Just What is a ‘Sabjimata’ Anyway?

One day after my kids’ preschool, I was hanging out on the playground with some moms when one of them asked me what the name of my jam business meant. Liz, who’s partner Garret studies Eastern thought and yoga, said she knew “mata” meant “mother” but she wanted to know about the “sabji” part. Because she and Garret know I am a practicing Hare Krishna, they immediately gave me undue credit, thinking that “sabji” meant something sacred and spiritual.

Umm. No.

“Mata” does mean mother. It is actually how my children address me. “Sabji,” on the other hand, simply means vegetable. It may refer to veggies in the raw or prepared vegetable dishes like Indian curries. “Sabjimata” was my email handle long before I started making jam. Simply stated, I like vegetables.

But truth be told, I am not the original Sabjimata. Towards the end of the nineties I lived at an intentional community, Gita Nagari, with a friend of mine from Detroit. Her name was Saci-Mata and she was named after the mother of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Saci Devi. A truly transcendental cook, she was anointed “Sabjimata” by a long time resident of the place, Baladeva Vidyabhusan, himself an amazing cook in his own high-fat right. Saci-mata was able to transform the contents of a nearly empty walk-in cooler into a feast of kofta, sabji, fancy rice, dalma, chapatis, samosas, chatni and gulab jumans. In what seemed like a moment’s notice.

Saci-mata earned her Sabjimata nickname the hard way by paying her kitchen dues. Me? I just appropriated something that sounded pretty catchy.

Above is a picture of my personal Deities. Mahaprabhu is on the right. When I cook, I meditate on Him and the Matas who know how to please Him. As you can see, I’m just an imposter.


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