Saturday, August 17, 2013


FOR INDIA'S VEGETARIANS - A McD outlet in Vaishno Devi, a veg-only KFC outlet in Gujarat, a Snickers bar for vegetarians. International brands will do just about anything to find their way into Indian hearts. Restaurateurs often say "Patrons don't eat what you serve. You serve them what they want to eat." This whole "tweak or perish" maxim is something those in the food business have come to swear by. As an eatery or foreign franchise owner, if you don't alter your menu as per the local palate, you may as well get ready to shut shop. 
This rule becomes even more sacrosanct in the Indian context, where a large part of the population is vegetarian.

While chocolate brand Snickers recently launched its fully vegetarian bar in India, several multinational quick service chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Subway, Dominos and Pizza Hut have been busy adding vegetarian dishes to their menus and opening "exclusive vegetarian" outlets. Today, a larger part of the revenue for these chains comes from their vegetarian menus. 
Interestingly, vegetarian dishes form barely 10-15 per cent of their menus, catering to just 3 per cent of the US population. The Indian scenario, on the other hand, is completely opposite; between 30-40 per cent of the country's total population is vegetarian. The writing on the wall is clear: if you have to sell food products in India, then it has to be done the Indian way.

When multinational eatery chains entered India nearly two decades ago, quickly adapted themselves to suit Indian tastes in order to increase its vegetarian portfolio and consequently, their revenues. Although they foster a materialistic aim, this is good because the effect is that millions of animals are not needlessly slaughtered. Many people around the world are becoming vegetarians and this is the result of the efforts of Srila Prabhupada and other Gurus who have came to Western countries to spread India's ancient message of love and compassion towards all the living beings. However, Hinduism has still much more to give: it is good to be a vegetarian, but the next step is offer our meals to God before taking them. It is customary for Hindus to offer their daily food to God as an expression of devotion to Him. Then God acts in reciprocation to the devotees' love by bestowing them Divine blessing and in that way ordinary food (bhoga) becomes the mercy of the Lord (prasadam) which is very auspicious and sacred, healthy for the body and purifier of our hearts. (Editor's note).

What distinguishes Vedic cooking from other types of cooking is the cook’s spiritual consciousness, his awareness that he is preparing an offering for God. In most religious systems, people ask God to give them their daily bread, but the devotee of Krishna offers the daily bread to God as an expression of love for Him. And God reciprocates. In the Bhagavad-gita, one of the Vedic scriptures, Lord Krishna says that He accepts a vegetarian offering, be it no more than a leaf or a fruit, or a glass of water, if it is presented with devotion, and out of His inconceivable mercy He spiritualizes the offering by personally tasting it. What was ordinary food then becomes krishna-prasada, the mercy of Lord Krishna. And what would have been ordinary eating becomes worship, a loving exchange with the Lord.

Published by dasavatara das - "Vedic Views on World News"