not familiar to the Ancient Indian system of Ayurveda, this book can make an excellent introduction to other life enhancing works of Dr. Lad. Another book of Dr. Lad’s called, ‘The Complete book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies’, covers the same details of the foundational principles of Ayurveda given in this text, ‘Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-healing’. But I found this work as a gentler introduction to this ancient system of healing. Both the works are extensively packed with details, but have their own unique focus.

One of the issues in the process of changing one’s diet to vegetarian food is said to be, according to a Q&A section with Dr. Weil, getting enough protein. If you are one among those trying to adapt to vegetarian diet, this book can give you the wholesome picture required to keep your health in balance. It provides an ample amount of recipes and an exhaustive list of simple fruits, vegetables and spices. Dr. Weil mentions this as ‘varied vegetarian diet’ and also as a healthier alternative.

One of the works of Andrew Weil, M.D., that I first read was, ‘Spontaneous Healing’. The works of Dr. Weil and Dr. Lad are quite comparable in the distinct field of healing, predominantly through natural means. Years before I was introduced to the works of Dr. Vasant Lad, I was using the works of Andrew Weil, M.D. Dr. Weil’s website is a well of resource, and the information that is provided is from his unique expertise in the field of health, healing, food and more.

I also learn that many of us have a longing for connection with the ways of our ancestors to live our lives better. ‘Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing’ is definitely a book that renders such wisdom. It also contains in it an ambiance that caters to readers from both the Eastern (India) and the Western (U.S.) countries. A copy of this book, which I have, has become antiquated in appearance. It has been kept open several times, on my kitchen counter.

254 pages; The Ayurvedic Press (N.M.); 2nd ed., 1997; $19.50; http://www.ayurveda.com

Critical Review of the Book Titled "Sal-A Feast of Kashmiri Cuisine"

I wanted to prepare a typical Kashmiri Sherbat at the time of Ramzaan. I was searching for Kashmiri recipes. I was not very fortunate enough to know about it. Luckily I discovered the details of the recipe in the book titled “Sal-A Feast of Kashmiri Cuisine”. It was written by Smt. Neerja Mattoo-a Professor in English literature and teaching in the Kashmir University. It was a colorful book with lots of recipes from the valley. It was published in the year of 2008. The name of the publisher was Gulshan Books, Srinagar-Kashmir. The ISBN is 81-8339-063-3. The cost of the book is Rs.495.

The book is dedicated to her mother. The contents of the book are:

1. 11 Wazwaan recipes

2. 7 Non-Vegetarian recipes

3. 21 Vegetarian Recipes

4. 8 Mutton and Vegetable

5. 9 recipes prepared from fish and 1 recipe prepared from duck

6. 2 Dried Vegetables

7. 4 Recipes using rice

8. 4 Desserts

9. 4 Beverages

10. 7 Snacks and Tea-Time Savouries

11. 4 Chutneys

12. 1 Pickle

13. 2 Spice Cakes (garlic and asafoetida based)

The excellent points present in the book are:

a. Different varieties of recipes have been shared by the author.

b. The author gives a vivid introduction about the Kashmiri cuisine-right from seasonal dishes to festive cuisine.

c. The authentic recipes shared from her side are Sadre Kaenz, Sheer Chai, bakery products, harisa, girda, etc.

d. She discusses about the use and prevention of certain spices and vegetables during festivals and seasons as described in traditional books.

e. Very clear colored photographs for various dishes are showcased in the book (this even includes the traditional copper utensils used for different purposes).

f. Her major contribution lies in the sharing of recipes using dried vegetables.

g. This is the only book sharing the recipe for a beverage called Babribyol Sherbet (beverage prepared from chia seeds) and sadr-e-kaenz-a fermented rice water).

The weak points of the book are:

a. The sections on non-vegetarian and mutton and vegetable could have been taken into one category only.

b. The author was not fair in her contribution towards the discussion and listing of the Wazwaan dishes.

c. Though the author mentions about various bakery products in the Introduction of her book, however, there is nowhere mentioned or discussed about the manner in which these products are prepared by the Kandarvaan or the baker’s shop.

d. The author is not shown much attention towards the preparations of various dishes from the dried vegetables.

e. There are other varieties of pickles prepared in Kashmir. The author misses her points in it too.

To summarize in the end, the book is truly an introduction to the world of Kashmiri cuisine. The author describes the steps in a very lucid manner and one can follow them nicely. I enjoyed cooking some of the recipes from the book.

"Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook" – Innovative, Healthy, & Delicious Recipes From Plant-Based Ingredients

Joe Stepaniak’s “Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook” was among the first cookbooks I bought after deciding to adopt a vegan diet 3 years ago. For those not familiar with the term “uncheese”, Stepaniak uses it to describe rich-tasting spreads, dips, sauces and blocks produced with dairy-free whole foods (primarily beans, nuts, or grains).

Cheese lovers be forewarned: you may be in for some disappointment if you’re expecting tofu to taste like Feta cheese or chickpeas like Havarti. The book’s introduction even acknowledges that “uncheeses are not going to be like dairy cheeses, so please adjust your expectations accordingly. “

Unfortunately I skipped Stepaniak’s well-intentioned introduction and plowed in to the recipes, attempting Tofu Ricotta, Chick Cheez, Swizz Cheez, Buffalo Mostarella, Brie, Betta Feta, White Bean Boursin, Monterey Jack and Port Wine uncheeses. And while all were tasty (my favorite is the sharp Chick Cheez spread–made from Garbanzo Beans) they left me somewhat disillusioned and wondering whether I could actually live without real cheese.

As a result of not immediately finding perfect non-dairy replacements for my most beloved cheeses, “The Uncheese Cookbook” sat dormant on my shelf for some time. Little did I realize that I would come back to Stepaniak’s book later (many times), finding it had improved with age. Its most valuable lesson is that it introduces unfamiliar ingredients, and uses them as well as more commonplace items–including raw nuts–in groundbreaking fashion.

For example, I had never heard of nutritional yeast, an ingredient employed in many of the book’s recipes. Nutritional yeast is a rich source of vitamins and minerals that has a pungent cheesy taste, too. I later learned that Stepaniak is somewhat of an aficionado on the subject of nutritional yeast, having authored “The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook.”

Among other new ingredients (and somewhat challenging to obtain) were agar and kuzu (both plant-based thickening agents used in place of gelatin), and umeboshi plum paste, used for adding saltiness. Chickpea flour (a.k.a. Chana Besan) while common in Indian cuisine, is also employed in many uncheese dishes.

The introduction to Uncheese Cookbook provides a detailed and useful reference to all the aforementioned ingredients as well as others. It also contains a well-documented background of how the dairy industry has influenced the evolution of the American diet (echoing T. Scott Campbell’s “The China Study”), and provides detailed nutritional data on the benefits of non-dairy sources of calcium, protein, fat, and carbohydrates vs. dairy products.

Moving on to the recipes, I found many of the “Uncheese Dishes” to be superb. Among my favorites are:

  • Chocolate Almond Cheeze Cake (p170*) with Granola Nut Crust–Everyone who’s tasted it are astounded it tastes more delicious than real cheesecake, without using eggs or dairy products (maple syrup is the secret).
  • “Besto Pesto” (which imperceptibly substitutes cheese with miso)–How can a vegan diet be considered sacrifice when you can still enjoy a dish of linguine with Genevose pesto sauce?
  • Chickpea Flour Pizza (p128), eaten alongside vegetable curries–It takes all of about 5 minutes to prepare, so it’s very convenient, too!
  • Beannaise (p150)–Used as mayonnaise substitute within other recipes, and also by itself, as a dip for vegetables or salad dressing.

*Note: page numbers refer to the 10th edition of the book.

Other recipes I would recommend include: Parmezano Sprinkles (p50), Eggplant Parmagiano Stew (p80), Spinach-Tofu Manicotti (p117), Zucchini Chedda Soup (p77).

Upon re-perusing “The Uncheese Cookbook”, there are still many dishes I plan to sample, including: Classic Quiche (p102), Lemon Teasecake (p169)-the “Key Lime” variation, Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce (p63), Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip (p49), and Curried Cauliflower Cheez Soup (p76).

Other features of the book you will appreciate are the charts of nutritional values for each of the recipes, and the listings of food allergens (gluten, soy, nuts, corn). On the other hand, the book contains only 4 pages of photographs, and certainly could benefit from more.

If you already own “The Uncheese Cookbook” but haven’t picked it up for a while, I suggest it’s worth another look. If you don’t, please get a hold of a copy and try its innovative and healthy recipes based on plant-based ingredients. Just remember to put aside your expectations of dairy-cheese taste, and you won’t be disappointed!