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The Ayurvedic Cookbook: A Personalized Guide to Good Nutrition and Health.
Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai. 1990, Lotus Press, P.O. Box 216, Wilmot, WI 53192. 351 pp., softcover. ISBN # 0-914-955-06-3. $16.95.

One of the hot areas in herbal books in the past five years has been in Ayurvedic herb and health rifles. Since this tradition claims to be from 3,000 to 5,000 years old, the renewed interest in this ancient system of traditional healing seems justified. The present book takes much of the metaphysical and theoretical information found in the previous Ayurvedic herb and health primers and brings them down to practical levels.

Part I is a basic overview of Ayurveda, citing its long history, the basic theories of constitutional body types, energetics, etc. -- with an emphasis on food combining as a means of balancing the doshas, the three constitutional types (air, fire, water).

One thing that many Westerners have not understood about tasty Indian food is that spicy dishes are arranged and blended in accordance with Ayurvedic theories and practices that dictate the medicinal uses of the spices -- meals are not designed merely for taste.

Part II, the largest section, deals with the practical aspects of preparing numerous dishes. Symbols denote the seasons of the year for which each dish is appropriate and the general energetic nature of the dish, i.e., whether it increases fire, reduces air, increases water, etc. The recipes are divided into 16 main sections (main dishes, curries, dairy, breads, soups, condiments, desserts, snacks, etc.).

Finally, the authors include an extremely helpful set of appendices, e.g., a glossary of English/Sanskrit terms, food name equivalents in Latin, Sanskrit, and Hindi, and the most frequently asked questions and answers about Indian and Ayurvedic cooking.

The authors have years of experience in this subject and present their work temptingly and convincingly. With the increase in interest in Indian food, Ayurvedic healing, and the concept that food can be more than just merely nutritional but also healing, this book is destined to become a standard item in many households, either in the kitchen or the medicine cabinet.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.