Fasting & Feasting

“Fasting” literally means abstinence or a conscious reduction of select or all foods and/or drink for a specified period of time. You will agree, however, that modern day fasting is anything but that. Come Navratri, Shraavan, Ramzaan or other periods of fasting, commercial eateries put out special menus of elaborate dishes using “fasting-friendly” ingredients, magazines carry recipes for dishes that you can “fastify” (think Vrat pasta), premium hotels launch all-you-can-eat midnight buffets during Ramzaan, and instead of considering a reduction in our diet, we are tempted, instead, to go on an overdrive!

Why did the idea of fasting appear in our cultures, in the first place? Most cultures seem to suggest that fasting was a way to impress upon people through their faiths that it is important in the interest of our health, to exercise restraint in what we eat so we may open our minds to matters of greater importance. It is, in no way, to be considered a punishment. However, at some point in our collective culinary histories, we decided that fasting was a curse that we had to live through, and like all calamities that we dread, we decided it was only fair to think of antidotes. That is how the elaborate recipes that replicated every dish on our non-fasting plate into fasting-friendly versions were innovated and normalized. Sabudana Khichdi, rich nut Halvas, deep fried koftas, and 4-course meals were not the norm on fasting days as recently as 100 years ago. Sattvik foods such as fruit and dairy were permitted and encouraged. The idea was to keep your digestion light and your mind focused—both of which cannot be achieved with heavy, carbohydrate and fat laden feasts!

So here are some ideas for permissible yet filling and fun foods that you can indulge in when fasting:

  • Fruits and fruit salads but with a light lemon vinaigrette instead of custards and creams
  • Pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Steaming hot barnyard millet (sama ke chawal) with a coconut-based curries
  • Ash Gourd, yam and sweet potato Avial
  • Smoothies with roasted Amaranth flour instead of oats
  • Desiccated coconut pancakes with Harde Honey
  • Makhana Trail Mix

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