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Vegetarian cuisine bringing tourists, pilgrims together

By DREW PARKER

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

NEW VRINDABAN, W.Va. — Although various religions, political views and ways of life often create divisions, food remains a binding force, bringing families, friends and strangers together around the world.

In New Vrindaban of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a community near Moundsville, residents have been serving tasty vegetarian fare to pilgrims, tourists and locals alike for decades.
Sacred traditions

Hindus believe animals are children of Krishna, meaning they are created by God with a soul and experience emotional turmoil when they are killed for meat. But the ideology doesn’t stop with the idea of butchering an animal being offensive to God, but also to one’s own body. “Conscious cooking” is a vital part of life in New Vrindaban, intertwining food preparation with spirituality.

New Vrindaban’s cooks prepare before food is touched by bathing and clearing their minds. According to the religion’s philosophy, an angry chef can transfer sour emotions into the food.

“It’s important that our cooks have a proper standard of cleanliness and consciousness, and that enhances the value of the meal we are taking in,” community President Jaya Krishna Das said. “We don’t want to keep food for ourselves, but to share it.”

Full flavor

Visitors to the New Vrindaban community can find tasty main dishes such as curries, paneer cheeses, yellow rice and white rice and chipatti, a popular Indian bread. Prokura, a crispy fried vegetable dish — potato- or broccoli-based with turmeric and tomato chutney to dip — often serves as a savory appetizer, while sweet rice and golap, a traditional dessert consisting of ghee, an Indian clarified butter sticky sweet syrup, may provide after-dinner treats.

Govinda’s Restaurant, the Ohio Valley’s only all-vegan and vegetarian restaurant, reflects Hare Krishna principles in a tasty manner, offering a mix of traditional Indian cuisine along with some vegetarian American favorites.

The adjoining Govinda’s grocery store sells local ghee and other nutritious vegetarian and vegan offerings, along with clothing and souvenirs.

New Vrindaban Communications Director Vrindavan Das said food is a part of community service for the community.

“Cooking is an art for us, and we do it as meditation. We don’t cook for ourselves, but for the pleasure of God,” Das said. “For our pilgrims, we offer free breakfast and lunch 365 days a year. Everyone knows about us because of our food. … This food is cooked with devotion of the cook.”

Honoring animal contributions

To the Krishna community, the resident dairy cows ask for nothing but give everything.

Vrindavan Das added a mere eight to 10 cows provide all of New Vrindaban with creamy, fresh milk and subsequently yogurt, cheese, ghee and butter each morning.

In return, they are honored with a cow protection program, along with daily blessings and loving care from the community’s devotees.

“We make our own fresh cheese each morning.

“It is all completely organic and from our very own cows. It is a favorite of practically all of our members,” Jaya Krishna Das said. “Golap is my favorite item, made with fried milk curd with sugar syrup.

“When you put it in your mouth, it pops and really opens your senses.”

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