Two key components to a healthy lifestyle can be found in what we eat and how we exercise. The “eating” part of that formula is an issue at least three times a day. Vegetarian cooking has long been regarded as a step in the right direction. In some cultures, such culinary thinking goes back thousands of years. Suhasina Bhapkar and her assistant work under a mirror as they prepare a meal at the Fayette County Extension office… “A little, that’s a potato..add some mustard seed….it’s called peppery..in hindi..it’s called durkah,” said Bhapkar.
The mirror allows close to 30 students to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of vegetarian cooking from India. As the spices and vegetables sizzled on the stove, Amy Colosso sat at a front-row table and tossed out some questions.
"Is there a specific flour you should use or where do you get asafetida ..what is it and how do you use it.you know..because there are a lot of really unique ingredients and spices and things for Indian cooking,” asked Colosso.
This evening’s menu includes a mixed vegetable salad, spicy diced potato, sprouted beans, and a green mango drink.
“My family loves Indian foods…so my husband saw the announcement for the class and said…oh you need to go…take this class…so you can learn how to fix this at home,” laughed Colosso.
Bhapkar holds out a circular metal container…inside are several smaller cylinders…each holding individual spices..
“These are the tempering spices..this is cumin seed..mustard seed..fenugreek seed..and these are the seasoning spices…this is turmeric ..red pepper..garam-masaala…and this is a mixture of cumin and Korean,” said Bhapkar.
Charles Colston was another front row participant. He was also taken by the emphasis on a variety of spices..
“The variety of spices…that I’m not used to using…that’s one big difference and I like the spices…it’s just not what I’m used to using when I cook,” said Colston.
Helping manage the ingredients and in serving the Indian dishes to students was Seetha Subramanian. The community college physics instructor says all vegetarian meals in India offer a rich assortment of spices. She admits, people in India, just like people in the U-S, suffer from diet related health problems.
“The Indians have heart attacks…Indians have diabetes…I think India is second in the world for having a diabetes problem,” said Subramanian.
The vegetarian cooking class was Subramanian’s idea. After reflecting about her mother, who passed away in 2010, Subramanian created a scholarship fund. And, these cooking classes help raise money for the effort. She says her mother, who married at age 15, loved learning.
“Once she got married..she had children and moved to various countries…and learned different languages and did very well…but she always regretted now being able to go to college or even finish high school..so I had a thought that when she was sick..the last four years that I would like to do something in her name like a scholarship.”
The scholarships go to non-traditional students at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. She says five 500 dollars scholarships were awarded last fall with plans for more scholarships this fall.