One of the things I love most about NYC is that you'll never know how your day will unfold, or who you'll meet. Wednesday morning I received a call from olfactory artist Gayil Nalls (maker of the supremely awesome inkblot_2 edibles, for which I created a short video), inviting me to a lunch with Sister Jenna (pictured here), Sister Gita, and two friends from the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization. Sure!
I knew absolutely nothing about the organization, but took the opportunity to learn about them through good food and conversation. Founded in India, practitioners of Brahma Kumaris believe in the intrinsic goodness within everyone. Foodwise, they are vegetarian, and don't eat onions or garlic because their strong essence blocks the path to a pure state of being (I'm boiling it down, but I think that's the basic idea). They are conscious of their emotions while they cook, too, as they want what you're about to ingest to have positive energy, which feeds the soul as the food nourishes the body. I also asked about chilis--since they pack quite the punch--but they noted that spices, in moderation, are fine.
Sister Gita, who's originally from Jamaica and formerly the co-owner of a popular vegetarian restaurant in Florida (fascinatingly situated next to a Planet Hollywood) prepared an absolutely beautiful meal. Served on a cheerful yellow theme chosen by Sister Jenna, we had frijoles negro (black beans) with celery, carrots, cabbage (which she uses to flavor, instead of onions or garlic), tomato, cumin, cilantro, salt/pepper, and red wine vinegar; baked tofu with thyme, olive oil, a little barbecue sauce, and cherry tomatoes; kale and mushrooms with thyme, dill, and olive oil; and Basmati rice.
Everything was fresh and flavorful, and just one plate was incredibly satisfying (Sister Jenna pointed out that it was due to the nutrient-packed food, and I totally agree).
Dessert was "Rock Cake," which was based on a traditional Indian recipe and used flour from India. I'll have to test the recipe (I'll write it up in a future post), but it was basically flour, baking powder, sugar, canola oil raisins, fruit juice, cinnamon, and allspice. It was super dense, but incredibly aromatic and happy-making. Loved it, and I can't wait to make one!
We enjoyed a wonderful meal together, shared stories, and laughed (frankly, my favorite thing to do while sharing food with others). One of the most interesting things, though, was our discussion about what draws many people to New York. For me, I remembered that I was drawn to this immense city from the first time I visited--when I was 6--because I could see then how NYC is a microcosm of the world. You can meet and interact with people from different cultures from all over the world, become friends, share experiences, and see that we all have a lot in common. While the city isn't perfect, many of us get along well, and most of us are interested in interacting with and learning about each other. It's a fabulous, fabulous thing.
It was an excellent reminder: Food isn't just about eating. It's about sharing culture, love, friendship, and happiness with each other.