The Autumn Equinox has come and gone and since then you have probably begun to notice seasonal changes. The days are shorter, the weather cooler, the leaves are falling, and the food available at your local market is changing from foods like berries, melons and snap peas to apples, squash, and parsnips. According to Ayurvedic principles, now would be a good time to adjust your diet to match our changing environment. This can be easy to ignore when we have access to foods like strawberries in January at the grocery store, but seasonal eating makes a little more sense when you start shopping for locally produced food as much as reasonable.
Warm, greasy and heavy
According to Ayurveda, as we transition from the season of Pitta to the season of Vata, we can also transition from the foods of Pitta to those of Vata. Sour and salty replaces the tastes of bitter and astringent, while the taste of sweet continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. Isn’t it interesting that salty and sour are the tastes you would experience while eating the cabbage you fermented during the summer to eat as sauerkraut during the fall, while sweet and sour would be most noticeably tasted with the fall apple harvest? Beyond the tastes of food, the qualities transition from cool and dry to warm and greasy (oily), while the quality of heavy continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. A good example of a heavy, warm and greasy food might be a dense winter squash roasted in the oven and then drizzled with a generous amount of ghee or coconut oil for moisture.
Meat in Ayurveda?
You may find it odd that a website with an Ayurvedic theme would have a recipe for chicken, but the ancient texts never forbid the consumption of meat, and in some cases encourage it for the recovery from disease. The Hindu religion is known to be vegetarian, and is also very common in India, so since India is the home of Ayurveda it is easy to see how the connection between vegetarianism and Ayurveda could be made. However, vegetarianism may be required to practice the Hindu religion, but that does not mean it is required to practice Ayurveda. Another fact to consider is that many parts of India are low in latitude and as a result have a much warmer climate. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this, but my appetite decreases when I’m in a hot and humid environment, which would make vegetarianism much easier closer to the equator. If you don’t believe me then try being a raw food vegan in northern Canada and let me know how that works for you. I’m not promoting eating meat; I’m promoting diets that are appropriate for your geography and your season. Simply put, those of us in the north have less access to fresh produce, and more need for nourishment during a cold winter. I’m not talking about eating meat for pleasure as most Americans do, I’m talking about eating what your body needs, which I’m willing to bet is far less than what we are currently witnessing around the country. Eating based on bodily needs will require people to be aware of their bodies, and to learn how to properly cook nutritious meals. I often say that PETA would be far more successful if they encouraged people to eat less meat rather than none, and that is because even though most people are probably eating much more than they need, telling them to quit completely can not only cause a defensive reaction, but it may also be inappropriate advice for their location and time of year.
The size of my crockpot is 5.5 quarts, or 5.2 liters, and I find that a 5.5 pound, or 2.5 kg bird can easily fit. This recipe is very simple, but that is the point, to realize that cooking high quality meals is a convenient and healthy way to live. Here is the recipe:
4-5 pound chicken
2-4 bulbs of garlic
½ T oregano
½ T thyme
½ T rosemary
½ T black pepper powder
½ T pink salt
1 T dried parsley
1 T dried basil
3-4 cups water
Dice the garlic and allow to sit for 10 minutes to maximize the nutritional benefits. Place the bird and the water into the crockpot. Dice the onion and add it to the crockpot along with garlic and all the spices. Sprinkle the spices under, on top of, and all around the bird. I like to set my crockpot to 10 hours on a low setting. You can flip the bird after about 6 hours if you like. The final result is more like a stew than an oven roast, but you can try a shorter duration or less water if you prefer that effect. Serve with roasted squash or root vegetables and some steamed dark leafy greens. Don’t forget to save the bones for a bone broth!
When buying your chicken I highly recommend a locally sourced, pasture raised product. This will require you to search beyond the deceptive “all natural” and “cage free” feel good options available at the grocery store. Did you know a cage free bird might never see the sun, breathe clean fresh air, or have enough room to run around? An organic, pasture raised bird may cost 2-5 times as much as a conventional bird, but don’t you think it is worth it? A pastured bird might be more nutritious if they are eating insects as they were meant to. I find it odd when the label says “vegetarian fed” since chickens are known to eat insects, but they obviously don’t have that opportunity in an indoor facility. My last chicken had a slightly wild taste to it versus the typical bland and neutral flavor we are all accustomed to. A pastured bird should be less likely to get sick since it is not breathing dirty air in a confined space and is therefore also less likely to need antibiotics. Wouldn’t you rather eat a healthy chicken than a sick one? I actually get at least 10 servings from a bird, so when you look at the per meal price it is not bad compared to what you would pay at a farm to table restaurant. Besides the nutrition, taste and health, I think raising animals on pasture is much more humane, and a great way to support your local family farmers.