October is for Austerity, Birthdays and Great Food

October is my birthday month!

This is always a special time for me, as I really take care to reflect on the past year and also set intentions for my upcoming year. I’ll say more on this as the month progresses. I also have a lot of goodness happening this month: I’m taking a trip to Utah and also climbing Mount Whitney! I’m not exactly sure what my actual birthday will entail, but I intend to create a day filled with joy and laughter, lots of hugs, and a general sense of excitement. However, right now, I’m doing a fast/cleanse called kitchari (pronounced kitch-a-ree) in preparation for my birthday. The word “kitchari’ means “mixture” or “mess” as in “mess of pottage” or “mess of stew” or porridge. The main ingredients are basmati rice, lentils and mung beans, to which a variety of spices and other vegetables may be added.

As a self-proclaimed lover of food, from tacos and dumplings to chocolate chip cookies and kale and lobster and rottisserie chicken, this is exceptionally difficult. Frankly, it’s a challenge to eat the same slop, I mean porridge, three meals a day.

I keep thinking of most of our cat and dog friends who are fed the same daily bowls of dry food, or who sometimes get wet food or treats added to the mix. I feel like my kitty; I’m eating prepared containers of kitchari and occasionally adding salt and a cucumber for cooling my body. She gets a bowl of food to graze throughout the day and occasional pieces of tuna or sweet potato. She’s so happy to taste something different! I see her licking her lips when she gets coconut oil, and she looks so happy! So am I!

My program is ten days long and towards the end, I’ll incorporate some winter squash and greens.  Thus far, I’ve completed five days.

I realize this is an austerity program.

Austerity, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

: a simple and plain quality : an austere quality

: a situation in which there is not much money and it is spent only on things that are necessary

austerities : things that are done to live in a simple and plain way

It’s a real challenge to involve myself in something both as rigid and freeing as this.

Sometimes, I find freedom in boundaries. Boundaries give us a frame within which we can operate and we know where we stand. When I look at my boundaries with an open mindset, I see a world of possibilities. For example, I get creative and determine how my work can fit with someone else. In this case, I’m not obsessing about food, and instead, I’m giving a lot more thought to my personal relationships and expanding my Coaching business. I’m free from having to select what to make for lunch because I already know it will be kitchari. On the other hand, there is so much temporary rigidity in this program. My incredible mentor, Ranmalee, who is running this program for me (her information is listed below), is very cautious with what I eat during this cleanse. If I were to sneak a cookie, it’s not only accurate to think she’d know, but I’d be undermining my goal and setting myself back. It would be a short-term fix and could negate the purpose of this awesome decision to do this in the first place.

I’m noticing during this kitchari cleanse, I have so much more time! I’m not grocery shopping, planning, cooking, or cleaning the entire kitchen. Rather, I heat up my bowl of porridge on the stove, eat it mindfully, and wash one dish and one spoon. I drink special turmeric tea and have adopted some other hygienic rituals. Habit-building is really cool, especially now that I know why I’m doing this.

Why am I doing this?

Well, I like pushing my own boundaries. I like taking myself to the limit, to know how far I can really go. I guess that’s why I’m also climbing Mount Whitney in a few weeks or why I like to talk things out (as I mentioned last week) and get a deep understanding of a person or a problem. This austerity diet, for lack of a better expression, is my way of getting closer to myself and challenging my beliefs about myself. I’ve been feeling like I need a full reset, and this is a good way to do it.

The plainness simplicity of what I’m eating (don’t get me wrong, it’s actually very flavorful and has excellent health benefits and unique flavor profiles) allows me time to really consider what I want to put in my body. I think it’s super important to think about the source of our food, to try to grow as much of it as possible, and to eat ethically and locally. You’ve all heard these arguments before , I’m sure. For me, it’s also about slowing down. Considering the preparation of the food I eat is vital. I ask myself if it was made with love. If not, I don’t really want to eat it. A cake made from a mix may be made with good intentions, but the over-processing of ingredients makes me nervous to put it in my body. Same with fast food or pre-processed: I don’t want to waste calories, effort, or energy eating something that was made in a factory or processed in a mill. I want to eat humanely raised meats and vegetables harvested by farmers who respect the land and their crops.

When I slow down, I not only taste each spice in the kitchari, I also have time to think and feel.

For the record, I’m excited to go back to my normal diet of sushi, veggies, tacos, tropical fruit, and the occasional brownie. I love experimenting with flavors and textures, yet this plan has its own set of benefits. I’m really appreciating the smell of fresh berries at the farmers market and the colors of produce in special salads. My cravings for sweets are diminishing, but I do feel a steady stream of hunger. I miss chewing and really long to chomp again! Kitchari is very soft, but unlike soup, it’s not slurped. It’s more like an oatmeal consistency and I tend to take small bites so the flavor and satisfaction will last longer.

I’ve been noticing how much food waste we have, as well as how much extra food we place on our plates at every meal. One small, Persian cucumber and a few ounces of kitchari per meal really satiate me now. I love having dinner parties and trying restaurants all around the world. I’m certainly not afraid to travel hours for perfectly juicy Armenian dumplings or the best pupusas. I experiment with ice cream flavors, doctor up homemade mac and cheese, and obsessively read the Ottolenghi and Bittman cookbooks. Clearly, food is a passion, not just a means to an end, for me. And yet, my austerity plan is giving me so much gratitude.

I have appreciation for my taste buds, the use of my hands to hold a fork and knife or chopsticks. I’m grateful for friends who join me at meals. Seeing a beautiful pastry warms my heart and smelling freshly baked bread makes me drool. I love hearing the snap of a carrot or feeling the elasticity of ramen.

I’m really happy to be able to do this program in time for my birthday. I’ve realized that I go to far ends of my mind (boundaries) and I can also appreciate the slowness or monotony of kitchari. This program is helping me simplify my life and remember what I really want. I’m starting to plan my actual birthday week and all the good food I’ll be eating then! Until then, my austerity diet is helping me immensely.

Coaching By Nina Rubin is the website to find me! For more information on the particular cleanse I’m doing, please visit Ranmalee at http://www.aadhicuisine.com.

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