Most delicious Meal?
What is the most delicious meal known? What is your favorite food you have ever eaten? Responses range from- confectionaries, chocolates, baked goods, savories, special curries to concoctions, recipes of grandma to spices from different parts of the world. I share anecdotes that reflect what can be and is indelibly delicious and unforgettable by man and divine alike.
In Bhagavatam a story from times of Lord Rama goes-
There was a young woman named Shabari , a hunter’s daughter. She wasn’t good looking but her heart was pure gold. The day before her wedding she saw 1000s of goats and sheep that her father had brought to sacrifice, as it was a custom among the hunters of that time. She couldn’t bear to see those animals being killed, so she ran away into the forest in the early morning to avoid the killing of those animals.
She went to many teachers and asked them to take her as their disciple and teach her ‘true wisdom’ (Brahma Jnana), all the teachers rejected her because she was of a low caste and wasn’t worthy to learn Brahma Jnana.
Sage Matanga welcome her and took her as his disciples, other rishis and yogis condemned him for taking an outcaste as the disciple, and they criticized him, called him fallen, impure. Sage Matanga told Shabari “Oh my daughter, stay in my Ashram, clean the place, take care of the chores, serve, it will do good to you.”
“But other rishis in the forest are not happy about you taking me as your disciple” says Shabari
“You have come to me seeking the greatest, I’ll give you shelter” Sage was firm in his decision.
She was living peacefully in the Ashram, doing her daily duties, taking cows to the pastures and so on. Those rishis who were still ignorant rejected Shabari’s Guru, calling him an impure one. One day when Sage Matang was very old he called his disciple Shabari and said “My Daughter, I’m leaving this body, is there anything you want me to do for you?”. Shabari prayed “Lord take me with you to the highest abode you are going. I cannot live without you”
Sage Matanga said “Dear, One day Lord Rama will come to see you, until then stay alive, after that you can come to me”
Shabari awaited in anticipation for Lord Rama, She would get up early morning every day and go to the forest to collect the berries to serve Lord Rama, she didn’t know when Rama would come, and she would go to the forest and collect berries every day. In that manner she spent many years. There was a beautiful and grand lake called Pampasar near her Guru’s Ashram. Shabari who is now very old went to the lake with her pot made up of mud to collect water, there was a rishi sitting there with long beard and matted hairs chanting mantras, he was old and was reciting mantras wrongly, he heard this outcaste woman filling the divine water of the lake.
He thought “This low caste woman is making the water impure for our use” he threw a stone at her in anger, it hit her leg and the blood came out, a drop of blood fell into the lake, with seconds all the water in the lake became blood. Rishi started shouting loudly “Look, a drop of this outcaste’s blood has turned the whole lake into blood, what should we do now?”
Shabari went to her Ashram with her filled pot, still crying with pain. Rishis had no water to drink or to use for the sacred rites. They started chanting purification mantras, doing Yagnas and Havanas, throwing holy powders into the lake but nothing helped. Water still remained blood. They brought water from Ganga, and Yamuna water, it was of no use.
Someone in the group said, “Lord Rama has come, he is wandering in the forest, he can help us, let’s go to him and pray him to turn this blood into water again”.
Rama came upon their request to sarovar, it was red everywhere, rishis were all standing around him.Rama asked “What can I do for you now?”
“Lord, touch of your feet will change this into water back” said the rishis.
Rama walked into the lake but the blood still stayed blood.
“Take a dip in it Lord” said the rishis gathered there. Rama took a dip in it, but nothing changed. “Lord, it is our last wish. Would you please clean your mouth with it and spit back into it” they requested.Rama took the blood with both hands, “But this is blood brother” said Lakshman, Rama took blood in his mouth and spit it back, but that did not change the lake.
Rama asked them “Tell me how did it become bloodied?”
One of the rishis said “There was a sage living here, he had an outcaste disciple Shabari, he has died but she still lives, she came to fetch water from this lake, a rishi threw a stone at her, and a drop of her blood fell into the river, it turning all the water into blood”.
Rama on hearing the name of Shabari placed both of his hands on his heart and said “Oh rishis that was not Shabari’s blood, that was the blood from my heart, I cannot clean this.”
“I have come to see her, bring her to me, and send someone to bring her”.
One of them went to Shabari and said “Lord Rama has come and he is requesting you”.
Shabari on hearing Lord Rama’s name came running to see him, rishis thought her impure shadow should not touch the Lord and tried to stop her. The soil from her feet fell into the water as she was running hastily, blood turned back into water. Everyone was surprised and were asking themselves “What happened?”
