Monthly Archives: September 2008

Storehouse of Love



Last nite I attended perhaps the most moving program in my short career as a devotee. It was in honor of Mata Saci, the departed wife of Premananda Goura Prabhu and the mother of Bali and Kish.
There is so much I could say about the program and the devotees, but I honestly have less than no time.  Basically, I have never felt such concentrated love before.  Premananda Goura is an amazing soul–so full of life and free of envy.  He and his sons have so much taste for the Holy Name. And they all attribute their good qualities to Mata Saci, their heart and soul.
The story of Premananda Goura and Mata Saci’s marriage is a true love story. And the story only continues with Prabhu’s utter devotion and love to his wife.  I have never heard a man so wholeheartedly glorify his wife’s qualities before.  
I cannot do the event justice. There was amazing kirtan followed by some heartfelt words of love and appreciation by Bali.  Premananda Goura unveiled a website dedicated to his wife, an ongoing project in honor of her pure service as a wife, mother and Krishna bhakta.  Then the Mayapuris, accompanied by Yaitza on cello, performed the most moving rendition of Parama Karuna.  As an encore, Jaggi performed an original song he wrote about the Divine Couple–poetry set to acoustic guitar.  
I cannot believe the good fortune I have to live amongst such amazing devotees.  
At the end of all the chanting, Premananda Goura was like, “Turn to the person next to you and tell them you love them!”  Ha! I already did. As soon as the kirtan was over I had turned to Vish and declared my love to him.  The kirtan of these devotees is resuscitating my spiritual life.
I am so greatful to Mayapur Malini for taking me into her family. If I cannot be a Rico, at least I can be French Canadian.  
On the way home from the program, Venumadhava asked, “Can we visit another planet.”  
I replied, “If we chant Krishna’s names purely with love we can.”
“You mean Krishna’s planet.”
“Yup, that’s right.”
And then he said, “Can we go to Premananda Goura’s house everyday and chant?”
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A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Pathetic.

Mondays are my days to recover from Sunday.  I like to scrub my kitchens and get everything in order.  Since I wasn’t personal cheffing today (client out of town until Wednesday), I thought it would also be a good day to do a little housework.

I left a little early to pick my kids up from school with the intention of pit-stopping at my neighborhood peach palm tree for a little fruit picking.  When  I got there I was completely disappointed.  A day late and a dollar short, the palm peach was past its prime.  Most of the fruit that was on the tree the other day was now lying on the ground rotting.
Today I have the pleasure of watching Varsana and Ramananda, two swell kids that my little ones like hanging out with.  At Gita Nagari the only friend my kids really played with was Kirtan Rasa, who was a big 9 year old.  Here we have kids over a few times of week but most often enough they are 3 or 4 years old. It is a completely different experience when they are this young. When Kirtan Rasa would come over, I could easily bust out a few cases of jam know ing that he was big and could kind of take care of things for himself. But with little kids, it is a constant drone of I’m hungry I spilled I need to wash my hands I want my mommy I’m not inviting you to my birthday party I want to see it I have to poop  I don’t like pasta with cheese on it I want juice Well can’t you go to the store and buy some?
So, to say it is time consuming and energy draining is an understatement.

Ramananda in Chestnut Bliss.

Venumadhava dissecting his nut.

We hung out for a while at the school playground. There are nut trees all over Alachua and the kids gathered chestnuts. My son actually was able to get into the shell and retrieve the nut–sharing with his friends. I like that the kids are aware of the fact that food comes from nature and not the store.

Me and my staff at the bank.

Afterwards we went to the bank to make the Sabjimata weekly deposit.  Normally I would avoid such in and out activity with kids in tow. I find the whole car seat/seatbelt thing debilitating.  But it had to be done, despite my young entourage.
Tonite I am going to a kirtan program.  The week is actually filled with social engagements. I have started doing some volunteer work at my temple and am trying to devote more time to my spiritual development.  
But I am beginning to wonder:  When will I have time for Jam?

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Sunday Report

Because so many people have written to me concerned about my cancer inducing sleep schedule, and because I am so tired all the time, I have been trying to go to bed earlier. This, of course, is cramping my style big time. More time sleeping means less time cooking for the mere tuppence it earns me.  Today I had a lot of daytime cooking to do in preparation for the Sunday feast.

