Friday, September 10, 2004

Carrot, Coconut & Beetroot Salad

When the Olympics were on in 2000, for some strange reason we all believed it would be a major debacle. So many of us made plans to leave town to avoid the chaos we thought would be foisted upon us.

My destination of choice was the Vipassana Meditation Retreat located at Black Heath in the Blue Mountains. The hysterical thing about my choice was that it was totally the opposite to the Olympics - a 12 day retreat where one takes a vow of silence for 10 days and does nothing but meditate for something eleven hours a day! I thought this was a great idea, mainly because I wanted to lose some weight and get a big bliss out. Boy was I there for all the wrong reasons!

Despite my natural talkative nature, I found undertaking the vow of silence was easy. I discovered human beings say an awful lot when sometimes saying nothing is far superior. I also discovered that I could live without a soy latte and almond friand every day. And I was completely happy to hand the responsibility for my food over to someone else.

At the retreat they served a strict vegetarian menu, which I understand is very Hindu in its nature - lots of chick peas and tofu and carrots and cauliflower and spinach (blech!) and so on. There is a big old cook book in the kitchen, I hear, and the meals are prepared by volunteers who wish to serve the meditators. This is called dharma service - very noble, and of course attracts merits (in the next life, I assume). I also understand the volunteers aren't necessarily experienced cooks. The recipes are supposed to be fool proof so no matter how unskilled the volunteers, they still come out good 'n tasty!

We were meant to conduct ourselves as if we were alone in that place, but that never stopped the stampede from the meditation hall to the dining room at breakfast time. Imagine trying to jostle to get your bread into the toaster without being able to tell somebody "Hey! Your bloody toast is about to catch fire!". And of course the bananas in the fruit bowl were coveted by all - yet there were never enough for everybody. Last in was not best served!

At the end of the retreat I promised to vacuum the dorm room I'd stayed in, but I was overcome by a desperate need to get the heck out of there. I could see my car through the trees, and when no one was looking, I made a mad dash for it through the bush. Unbeknownst to me there was a thin wire fence around the boundary and I got hopelessly caught up in it, much to my chagrin. I had to head back to the room with my tail between my legs and perform the promised chore before I could exit like an adult through the front gate.

When I returned home I was immediately overtaken by the excitement of the remaining week of the Olympics. On one hand I was sorry I missed it. On the other hand, I knew I'd experienced something at the retreat that was invaluable to me (and I don't mean constipation!). I figured out how to be still - very important when one lives in a busy cosmopolitan city.

2 large carrots, peeled
2 large fresh beetroots, peeled (remember - put gloves on to do this!)
1/4 cup desicated coconut
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp natural yoghurt
1/4 cup sultanas

1. Grate the carrot and beetroot into a large bowl.

2. Sprinkle the coconut over the top.

3. Add the olive oil, natural yoghurt and sultanas then stir all the ingredients until they are well combined. The beetroot will stain everything, but don't worry about that! It looks pretty!

4. Serve immediately. Unfortunately this salad will not keep. If you find you have too much salad to eat in one sitting, reduce all ingredients by half the next time you make it. This salad is an excellent compliment to barbecued meats, accompanied by a nice green salad (or even a serving of Crazy Salad!).

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