Guest post graciously contributed by Kay Franz.

According to Ayurveda, with each meal, we all need to enjoy 6 tastes on our tongue; sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. The tongue’s experience of these tastes creates a digestive reaction that triggers various actions in our alimentary canal conducive to healthy digestion, assimilation and elimination. These 6 tastes can be experienced and added to our foods by making dosha balancing powders or spice mixes called churnas. Churnas take a lot out of the thought and guesswork when working at the stove and a great time saving item in the pantry

For those somewhat new to Ayurveda the kitchen can be an intimidating place. Dosha balancing food lists, 6 taste churnas, making ghee and a number of other beneficial practices can be challenging for experienced cooks but for the kitchen novice it can seem overwhelming.

Relax. It’s not as daunting as it seems on the surface.

For an experienced cook, this will begin to seem like common sense. Once you begin to identify with the qualities of foods (heavy/light, hot/cold, oily/dry, smooth/rough, etc.) and the properties of heating or cooling, all your familiar tried and true recipes can begin to fall in line with your Ayurvedic brain. Dosha balancing with foods can add an element of fun and creativity in the kitchen. If you are experiencing acid indigestion with reflux, look twice at the fiery hot, black bean chili you love so much and weigh if there is a way to preserve some of its savory, spiciness while tamping down on the heat? Can you get away with mild chili’s, lots of cooling lime and cilantro to balance out the heat or is it best to opt for something better suited to your constitutional imbalance?

Experimentation is allowed and it doesn’t take long to figure out what works for you. Usually one aggravating doshic meal tells you all you need to know. If you’re feeling heavy and sluggish, a heating quality may help you lighten up but you are the best judge of the effects of your foods on your system. Keeping a log of the how you feel an hour of two after you eat is a valuable tool for educating yourself on what works and what doesn’t. What are the qualities of those post-digestive effects you are feeling? Are you lighter, heavier or experiencing heat in your gut or throat? All of those qualities relate to the same qualities in those foods. If the qualities have a harmonizing effect, you should feel contented and full without dullness, heaviness or discomfort.

For the novice cook you have the advantage of being able to learn cooking utilizing these principles and not have to change how you cook. You have a clean slate and just need to remember that nothing is ruled out, we need all those tastes. However, proportions will need to adjust according to the properties and effects of the foods you select. Any recipe can be adjusted with that in mind.

To give an example, the images shown are of a meal I prepared called Matar Panir (Peas and Cheese). The original recipe calls for a number of items that can be aggravating for my Pitta imbalance. This recipe called fMatar-Paniror chili (mild), which can still sometimes beMatar Panir too much heat for my Pitta. To counter this, I cut the amount of chili in half but doubled the amount of cilantro, which is cooling. The cream that is used in this dish, along with the Panir (cheese) is balancing for Pitta so in the end the changes result in a dish that is fairly tridoshic and neutral for Pitta rather that the potentially aggravating original balance of spices.
If you approach your kitchen with love for the way it connects you to family, friends, the earth as well as your own body, it can be a creative laboratory. Experimentation is allowed, mistakes are allowed. Give yourself over to the creativity of cooking, exploring and connecting with the needs of your own body. Above all don’t be anxious, it is all about practice. Detach and the results results of your practice will bear fruit in good time.

Happy eating….