A big problem I have with doing anything during the day is that my children are awake! Thankfully, Thakur stopped by today to invite them to the springs. Once they were out of the house, cooking was a little more focused. Okay, a lot more.
My croissant dough kind of pooped out, so  I ditch the effort after a desperate attempt at a last minute second batch.  Last time I made the dough, I was so tired I forgot to put the yeast back in the fridge. I think this effected the rise of the dough.  I made some bread from the dough, which rose in the oven. But since it wasn’t spilling over from the bowl during the rising period, I wasn’t confident that this dough was croissant worthy.  At least not Sabjimata Croissant worthy.

Don’t be sad, Carob Brownies…I’ll eat you!

As a last minute thing I made splelt flour carob brownie cake, which I assure you, tastes better than real life chocolate brownies–or at least on par with. Really, it does.  But many people were scared off from them when they heard it was carob.  Unfortunately, carob has gotten a bad rap in the Manichean world of carob vs. chocolate. Hello people. You don’t have to hate carob to love chocolate!

Friends like to split their kebobs…1 for $3 or 2 for $5…it’s a deal!

“So you’re Sabjimata?”  It’s true. I am Sabjimata.  Sabjimata Mirel, they call me.

My kebobs are outshining my jam in popularity.  I have made so many in the past few weeks that, personally, I can barely stand the sight of them. But most people who pass by the table are magnetically drawn towards them. It was very funny.  There were two girls, about 8 or 10, walking on a diagonal in front of my table.  One small girl’s eyes locked onto the kebobs and she did a total zag and headed straight for them.  I don’t think she even blinked once.
One young woman who was unsure about whether or not to get a kebob skeptically handed over the $3 for one and went off to eat in solitude. She returned a few minutes later asking if I could make 300 for her wedding.  Sure thing.
Harriet’s cookies are a super hit, as well.  People appreciate that I use spelt flour and Sabjimata Jam, which is what these cookies are all about. There is one man who comes by my table at the end of the night and buys out whatever cookies are left.

Kish mugging for the camera with his sausage sample. Very photogenic.

And people really like samples. Thankfully they have quit asking for samples of the barbecued gluten kebobs (as if that was even a tiny bit funny).

Free massages!  Secretly, the idea of a massage terrifies me. But I guess it is not a secret anymore.  I must overcome my fear!!!!

“Jaya Gopal only tops his gelato with Sabjmata fruit sauce.”

Madhavi Lata dishing out the sorbetto.

Yummetto!

It was a night of bartering. I traded 2 jars of Persimmon Peach Palm Conserve and 1 jar of Persimmon Conserve for 2 massage gift certificates (only to find out later that the gift certificates were going to be mine anyway, regardless of the jam…drats!).  Also, I bartered a jar of Sabjimata Anise Cherry Sauce with Jaya Gopala and Madhavai Lata in exchange for gelato for my family.  Since I have been eating paneer at every meal since Wednesday, I decided to go for the sorbetto.  I love dairy, but it is starting not to love me back.

The apsaras, kinnaras and gandharvas.

Venumadhava on air mrdanga.

When it got dark I joined my family in the temple room where Vish was leading bhajans (so good).  My son played some air mrdanga as my daughter danced like a gopi in training.
And then I went home and counted my money.

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Feliz Cumpleanos

Today my husband worked. I woke the kids up to bring them to the temple, despite the fact that it is Saturday. It is good to go see Krishna, plus I had my too thick kheer (oops…will do better next time, I promise!) to drop off for the Deities. I am feeling very fortunate to have moved to a ready made Krishna conscious community, where kirtan and class and aroti are going independent of our attendance at the temple. I feel, however, that I need to take greater advantage of this reservoir of nectar. I need to remind myself not to take the availability of association for granted.

After class my kids hung out with Indrani’s boys, wrestling and throwing our stuffed monkey up into a tree.  Madhumati surely attracted Srimati Radharani’s attention this morning in her purple sari, pink dupatta and leopard print cardigan.  

This afternoon we attended a birthday party. We got there on time, which basically meant early.  My son and the boys passed the time wrestling.  Venumadhava is really into wrestling ever since he saw the South American gurukulis wrestle the Vrindavan gurukulis on Youtube.

He especially liked that all the boys had sikhas and were tough.

