Monday, November 5, 2012

Time for a cleanse.

I tend to be a rationalist when it comes to food choices.  I want facts and figures.  I dig books like "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" and "The China Study."  I mostly think concepts like food combining and detoxifying -- not to mention the oh so ridiculous colon cleansing -- are a bunch of crap, and the people who push them are either well-meaning but deluded, or charlatans.  But every so often, after I've been eating foods that aren't good for me, I feel like it's time for a cleanse.

It's mostly a psychological cleanse.  I feel like my palate needs a reset.  And I've latched onto an Ayurvedic tradition that my rational brain doesn't believe in, but at least it's harmless -- the kitchari fast.

Indian food is comfort food to me, and kitchari is Indian comfort food.  There are a million kitchari recipes, generally calling for either sabud moong (whole mung beans) or moong dal (split, skinned mung beans), and rice, in varying proportions.  I feel best when there are lots of beans in my diet, so I tend to use either equal quantities of beans and rice, or 2 parts beans to 1 part rice.

My favorite kitchari recipe is the "Mung beans and rice with veggies" from the article linked above.  I like it because it has a lot of vegetables, and you just dump everything in the pot (I don't use any oil or other ghee substitute when I make that one).  I make my own garam masala, toasting and grinding the spices myself.  It actually doesn't take very long, can be done in advance, and makes the kitchen smell wonderful.

My favorite food writer for everything Indian is Raghavan Iyer, and I've also made a variation of the kitchari recipe in his book The Turmeric Trail.   It involves tempering the spices in ghee (I sub unrefined extra virgin coconut oil) and then sauteing fresh onion and tomato with the spice mixture and adding all that to the cooked rice and dal.  It is absolutely delicious, but I don't know how "cleansing" it is with the yummy, yummy coconut oil.  I love the fragrance of unrefined coconut oil.  Sometimes I just open up the jar and inhale deeply.

Last week I made a big pot of the "mung beans and rice with veggies," and then got really sick with an intestinal virus.  This was actually kind of a good thing, as my efforts to reset my palate and get back on track with healthy eating and other self-care had not been going so well.  I decided the kitchari I'd made (which included a lot of cabbage and was kind of spicy) was too much for my sick digestive system, so I made some that was absolutely plain, just white jasmine rice, moong dal, a little turmeric, and some grated ginger.  I ate nothing but that for a couple days, sprinkled with a little Herbamare for flavor, then started alternating with the veg-and-spice version.  I guess I ended the cleanse yesterday, because I ate some chick pea curry, and some hot and sour tofu and cabbage stew, in addition to a couple servings of kitchari.  I still have one portion of the veg-and-spice kitchari left, and I may cook up a pot of some other kitchari variation this week.    If it comes out pretty, I'll post some pictures.


  1. Abby, I'm picturing you with your nose over an open coconut oil bottle, getting high ... Dinah