Not this one but the last weekend. Since last year I had been thinking about hosting a vegetarian cooking class after a good load of people from work and social circle kept picking on me about my vegetarian diet. I would simply tell them that if they knew how to cook the existing variety of vegetarian dishes, they would also prefer to be a vegetarian and not rely on the dead bodies of animals. All this talk was the motivation for me to contact Kurma Das prabhu via his website.
It was great to talk to Kurma Das prabhu. We spent a lot of time talking through emails and phone to have this place. I faced so many obstacles at the start such as getting people to join the session, keeping them interested over the months, arranging the venue, getting cutlery, utensils, permissions, transport etc. What kept me going was Kurma prabhu’s kind words of inspiration when he sensed that I might need some help in organizing:
“…so do not worry. We have to be very professional as you already have been, we have to fill in all the details, work hard, as you have been, and the result, is always in Guara Nityanand’s loving hands. If you meditate on Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda, even the most difficult task becomes easy”.
A month before the session, everything fell into place! Someone donated a student house for the session, a cafe donated 20 plates, cups, saucers, side plates, forks, spoons, knives, soup bowls and a restaurant donated milk white table cloths. How about that! Brahma Kund and Koti Prabhu from the Melbourne temple helped me in arranging a devotee driver (Srikanth Prabhu) and hire a car to bring Kurma Das prabhu to my venue. Srikanth Prabhu was superb. He was the support I needed towards the final touches. He was patient, keen to be of service to Kurma prabhu, clean, disciplined and hard working. He spent the night at my place and we had nice kirtans in my home. I had Kurma Das prabhu accommodated at a nice historic hotel nearby. Srikanth Prabhu also made some spicy hyderabadi-style channa masala (Chick pea curry) and great toasted sandwiches in the morning. Thanks Srikanth !
We started the day of the cooking program at 6 am. Yup…that early. We had to set up the kitchen, dining area, arrange the tables, vegetables and cutlery. Not to mention the morning japa. There were some kangaroos running around, early morning mist and a nervousness whether all the people would turn up or if I had missed something to do. Kurma Das prabhu was in full concentration at the kitchen working on his recipies and cooking flowcharts. It was a very silent time even though we had a lot going on around us.
Finally between 9:30am – 10:00am, everyone turned up. 19 people! WooHoo. I was happy. They all looked happy to be there and raring to go. Kurma Das prabhu wasted no time. We all introduced ourselves, went through the set menu, explained the significance and history of the dishes from around the world, took a team photograph and jumped into our exercise of “Cooking with Kurma“.
We ground spices, made cheese from scratch, grilled some eggplants, grated coconuts, ghee sparkled in the saucepan, African tea was brewing in the background, crushed lots of nuts and the fire alarm went off. It was busy kitchen I tell you. There were people running around the room with knives, ladles and crushed spices in their cupped hands. Others decided to take the easier route and wash the pots. What kept us going for 4hrs flat was the eagerness, the hunger and Kurma prabhu’s orders. From the aroma in the room, we knew a grand feast was on its way. And we couldn’t wait.
Sharp by 2pm, the cooking was over, the food had its final ornamentation, dining tables were laid and the filled up plates with beautiful looking food went to each guest. We had about 10 dishes prepared and it took 10 mins for me to finish Kurma’s preparation on my plate. The food was awesome. It truly, really, surely was ! There was a pin drop silence for sometime as everyone tucked into their veg preparations. I knew they would like veg cooking if they knew how to prepare some. And no one missed the meat. We finished the afternoon with a nice saffron-yogurt dessert accompanied by the non-caffeinated Rooibos based masala chai.
After some chatter, it was time to leave. Many began to reluctantly make their way to their vehicles, hoping Kurma prabhu would give us another order to grind some spices or grate a cocunut. We wanted more! The fun and bonding was addictive. All the cook books were bought, the left overs were all sent away, utensils washed, kitchen cleaned, tables put away, the house locked, got in the car and drove away to the hotel to drop Kurma prabhu. He was pleased with the outcome and that was what I wanted.
I learned a lot on this day. I took away valuable lessons related to discipline, cleanliness, organizational skills, commitment, attitude, patience, attention to detail, serving a senior vaishnava and the overall presentation of an event to entertain guests. This is what “Cooking with Kurma” is all about. Thank you so much Kurma Prabhu.