Can I tell you how awesome I think the Rico clan is?  The party literally got started once Premananda Goura Prabhu arrived.  “Who wants cake???!!!”  All the kids were like “YAAAY!!!!”  Prabhu clapped his hands together and said, “Okay, so first we are going to have a kirtan and all the kids have to chant….LOUDLY…and then you can have cake!!!!!”  I don’t even think I can communicate his enthusiasm with exclamation marks so I will sort of give up now.

He chants very beautifully, with sort of a raspy voice. And he really has a knack for getting the kids, especially the boys, involved.  All the boys were playing instruments and chanting.  And I have to say, my little loudmouth did me proud by chanting the loudest and with intense enthusiasm.  Venumadhava is such an energetic kid. He just needs to use his powers for good.
After Premananda Goura prabhu’s kirtan, the birthday boy–Vishnu–led Narasingha prayers.  I was very impressed that the children were so focused on their chanting.  After kirtan was some jal keli–sporting in the pool–and then prasadam.  But before all of that, we received special mercy in the form of Lord Narasimhadeva’s tooth from the murti in Mayapur.  I was excited to get gently impaled by this maha because I once had a tooth from Narasimhadeva. This was in 1997 and it was only in my possession for a few days before I gave it as a Vyasa Puja offering to my diksa guru, but the feeling of having it was potent while it lasted.

Next, Prabhu grabbed this box off his altar and started saying “Here’s Kurma! Here’s Kurma! Anybody want to see Kurma!” The kids all crowded around to look at the sila. 

Vishnu and his cake, which Mayapur Malini made from the Eggless Cakes book and it tasted super good–light and rich.  While having prasadam I was just overwhelmed by my good fortune; I have a really full life.  It has been 7 weeks since we moved to Alachua and already I feel settled and at home. I have met some really nice women and my kids are in with a nice bunch of little ones.

Premananda Gaura Prabhu was saying that they have to have camping and bon fires at their house. This is what they did for Bali and Kish when they were small.  All the kids would come to their house for a weekend of fun fun fun. Prabhu was saying how all those kids are still friends today. And I see this. They are so close, like family. When I talk to the parents of my kids’ friends, everyone says the same thing.  That these friendships they are making now are going to be their lifelong friendships.  It is, in a word, fantastic. 

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The Dollar is Tanking…Great Time to PLace Your International Jam Order!!

Well, that pretty much says it all. American jam makers like myself need your support during these tough times. I need your money! To see what a great deal you are getting on my jam while the U.S. economy tanks out, visit the currency exchange calculator. After just a few clicks foreign readers are bound to feel superior. You think you’re so great, huh, not living in the U.S.? Prove it! Buy my jam and show the world that you deserve the good stuff.

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Smaller than the Smallest


Tonite I made a teeny tiny batch of Muscadine Grape Jelly. For those of you not familiar with the muscadine grape, it is about the size of a small plum and grows abundantly in the Southeast United States. Muscadines are sweet with a slightly earthy taste, which some people say makes them taste more like wine straight off the vine than other grapes. This reporter can offer no comment on that since the last time she had wine was at Friday night Sabbath: Manischevitz in a dixie cup.

I only had a small amount of muscadines, but went for it anyway because I just need to be making jam. And super small batches (in this case I yielded only 4 jars) are fine now that I don’t rely solely on online sales. I can sell the jars at my table on Sundays.

Some people are jelly adverse. I’m not. Actually, I am feeling separation from my ornamental crabapples in Pennsylvania. They made the best jelly–full of tartness and deep red in color. The heirloom crabapple tree at the Gita Nagari farm was also a great jelly maker–rosey brownish in color–completely traditional.

The color of this Muscadine Jelly is more red than purple. Honestly speaking, I think it tastes closer to mulberry than concord grape. It’s so fun to make these tiny little jams out of unusual fruit. I know that the blog readers get excited about these little expansions of our gastronomical world. So if you are eager to taste a new kind of grape, shoot me an email at sabjimata@gmail.com. If I make some more, I will list it in the Sabjimata Store. Muscadine Jelly is only $6.

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Devadeva’s Day Out

Yes, I know I referred to myself in third person in the title of this blog post. That just sets the stage for what a psychotic day I had! Not really, but it was tiring.

I began the day finishing off a saffron cheesecake for my cooking client’s Friday nite soiree. Caramel yum yum.  Everyone wants a piece of this action!

