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Pilgrimage Food

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COLUMN: Kitchen Wisdom
How Food Can Bring us Together

by Judy Sachs-Sullivan

I am always drawn to fresh-air markets when I travel. My recent pilgrimage to Nepal and India was no exception. My camera was always slung over my shoulder so I would be ready for whatever ordinary scenes caught my eye on my daily walks in and around the narrow alleyways at the Boudha Stupa.

Traditional Nepali Restaurants and Tibetan food was of course present there, as well as Chinese, Italian, fresh baked muffins, cakes and bagels (I use that term very loosely), and thankfully fresh brewed cappuccinos! The “Buff” burger (water buffalo) and fries were somewhat akin to a beef burger and did the trick when I had a craving for American comfort food.

Momos (Tibetan style dumplings) came in “buff”, chicken and veggie (and in Dharmsala, cheese) and all were delicious. I ate more momos in 2 weeks than I have had in 10 years, they were just so good!

I was fortunate to celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year) in Boudha, partaking of the many varieties of khapsi available everywhere. Khapsi are the closest thing to a cookie you will find in the Tibetan diet. They consist of slightly sweet dough twisted into a variety of shapes that are deep fried until crispy. These are delicious with masala tea and even with the dreaded Nescafe coffee found throughout South Asia. The Losar celebrations I attended at the monastery included giant bowls of khapsi at each table, a ready nosh for anytime during the full day of festivities.

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The alleyways around Boudha are of full of carts selling fresh vegetables and fruit including sugarcane, pumpkins, dried fruits and nuts. A vendor with a cart full of peanuts in the shell and popcorn provided the locals with an instant snack. An occasional spice market with its mounds of brightly colored turmeric and curries would catch my eye, as well as huge bags of dried chilies and varieties of lentils. These small “mom and pop” carts and stalls were everywhere, and the produce all looked fresh each day.

I think I will skip the details about the meat markets, which all looked a bit grisly and lacked refrigeration. Street carts sold skewers of potatoes, hot dogs (not so appetizing) and shapale (Tibetan meat pies encased in fried dough). Boudha was truly a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

Judy Sachs-Sullivan

Judy Sachs-Sullivan

Food brings us all together and a way to connect in a joyous fashion. Giving a banana and granola bar to some local kids in Sarnath made for one of those “connecting” moments that go beyond language and culture. Lining up with the monastics for an “offered” lunch at the gompa, chatting with the monastery cook, and sharing meals with some Tibetan families on my travels enriched an already precious pilgrimage that will stay in my heart forever.

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Do you have a story about the kitchen, food, sharing food, growing food or eating that you want to share? Contribute your Kitchen Wisdom! Please contact Lisa Harris, Column Host at: [email protected].

To read other entries in this column, please see: Kitchen Wisdom.

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1 response to “ Pilgrimage Food ”
  1. Jennifer Woodhull
    May 6, 2014
    Reply

    My dear friend Daniel Jardim, one-time cook at South Africa’s venerable Buddhist Retreat Centre, has just brought out a cookbook called Retreat Food: The Joy of Conscious Cooking. Highly recommended.


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