People often ask me what is my affinity with India and Indian cuisine. Buckle your seatbelts because you are in for a weird ride. Be aware this post may sound very strange to many but to some it will make perfect sense. This story involves gurus, a dream, a tattoo, some very deep breathing and lots and lots of curry.
I was born in 1974 in small town Massachusetts. I had zero exposure to anything or anyone Indian until college in 1992 when I had my first Indian friends, heard Ravi Shankar for the first time and tasted my first curry and fell deeply in love with it. This is also where I began a fascination with world religions, yoga and enlightenment. I was introduced to the concepts of karma, dharma, reincarnation and psychedelics. All of these things began to reshape my understanding of reality and the world around me which opened my mind and heart to a more spiritual path.
In 1994, I found the book "Be Here Now" by Ram Dass. The book quite literally called me from the shelf at the bookstore, I had no intentions of buying a book that day. In fact, I had not even heard of this book. It helped me to calm the anxieties I felt about the impermanence and fragility of reality. Ram Dass's books were the tip of the iceberg for me as I dove into more spiritual books like "I am That" by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "Raja Yoga" by Swami Vivekananda, the Upanishads and Bagavad gita. Simultaneously I was reading The Christian Bible, books about Paganism and the Quabbalah. Books about spirituality were my bread and butter. They influenced me profoundly and made me long for a meaningful life, devoid of consumerism, atattchment and toxicity.
In 1996 I moved to California. I got on a Greyhound bus with very little money or possessions. On the way, I met many interesting characters and we formed a motley little family. I can't tell you how many hemp necklaces I made on that journey, but it was enough to have the knotted patterns imprinted in my minds eye as I fell asleep with my head on the shoulder of a stranger. One of the last people I met before the trip was over was a Swami. He entered the bus silently, in his salmon colored robes and marked forehead. He beamed at me and glided down the aisle to sit at my side. We talked for hours. I don't remember his name but I do recall the mantra he gave me. He said that one day I would come to India, I haven't yet but someday I will.
Later, while living in California, I spent hours in walking meditation, reading spiritual books and contemplating the universe. I also began trying more Indian foods, enjoying all the vegetarian options at the Indian buffets. I fancied myself as a bit of a Buddhist or Hindu despite my Christian upbringing. Although I loved the life I was living, I returned home to Massachusetts when life became chaotic and with me I brought my love for all things Indian.
While back in Massachusetts, I had a very vivid dream that I had a peacock tattoo. I immediately set out to make this a reality. Although at the time, I had no idea there was any connection to India, I have had time now to research peacocks and there is a strong connection. Peacocks are the national bird of India and have an auspicious symbolism in Hindu and other religions. This is another thing that strenghthened my affinity with India. Now I have a giant peacock tattoo that starts on my back and goes over my shoulder and down my arm. Like me, it still needs work. Someday it will be finished but I am in no rush.
Around the same time that I got my tattoo, I discovered ashtanga yoga. My teacher Jason and his girlfriend Jen were enormous influences on me although they were only in my vicinity a short time. Ashtanga was yoga in action and I adored it. I still love ashtanga although I am not practicing anymore. I do however use ujjayi breathing to center myself in moments of tension or anxiety. At that time, I also had some neighbors from India. Their mother's were always so kind when visiting. They gifted me delicious food and peacock feathers which further solidified my affinity with India.
Over the years, my peacock tattoo has always reminded me of my affinity with India as has the various mantras I use. Whenever I had a chance, I would consume luscious Indian food with whoever I could. I found with most Americans they either loved Indian flavors or hated them. There was no in between. Those friends of mine who were curry lovers too were always my favorites. I also loved Indian music, although I didn't understand the words, the sound always brought me peace.
Fast forward several years to 2011. I had been living in California since 2001. I went to a yoga class which relit my fire. This began a rigorous yoga practice which resulted in me quitting smoking, losing weight, getting certified to teach yoga and ultimately conceiving my first child. Yoga and Indian influence had once again touched me very deeply and helped to steer my life in a new direction. In the same year I began practicing Kundalini meditation under Swami Khecaranatha and received Shaktipat which was a profound experience.
Let's jump now to 2018. That is the year I began Betterfoodguru. My yoga practice had been resting for several years, my diet was a mess and I was a mom of 3, working full time as a Chef. I started the instagram account to hold myself accountable for my eating choices and to share healthy food with the masses. Hence the name Betterfoodguru came about with the intention of teaching others to eat better. To be honest, I did not think much about the implications of the word Guru in the title. Guru resonated with me, so I used it without knowing that curry would be one of my specialties. The first year of blogging was experimentation with several diets but my big takeaway was that I felt best eating and working with whole foods and plant based ingredients. This is when I started cooking more with Indian flavors.
Much of my following comes from India, in fact about 30%. This is so wonderful considering my affinity with India. I continue to read about India's culture, religions and history. And I continue to experiment with India's bold and intoxicating flavors in my kitchen. I'm not Indian but I hold a deep affection for India and it's people and they inspire me. I do not claim to know everything about India or cook authentic Indian food. But I respect India and the gifts that they have brought to our world. Maybe I was Indian in a past life or two or perhaps India is just part of this American girl's destiny. I may never know exactly where my affinity with India comes from, but I do know that I feel it in my heart.
Indian cuisine is special. The spectacular flavors and textures are a joy to cook with. I think Indian food deserves a bigger spotlight. It is part of my plan to spread love through food and expose more people to the exotic and extraordinary flavors of India. I know that I have not even touched the tip of India's culinary iceberg, but I will keep trying, learning and eating my way through it's rich history and sharing it with the world.
Thank you for reading my long story about my affinity with India. I hope you enjoyed the share and it answered the questions that so many of you have asked. Someday I will be adding to this story but for now this is all she wrote.