Then I drove very very far away to Jacksonville, to a very very hoighty toighty outdoor mall populated with the kind of people you think of when you think of Florida. The experience made me feel very farm and very not blonde. Oh, and very short and very flat.  And pale. And badly dressed. Oh, and very disinclined towards shopping as an activity in and of itself.

But I wasn’t there for shopping; I was there to get my flat,  non-blonde Macbook fixed. It was broken. Sean Carolan/Sudama suggested uninstalling Office (which was giving me problems) and re-installing, but instead of listening to him, I took it to the Apple Store. But guess what? That is exactly what needed to be done. Apparently Office was so corrupt that I would not have been able to uninstall it myself. I needed a “Genius.” Thankfully, the Apple Store was well staffed with Geniuses.

My assigned “Genius,” Chris.

After my Apple repair, I stopped by YogaBerry for a frozen treat. I was really excited when I saw the shop. When I read about these frozen yogurt spots opening in New York, I vowed I would visit one before moving south. But as fate (and packing) had it, we never made it to Manhattan, much less out of Juniata County.

Mine

The appeal of this yogurt is that it is sour–like real yogurt. It is not flavored with vanilla or berry or banana or whatever. It is just unadorned, frozen yogurt. When I was little my mother regularly shopped at Saks (how the hell did she afford that?) and we ate lunch at the Saks restaurant. Always for dessert we ordered the frozen yogurt, which was pleasingly sour.

Click the pic to see all the gross, unhealthy toppings up close.  Cocoa Pebbles, anyone?

My yogurt fantasy was topped with honey, banana and wheat germ. However, YogaBerry pretty much only had crap toppings. Like Fruity Pebbles. Ick. So I got my 8 oz. yogurt (which, by the way, was too too big) topped with banana, blueberries and strawberries. This was, sadly, a mistake. The banana was okay but the blueberry and especially the strawberry were too overpowering; once I had a taste of those fruits I could no longer taste the yogurt.

The other problem with the yogurt (and yes I am acutely aware of how asinine it is for me to be going on and on about yogurt…but I don’t get out much and really, I take dairy products very seriously) was (ugh..it sounds so foodie of me to say this but…here it goes…) the mouthfeel. The yogurt, which is frozen in a soft serve machine, was too cold and icy. It was not smooth. It did not melt in my mouth (or in the cup for that matter). I don’t know what kind of stabilizers YogaBerry uses for its yogurt (which is organic), but I feel they could definitely use a master recipe make-over. Maybe adding some fat to their yogurt would help!

By the time I got done with this part of my Jacksonville tour, it was already past 2pm. I brought directions with me for the Jacksonville Farmers Market, and even though I was already out later than I planned to be, headed across town with hopes of scoring some locally grown fruit.

Right away I was struck by the fact that most of the people selling produce were, in fact, not farmers. It seemed like they just bought produce wholesale and were reselling it at the market *cheap*. There were many vendors and most had none or little of their teeth in their mouth. Bare bones and raw, there was no illusion that one just stumbled upon a fresh air market in a cobble stoned paved European city center. No. This was not an experience to be savored. Just a place to pick up some fresh produce at discount prices.

The pepper lady was very nice and knowledgeable. She was happy to give me a good price for buying all her locally grown chilies.

Most of the vendors were very nice and honest, I have to say. Here is a photo of a woman I bought chilies from. These chilies were grown in Starke, which is closer to Alachua than to Jacksonville. I asked one vendor where some fruit was from and she answered “Miami.” “No, not where did you get it from, where was it grown?” She didn’t like this question and just clicked her gums at me. Dissed and dismissed.

Like many vendors, this man was selling locally grown muscaadine grapes.  “My fruit is all sweet….like me!”  He made me take his picture a few times until he got his “chillin’ like Cool J” pose down. I kid you not, this is what he said. Hey, Ladies Love Cool James. I bought nothing from this gentleman.

This is the joint.

I have no desire to return to the Jacksonville Farmers Market, which is located by the fine dining establishment of Tian’s Kitchen Chinese Food. But I appreciate that people are able to get fresh produce at cut rate prices in the middle of the worse part of town. The farmers market may not exactly be the epitome of “green pathways out of poverty“, but it is a definite plus for the local community.

I did buy local honey from this man who was very nice and helpful about the honey selection (which he purchases from a local honey man).  We don’t really eat honey, but if we want to…well, let’s just say it is now an option.

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