These questions about prasadam and cooking for Srila Prabhupada are from Bhakta Shane:

Question:

Prabhu – I have few questions to ask and would appreciate if you could kindly speak about this subject.

I’m studying Ayurveda and alternative naturapathy and also want to eventually help to bring about better diet and health understandings for devotees as part of that study – for instance in Australia according to some devotees I’ve talked to there have been 9 devotees in last few years that have had their gall bladders removed – (gall bladder  is there to break down fatty foods as part of its function ) so that is a very high statistic and probably avoidable as well. It would be a very good service if you could do this.”

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The body beautiful–how galling can it be?

Answer:

When I joined the Sydney temple in Feb. 1972 the prasadam was quite opulent. There wasn’t much sense of healthy eating. If it was offerable to Krsna, it was on the menu, and in no small measures either. The combination of ghee and sugar was a revelation that saved many a new devotee from blooping.

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Oh ghee whizz! Saviour of the fallen!

Breakfast was quite simple, mainly fruits and homemade yoghurt and porridge. The real kick was lunch. Rice and dhal, homemade bread, vegetables soaked in ghee, varieties of sweets like rasagulla and gulabjamuns, sweet rice, puris, pakoras and lots of deep fried items.

On top of that, we had the “brahmacari offering” at about 6 PM every evening. We would return from our afternoon SKP, our youthful bodies having already digested the huge lunch and be feeling ravenous again. Most of us were brand new devotees and suffering sensory deprivation from our adoption of the devotional lifestyle. Eating was our compensation. Satisfaction of the tongue was our only sense enjoyment. So the cooks would make a large pot of halava with liberal amounts of nuts and raisins or a variety of berries,

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which would be offered to a picture in the kitchen and then distributed hot out of the pot. The trick was to make the halava with at least one inch of melted ghee floating on the surface. The brahmacaris would line up in the hallway outside the kitchen door with their stainless steel bowls, eager for their evening charge of sugar and ghee drenched grains.

And what to speak about the Sunday ‘love feast’.

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George liked a little appetizer too

It wasn’t uncommon for us (me anyway) to down at least three heaped platefuls of prasadam and then stash some for the evening or next morning. Bhakta Bernard I remember, once ate 13 bowls of halava for the feast and then stashed 6 more for his breakfast the next morning (Not surprisingly, he never got initiated and blooped after a few months).

My record was six plates in one Sunday feast. A short time after devouring the last one, I developed acute indigestion.

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It got so progressively bad that I actually became afraid that I would collapse and die. Somehow after half an hour or so of morbid repentence and fervoured prayer

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the pain in my midriff subsided and I took a solemn vow to never eat as much again. From that time on I restricted myself to a maximum of three plates at a sitting.

Well OK, I tell a lie. There was one occasion after that when we were on TSKP to Brisbane. It was a newly opened temple, populated mainly by ex-hippies and young counter-culture dropouts. We arrived in the double decker bus that had been converted into a traveling temple. The sign on the side of the bus read “The Hare Krishna Movement – The Positive Alternative”.

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February 1972–Australia’s first traveling temple

I took the slogan to heart. The cooks didn’t really know much so the main sweet was “Simply Wonderfuls”

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which were simply ghee, sugar and milk powder rolled into balls. Highly addictive. I ate 24 before developing extreme sugar burn in my throat and esophagus. After that I couldn’t look at one for about five years.

Anyway, I digress. When Srila Prabhupada arrived on April 1, 1972 on his second visit to Australia he stayed for a few days.

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Srila Prabhupada, April 1972 with Mohanananda dasa, the Sydney temple president

He saw what was being served to the devotees and told the managers that it was too opulent. He said we should eat simply during the week with rice, dhal, chapatis and a little subji and once a week on the Sunday love feasts we could be more lavish. I remember we were quite morose at the cut back because the multi-course lunches were one of the special attractive features of the Sydney temple at that time. But we complied happily because it was Srila Prabhupada’s desire, and his desire was our rationale for being there.

Next question from Shane:

“Anyway, I’m curious and interested to know more about how Prabhupada took prasadam. I know Prabhupada traveled with a cooker a was it a 4-tier cooker? What is this cooker made of? Was it copper bottomed?What was the inner lining metal that was used ?? Tin ?? (As Prabhupada had this especially made for him in Calcutta – hand made so to speak the four-tier cooker that is now kept in Prabhupada’s Mumbai residence there on display )-

Answer:

The cooker that I carried with us had only three tiers.

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I am not sure if a four-tier one was ever used. I doubt that the one in Mumbai is one that either Srila Prabhupada or his cooks used. You could ask Sruta Kirti prabhu.

The cooker was made from a metal which could have been a composite but it was mainly brass. It was lined with tin which I was told stopped the brass from leeching into the food and poisoning it.

Next question:

“Did Prabhupada take brown rice at all ?”

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Answer:

As far as I know Srila Prabhupada only ate basmati rice. I never heard of him eating brown rice and in fact in a letter to Mahapurusha dasa dated 17 October, 1967 he advised against it:

My Dear Mahapurusa,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your detailed letter. Brown rice generally is doubly boiled, therefore it cannot be used for Krishna prasadam. Unpolished rice which looks like brown can be used. Generally in American the brown rice is doubly boiled therefore unfit. We do not mind polished or unpolished but doubly boiled mustn’t be used. Doubly boiled rice is considered impure. Sun baked rice is all right.”