Lord Rama said “Did you see, dust from Shabari’s feet has purified the lake. I bathed in it, cleaned my mouth but nothing changed. Dust from the feet of pure devotee purified the lake”.
Shabari prayed to Lord Rama “now, please come to my hut Lord, I have decorated it with flowers for you, I have brought sweet berries for you. Please come my Lord”.
Rama and Lakshman followed her to her hermitage, she brought them berries in a bowl she had made with tree leaves. Rama was pleased with the hard work she had gone through to bring him berries.
“Lord I selected only the sweet berries for you, I tasted every berry to make sure I have only brought the sweetest berries, please accept my offering my Lord”.
When Rama was about to take a berry Lakshman said “Brother these are half eaten, no good to eat”. Rama took a fruit and ate it, he said to Lakshman “Brother, these berries are so sweet, I have never tasted berries as sweet as Shabari’s berries. Whomsoever offers a fruit, a leaf, a flower or water with love, I take it with great joy”.
Rama was touched by her love, he saw the leaves she had used to make the bowl, he blessed the tree that the leaves naturally grow to become like bowls. Rama asked her “Ask me anything you wish, I’m pleased by your devotion”.
Shabari prayed only for pure devotion to Lord Rama “. Rama blesses her and leave. After this darshan Shabari’s body life ended and she achive Spiritual world and eternal abode of Sri Rama.
Moral of the story:
It is not what we do or offer, how big or small things and projects we do. What matter is with how much is the devotion with which we offer it!
Similarly A southern India story goes as follows-
A kind was lost when he went out on a hunting spree. He was wandering and after many hours of no food and no water he found a hutment where a poor elderly lady was done serving food to others. He asked for food and water. All she had was only rice and nothing as a side or accompaniment to the meal.
She quickly put together chutney which was served with rice to the king. He had never eaten anything more delicious, different, exotic and tasty. He gobbled it down with much love and appreciation.
Then he asked her what it was. She hesitated but finally on being coaxed admitted she had no lentils or curries to offer. So she plucked fresh tender grass leaves and made this chutney to serve the king. His minister was furious at the audacity of the woman, but the king was very pleased and in her honor and the chutney she made- he named the village Garika Valasa- loosely translates to “Grass abode”
When you are hungry, starving, and thirsty- the cool
water going down the gullet can be traced and the feeling of quenching that
thirst in heat and exhaustion is like none other. Our gratitude knows no bounds
for food that is simple and on our platter when hunger pangs hit. Food is bliss
to the hungry.
Once a young Prince was on a hunting expedition and lost his way. He had injured himself and spotted by a kind, poor lady ‘Pooni’ who helped him to her hut. She cleaned and took care of his injuries and served him a meal of lapsi (dish made of broken wheat with milk). It tasted divine to the tired, starving Prince. He asked her for details on the sumptuous dish. Pooni told him the name and in mid of the conversation Prince dozed off.
On return to palace Prince demanded Lapsi like that of Pooni’s. Chef could not reproduce the taste of the dish. So a group of soldiers at Queen’s command brought Pooni’s recipe, yet it tasted different. So Pooni was brought to the palace and appointed royal chef. Pooni missed home but royal request had to be followed. She prepared lapsi and yet again Prince did not like it. Pooni got scared when the Queen was not happy.
A feast was arranged and Pooni prepared Lapsi ‘just like’ she had prepared it in the hut. But, Alas! Taste was not recreated yet again! The Queen had her soldiers put Pooni behind bars. After Pooni spent a few miserable days in the prison Prince’ grandmother came to visit her. Innocent Pooni narrated the whole incident to the wise old lady. The lady ordered the release of Pooni.
Holy festival began and it was time to worship the Goddesses. Prince’s wise grandmother suggested Prince should fast. He fasted, remained hungry and kept himself busy with one task that tired him. At the end of fast, everyone was served lapsi, which Pooni had prepared. As soon as the Prince tasted lapsi he relished the same taste he remembered from the forest hut of Pooni. He had his fill of the absolutely delicious Lapsi, and then grandmother explained it tasted so heavenly in the hut because he had toiled all day and he was very hungry and exhausted.
The anecdotes from mythology and history show time and again that food cooked and served with purity, love, devotion, dedication is divine. It is very important to remember food served with warmth should be received and eaten with no expectations, with gratitude, acceptance, surrender (prasaada buddhi), and love which is the key to making it the MOST delicious meal.