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A Show of Devotion

Last week I let you all know about the grand Janmastami celebration that would be happening at the Krishna Temple in Hillsborough. Several of you expressed interest in attending, and yet I realize the fact that the festival was on a weeknight was a deterrent. For those of you who wanted to come and experience the festival but were unable to for whatever reason, have no fear! Here are some photos from the evening's festivities, so that you all can share in the joyous occasion.

For the Hillsborough Krishna community, this is the temple's largest festival of the year, requiring months of advance planning to coordinate and effectively host the 1000s of people who come. I heard some of the organizers saying that the crowd exceeded their expectations (7000 - 8000 visitors). I was extremely impressed with the hard work and cooperative spirit of the community organizers. The temple grounds were cleaned and beautifully decorated; there was ample delicious, spicy Indian food for all the guests (you should have seen the size of those pots!); there was a packed schedule of talented, devotional kirtan singers throughout the night; and the stage show was filled with top-quality performers.

(photo Ajay Govinda Dasa)

The stage show was where I spent nearly all my time on Thursday evening. I had been asked to be the emcee for the 5 hour (!) stage show. Let me tell you, with a show that large, consisting of 85 different performers, there are a plethora of nightmares that could have happened. And yet they didn't! The show was relatively smooth thanks to the very, very capable direction of the volunteer stage manager, Nikunja. After many, many years in various performance capacities, I have come to understand that an awesome backstage crew is just as important as first-rate performers.

(photo Ajay Govinda Dasa)

Poorna Gandhi (above) performed a heartfelt Kathak dance that she had choreographed herself. I have known her since she was a little girl and couldn't help but get a little misty-eyed with pride to see her dance so well. Sanjana (below), although still a young girl, was one of the most gorgeous and expressive dancers of the evening.

(photo Vikram Verma Photography)

Below: Three children in the community who are students of Gaurangi Priya Gopal, owner of Prema Natya Vidyalaya School of Dance. My son also studies dance with her and has become an excellent dancer under her tutelage. He is just way too shy to perform for such a large audience as of yet (so don't expect any photos of him). ;-)

(photo Mandakini Baba)

Another one of the community children getting into the act (literally) for the first time. He and his drama coach performed an allegorical pantomime entitled "Again Become a Mouse," about a mouse who is favored by a mystic yogi and blessed to become (at the mouse's own request) a cat, then a dog, then a tiger. When the tiger turns to bite the hand (and the head) that fed him, the yogi protects himself by turning the tiger back into a mouse. I took the moral of the story to be "Never forget where you came from and who has helped you along the way." Our first time actor did a wonderful job portraying all of the different animals!

(photo Ajay Govinda Dasa)

One of the largest groups I had the pleasure to introduce was my own band, Samadhi Kirtan Band. We were honored to get to share our fusion-style kirtan with such a receptive and enthusiastic crowd. (Any time the band is outnumbered by the audience, it's a good thing.)

(photo Ajay Govinda Dasa)

A big thank you to all of the people known, and unknown, who worked so hard to host this joyful cultural celebration. Everyone who came was deeply touched in some way. Another hearty thanks to those indispensable men and women whom you never see in the photos - the photographers. Without them, we would have only our fallible memories to rely on to relive the sights and sounds of the special moments of our lives.

This Week's Menu:

Entree #1 - Creamy Dreamy Tomato Soup

Yesterday when I was working on this week's menu, I looked back to see what we had made 6 weeks before. We are supposed to be on a 6-week rotation (more or less) of our most popular entrees. I frequently take some creative license with that process, and haven't really fallen into a regulated schedule with that yet. At any rate, I saw that it has already been a little more than a month since we made this beautiful knockout of a soup. Last week I could not escape reminders that autumn was on its way, and the menu reflected the impending cooler weather. This week the summer weather has returned in full force, refusing to fade away without a fight. Thus, it seems appropriate to have another menu celebrating the bounty of summer veggies. This soup delights the palate with farm-fresh tomatoes and cauliflower-induced creaminess. Yep that's right, thanks to blended cauliflower and nutritional yeast, you will never miss the dairy in this guilt-free, low-fat version of Creamy Tomato Soup. *GF, soy-free


Entree #2 - Ratatouille

Since we are going with a summer veggie theme this week, it seemed appropriate to include the vegetable extravaganza of Roasted Ratatouille. Ratatouille is like fried rice, in that it is a common, of-the-people dish, made in practically unlimited variations. The common themes are that the vegetables are fresh, summer ones, lightly seasoned with olive oil and green herbs and then served together (ratouiller in French indicates "to stir up"). I have taken a particular liking to Laura Vitale's method of roasting the veggies before tossing them together. *GF, soy-free


Entree #3 - Mung Bean Butternut Stew

When considering what dal I wanted to go with these two other Continental-style entrees, I decided on whole mung dal. Out of all the common beans and legumes, mung beans are the easiest to digest and require very little soaking time prior to cooking. One of my favorite whole mung dals is a mung and tomato recipe. However, the other entrees are tomato-heavy, so I wanted something that featured a vegetable other than tomato. Voila! I came across this recipe that has been long overdue for a repeat. The brilliant orange color and sweet taste of the squash contrasts delightfully with the mild, green goodness of the beans. Fresh greens and a few splashes of coconut milk make this dal absolutely irresistible! *GF, soy-free


Side Dishes:

Brown Rice - $1/serving (1 cup)

Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf - $3.50/serving (1 cup) I wanted to make a side grain that was interesting and hearty and followed the menu’s veggielicious theme. I remembered that I had made a very tasty quinoa pilaf for you all before. Thus I began digging in the annals of Govinda's history to see what I could find. Sometime in 2015 I made a pilaf, after being inspired by one that I ate at the nearby Krishna Temple. But alas, there was no online recipe. This is another one of those dishes that has not yet caught fire in the online world, so there are just a few recipes out there to choose from. My version will have lots of beautiful veggies, plus lemon and fresh dill. IMHO everything (except for desserts, I suppose) tastes better with lemon and dill.*GF, soy-free


Falafel Salad -$7/lb. Summer weather begs for salads. When looking back in our files for salads, I found this yummy one. Now as it turns out, falafel is as tricky to make correctly as it is scrumptiously easy to eat. I love the rich taste of the beany falafels contrasted with the crispness of the vegetables and married together under the veil of a delicious tahini lemon dressing. The only question is how to bring this perfection of a salad together without killing myself with the falafel preparation? Baked falafel! With baked falafel you get all the same thrilling ingredients without the risk of having your falafels fall apart in the oil. Oh yeah, and it is healthier too. I liked this salad before; now there is no reason for me not to absolutely fall in love with it! *GF, soy-free


Banana Bread - $7/lb. Banana bread, oh banana bread, how we have missed you! It has been too long (5/23 to be exact) since you graced our oven! My only excuse for neglecting to put this moist, delicious, delectable sweet bread back on the menu for so long is that there are so many desserts and so little time. So many beautiful, tempting vegan desserts came up just begging to be tried. I don't think anyone has complained about having to eat yet another piece of the to-die-for pies that we have made... Yet making room for the pies has meant having to wait for the return of the banana bread. Absence makes the heart grow fonder... so let's welcome back this Govinda's favorite with warm hearts and wide-open mouths! *GF, soy-free


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