Next question:

“Did Prabhupada eat mustard seeds or green chillies raw or in his subji /dhal?”

Answer:

Yes, having been brought up in Bengal cooking with mustard oil and seeds is very common and Srila Prabhupada’s sister, Bhavatarini, whom we all called “Pishima“-‘Aunty’, would almost always cook for him using mustard oil and seeds.

He would sometimes eat raw chili:

[TD 2]

May 8th, 1976 – Honolulu

Srila Prabhupada made a thorough inspection of the temple grounds the other day and was pleased to note a proliferation of flowers and vegetables, all conscientiously grown by the temple gardener, Kanva dasa. Taking an interest in every aspect of his work, Srila Prabhupada asked many questions.

He noticed a small chili bush at the side of the temple so as he took his breakfast this morning he sent me out to pick a few. They were very little and I did not think they would be very strong. Prabhupada took but a small bite of one and left it at the side of his plate. Several minutes later he raised his eyebrows and said, “It is very hot!” Concerned that it might be burning his mouth I asked if it was too hot, but he simply smiled. “No, chili means hot.”

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Next question:

“What spices did Prabhupada use for subji /dhal? Cummin, fenugeek, kalinji etc.”

I can refer you to the cooking chart Harikesa dasa left for me when he left Srila Prabhupada’s party after taking sannyasa. This will also explain the use of the three-tiered cooker:

[TD1]

February 6 1976 – Sridham Mayapur
February 6th, 1976
The two new swamis left for Calcutta this morning. Harikesa Maharaja will go to the USA. via London. I gave him my quilted cotton jacket, a bagalbundi from Vrndavana, because he had no clothes for colder climates.
Before he left he gave me a three page, handwritten list of instructions on how to cook for Srila Prabhupada:

HOW TO COOK FOR SRILA PRABHUPADA

1. Take bottom section of cooker and put perhaps 3 or 4 heaping tablespoons of yellow split mung or toor-dal which has been well washed and immediately let it boil so that you can regulate the temperature to a small rolling boil. Water level should be 5/8 full. Add turmeric (till nice deep color) and salt.

In 2nd section put 4-6 oz rice (nice basmati) and clean and wash 1 or 2 times (not too much) then add twice as much water or slightly less.

In 3rd section whatever vegetables you want to steam should be placed here and do not cover the holes.
Cover with lid and wait 45 minutes.

Vegetables (typical steaming schedule):
Cauliflower, potato, zucchini, loki, eggplant, tomato, (beans or peas), portals etc.

Dahl should be completely merged, not solid, not liquid, chaunched with chili, cumin, asafoetida, either methi or dhanya but never at the same time, sometimes ginger in chaunch is nice.

Paneer cheese:
Boil milk, curdle with yogurt, take out and put in cloth. Press under cloth with heavy weight by forcing out all water. Cut cheese into chunks and deep fry brown. Meantime make masala (as you like) put in water and tomato  –  then cheese and boil till cheese is very soft.

Wet veg:
Masala, add water, turmeric, salt, sometimes yoghurt, then steamed veg  –  heat and serve.

Dry veg.
masala, add steamed veg, turmeric, salt, fry for short while.

Some masalas-
Cumin, anise, chili, (hing)

Cumin, anise, methi, chili, mustard, (hing)

Ginger, cumin, anise, hingmethi, (hing)

Coriander powder, turmeric, salt, sweet neem (curry leaves) are also used.

As you change the ratios of one spice to another in the masalas you get an infinite variety of tastes.

Recipe for Sukta:
Wok on very low heat with sufficient ghee to fry the vegetables first. Use whatever you like of the below list but kerala (bitter melon) is absolutely essential:
kerala, radish, potato, green banana (plantain), pepper, green tomato, carrots, beets, beans (string beans), mooli.

When little soft add salt — spice by pushing aside vegetables and in the middle cooking cumin, anise, green chili, methi, not very dark, continue frying. When finished add water and boil down. Add turmeric. Mash poppy seeds (white) to paste-add-dry fry methi, anise, cumin, chili and grind-add to top after putting off the heat, serve liquid.

Sak:
Masala with methi, chili, cumin, anise and add spinach leaves, cover and cook. In the meantime deep fry to brown, badi, and break up into prep with salt  –  finished (do not add extra water).

Rice cooks automatically in the cooker-just keep it hot.
—————————————-

Next question:

“Also did Prabhupada eat subji first (with chapatis), then rice, dhal, chapatis and sweets at end? Did Prabhupada eat in some order?”

Answer:

Srila Prabhupada, like most Bengalis, ate a bitter subji first. His favorites were kerala, sukta or baticharcari. He would then eat rice and dahl and use a small piece of chapati to scoop up bites of subji. I never noticed any particular order for the subjis. Sweets were taken at the end, usually a small piece of sandesh, or rasagulla.

Next question:

“If there is some elaborate description of Prabhupada’s cooking or his servant’s cooking for Prabhupada? In this regard, please kindly let me know where I can read this.”

Answer:

As above, this is included in Transcendental Diary Vol. 1. There are also some cooking descriptions in April 22 1976; June 11 1976; June 15 1976; June 26 1976; July 30 1976; August 2 1976; August 7 1976; November 12 1976;

Having said that, your best source for information about cooking for Srila Prabhupada is Sruta Kirti prabhu.

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And of course, Kurma prabhu, the well-known chef.

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Kurma on his way to jail in 1974 for illegally performing street sankirtana in Melbourne.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

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