I am seven weeks into my adventure from Australia to Bali to North America – I’m currently traveling along the West Coast (San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Portland, Seattle, Eugene and the Oregon woods) before heading to the Mid West. For all my constant movement, I have been eating remarkably well on the road, but find that I am craving Ayurvedic Indian food the most. Enter stage left: Kitchari – a simple, grounding and satisfying bowl of mung daal, brown rice, seasonal greens, coriander and a medley of fragrant spices that makes me feel like I am home (not that I am at home, more on that later).
When I arrive to a new place and my body is aching for a massage, I make kitchari. When I am tired and want a hot bath with candles, I make kitchari. When my heart is bursting with the love for the people I have met, I make kitchari. When my spirit is sad from another goodbye, I make kitchari. When my soul craves delicious comfort food, I make kitchari. When I remember that home is not a place but a state of being, I make kitchari.
I cook this recipe the most – for my family in Perth, a large sharehouse in San Francisco, a small cabin in Oregon – it’s a one pot wonder to feed a group of merry friends or as an easy meal for one lasting several days. I also make Kitchari when I need a gentle digestive cleanse, like after going a little too crazy at Pacific Northwest farmers markets (Peaches! Huckleberries! Purple potatoes! Blackberries!) or when I notice I have slipped backed into a niggling sugar pattern.
Kitchari is to India, what Grandma’s chicken soup is to the West. It is a food-as-medicine remedy for an upset stomach, the first signs of a cold or flu, and a rundown body. Traditionally in Ayurveda, this dish is prepared mindfully and not in a hurry (I like to listen to Iron & Wine). It is deceivingly simple to make and wholesome for the soul. In India, Kitchari is typically prepared fresh and not reheated. On the contrary, I always make a big nourishing pot and leave leftovers for lunch the next day. The flavours really develop overnight and it is the perfect meal to keep me feeling light and bright. My colleagues would often swarm around my lunch, and it’s a nice idea to bring an extra serving for someone in the office who is feeling a little down or for the person who has perfected the coffee-and-cookie lunch.