In retirement one of the unexpected joys has been seeing how former yoga students have taken the teachings and created new successes. Cook like a yogi is a blog created by three of my students: Marty, Savitha and Stephanie. They created a site where cooking and good food are integrated with yoga practice. The combination helps you create a healthy life that is full of joy. This month it was an honor to be featured on their blog. During the holiday season it is good to reflect on our relationship with food. These musings help me to make good choices each day. Below is the interview but be sure to check out their site to see other great stories and recipes.
The art of cooking
1. What came first your interest in yoga or cooking?
I would have to say cooking came first. I come from an Italian family and cooking is central to my sense of joy and togetherness. When I began practicing yoga though, my ideas around cooking and food transformed.
2. During your years of growing CCY, what diet were you practicing? Has that changed in your retirement?
Traditionally the yogic diet is vegetarian. The first time I read about such a diet was in the Sivananda Guide to Yoga which was my first yoga book. I became vegetarian almost immediately. I maintained a vegan or vegetarian diet for most of my teaching career. Now that I am no longer teaching, things have changed. I am not a vegetarian anymore but I still eat what I consider to be a very healthy and peaceful diet
3. What were some of the biggest sacrifices you made growing your business?
I loved my business and I can only talk about sacrifice in terms of “sacred offering”. A sacred offering is something freely given. Everything I had to offer up in order to be there for our community was a joy. Our endeavor was an “all in” kind of thing; we put the community first. Every lease we signed required a personal guarantee; basically, we offered everything we had with every studio we opened. It was an amazing ride.
4. You are an avid cyclist, what fuels you best for your rides?
I had to figure out my diet for cycling; it certainly is not the same as my yogic diet . In yoga, I think the aim of the diet is stillness. I don’t think the aim is optimal health as we see it in the west, where effort and muscle are used to get things done, ie running a marathon or cycling 60 miles. Riding takes a lot of energy, I can burn a thousand calories in a single ride and I use a lot of fuel every hour. I eat oatmeal in the morning around 5. I eat protein after every ride to aid recovery and I eat at least five meals throughout the day to fuel my newfound fiery metabolism. I still eat mostly whole foods and find my energy is best when I do. I use homemade date balls (dates, flax, cocoa, coconut, and peanut butter) to fuel my body during cycling. I also use some GU and drink coffee which are all part of the cycling culture. Yum
5. Does yoga and cycling inspire your life as an artist?
Yoga and cycling take care of my body and mind so that I can make art. When I head into the studio each day I am alone, in silence, with nothing but raw materials and me. In order to create, I have to be relaxed with that situation. Cycling in the morning gets my blood flowing and gives me time to connect with friends. Yoga at the end of a studio day gets the kinks out. It re-centers my mind and gives me an opportunity to let go of the day. These two activities are central to my art practice.
6. Tell us about your retirement- what are your favorite projects and activities
My life is simple; I ride, make art, and practice yoga as a core. In addition, I have joined a local artists council where we meet for critiques, book club and socials. I have also joined the desert bicycle club board of directors to help facilitate our cycling communities growth and mission. Chris and I travel a bit on weekends to hear live music or look at art, but mostly we like to be in the valley. We have made terrific friends and the national parks in our area are awesome.
7. Tell us what chop wood carry water means to you?
Chopping wood and carrying water are examples of daily activities that facilitate a normal, comfortable life. The phrase is a shortened version of before enlightenment, do the tasks of your life and after enlightenment, do the tasks. The aphorism reminds me to come back to the grounding practices of life no matter how good or bad circumstance may be. So if something terrific and exciting is happening I make sure to chop wood and carry water. Furthermore, if life is full of sadness and loss, I use the practice of daily life to help remain on the steady terrain that is me.
8. What is your most meaningful yoga pose?
Yoga poses on their own are not meaningful to me though many of them have associations that are full of inspiration. Myths, gods, animals, or even prescriptive qualities attached to poses by creative teachers can make the pose in itself seem magic, but it’s not. What is meaningful to me about the physical practice is that it provides an opportunity to put mind and body together. The physical practice also gives me the opportunity to undo any tension or overuse of certain muscle groups, thereby creating balance in my body. Do I have a favorite? I always look forward to camel and forward fold. I dread standing balancing poses because I can only do them on one side.
9. What is your favorite cookbook?
My favorite cookbook is Betty Torre's Complete Beginning Guide to Italian Cooking. Every recipe is just like my grandmother made, easy and delicious. I checked online and the book is hard to find and expensive, so in case your readers are looking for something to buy, my second favorite is Christine Pirelli’s Cooking the Whole Food Way. She is an Italian and makes healthy food taste good
10. What is your favorite memory of a great meal?
My grandparents lived in a small beach house on Long island. Every summer we would stay there over the 4th of July. My grandfather would take my brother and I to the stinky mudflats where we would clam and scour the rocks for mussels. We would pick bushels of the little mollusks. Then the aunts would arrive; one would bring the mozzarella, still warm from uncle making it. The other would bring bags of squash blossoms to fry and course there was always pasta and sauce. Got to say that summer feast was my favorite meal, always. Did I mention we would finish with ricotta pie?
11. What is the most essential ingredient in your kitchen?
12. Please share a favorite recipe.
This is a favorite fall recipe from the Torre Italian cookbook. The soup-like pasta is very nourishing and warming.
Pasta with peas
1 pound of pasta, bowties, small shells, or penne
3 garlic cloves
1 onion sliced
a good pour of olive oil
1 box of chicken or vegetable broth
fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 can or organic baby peas, including liquid
1 bag of frozen peas
red pepper and black pepper to taste
Sauté oil, garlic and red pepper in a pan, do not over brown the garlic.
Add onion and salt well, sauté until translucent.
Add one can of peas and one package of frozen peas, heat through.
Add one box of organic vegetable or chicken broth to make a kind of soup. Don’t overcook and don’t cover.
Boil pasta in salted water. Keep the pasta very firm and reserve 1 cup of cooking water.
Drain the pasta lightly and toss into the pea mixture, add reserved pasta water as necessary.
Serve with fresh grated Parmesan and black pepper.