In any given day we all could use a little spice, a bit of richness, a little something to enliven. In what ways do you feel a breath of fresh air, a spring to your step, a feeling as if you are dancing on the inside, maybe you are actually dancing.
Rasa is that which gives us contentment, repose, a luxurious feeling, a vacation mode moment. Rasa is also taste, the taste or essence of a substance, the mood, feeling, or energy or it.
So the rasa of spices, the experience of spices, can add some spunk to not only your food but how that food is internalized within, food adds to our mood and yes I'm talking about spices from your kitchen cabinet, they can add spunk and delicacy to your day.
The essential six tastes: when we receive them through our sense organ the mouth, we can experience santosha or contentment with our needs to receive taste wise. So if we can get the six tastes through our food we can find that later in the day we won't crave less healthy choices, especially the commonly over used ones, sweet or salty, which we might be craving for stress or emotional reasons.
Introducing the possibilities sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, pungent. They're coming to a plate near you and hoping to satisfy your dhatus, your tissues.
There's a few spices I use in our kitchen daily. They have such an important role to play. The moment food or medicine touches our tongue we will experience it's rasa.
One easy mix that can ease your body and mind and create a more dynamic sensory eating experience is what I call CCG. While more used on the sweet then savory side it can be added to both sweet and savory meals.
CCG: equal powders of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger, all three enkindle digestive juices, enhance absorption of nutrients, redirect flow downward, and are antispasmodic. They are so important for respiratory health, circulatory health, sinuses, and they can reduce the occurrence of colds. They've helped my family stay well through many winters and other seasons as well.
These spices can also encourage reproductive health, and as fun extras cardamom is an aphrodisiac, cinnamon will increase sperm, but is astringent to the uterus so limit use during pregnancy, and ginger prevents nausea, is anti-inflammatory, reduces feelings of cold and is rejuvenating.
All three have a post digestive effect of sweetness which calms and strengthens the nervous system and balances both kapha and vata.
A tea can be made with this powder:
1/8-1/4 tsp of powder to 1 cup boiled/warm water, stir well and drink;
1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/4 tsp powder, stir well and drink, this balances appetite and awakens digestive juices, if you drink before a meal it gets the digestive system stimulated and if after a meal it'll help digest the food.
To prepare and experience a holistic healing moment through your senses and more subtly through spirit and your deeper consciousness, grind the spices from it's whole state by hand in a morter and pestal, while seated, or your can grind them in a grinder, in a coffee grinder but one that's designated just for herb and spice use.
So start here, dabble with these three spices; experiment with tasting spices to notice if you sense sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, or pungent, could be a combination of those. Favor using spices together as they usually help each other. Start with the less is more approach and grow from there. Practice this awareness with your food too. What is the initial taste when it hits your tongue?
Vata dosha is increased with astringent, bitter, pungent and is decreased with sweet, sour, salty;
pitta dosha is increased with sour, salty, pungent and is decreased by sweet, astringent, bitter;
and kapha dosha is increased with sweet, sour, salty and decreased with astringent, bitter, pungent.
Through mindfulness and observing you'll notice what the post digestive effect is. For instance after you have black pepper or other hot spice and you notice you feel angry or hot or short tempered a bit later and maybe can't place why, that was probably too much heat for you, particularly if you are already of pitta constitution, so next time add fennel or another neutral to soothing spice to the hot spice or omit the hot spice all together.
Experiment and notice that with a little spice you can better digest and assimilate your food and the nutrients in your food. The bite you take will feel more satisfying.
Eat mindfully, chew slowly, savor and have a vacation moment.
A little can go a long way.
Here's to your spiciness and finding your rasa!
Check back soon for highlights on specific spices.....