This book has been a long time coming.
I started cooking for Sunday Feasts and festivals at Melbourne Mahaprabhu Mandir in the late ’70s. It was my habit to write down what I’d cooked by keeping a record of the menus and recipes. My Dad had kept diaries, and little by little I was becoming my Dad. My motivation was to preserve these recipes for “future generations,” though as a twenty-something year old, my concept of that was a vague one.
The feasts mounted up, and soon the notes filled clip-boards, then spring-bound folders. By the ’80s, cooking in quantity had become a major part of my life. My notes were taking the form of a “big book-to-be.” At the same time, I had started cooking at Gopal’s Restaurant in Melbourne, teaching cookery classes and writing cookbooks, albeit in smaller quantities, starting with Great Vegetarian Dishes.
On a trip to America in the ’90s I found myself in Denver where Sriman Apurva dasa and his wife, Kamalini devi dasi were living. I had heard about the famous Apurva and we met for prasadam at his place. Over lunch, Apurva told me that he was writing a book – a collection of large-quantity recipes – and I found that amazing; here was someone with the same motivations as myself. Apurva generously shared the manuscript with me, and I brought it home and included it in my now burgeoning collection of “big” recipes. Culinary orbits had started to converge.
Around the same time I was invited to Stockholm to visit my friend and ex-Gopal’s sous-chef Sunanda dasa at his hugely successful downtown Govinda’s Restaurant. Sunanda had gathered large notebooks filled with recipes featured on his daily menu and he was also writing a book. I asked if I could have a copy of his manuscript, and he obliged.
My collection of recipes had become a big box of spring-bound folders. It even had an index, volume numbers, and chapters, and now included Apurva’s and Sunanda’s collections. Each time I moved house, even overseas, this heavy box came with me. But by now it was approaching 30 years since I started that collection; my other cookbook writing and my teaching had now taken priority in my life, and I kept this project on the “back burner.” However, unrelenting time, as it does, had moved imperceptibly forward. My seventh age was approaching. What to do about the Big Cookbook?
In early 2019, a breakthrough: Krishna sent a publisher! Apurva approached his friend Mayapriya devi dasi from Bookwrights Press, and she was inspired to publish our book.
Mayapriya recalls, “When Apurva contacted me, I was working on publishing a A Bond of Love: Srila Prabhupada and His Daughters, so I was very much in the mood of inspiring future generations. This book would be another big project, but I thought a feast cookbook that also included instructions, stories and tips from veteran ISKCON cooks would be an important contribution from our generation to generations to come. So we began.”
Things moved very fast from there on. Apurva invited in Gopati dasa, a revered and expert chef from early Chicago and Detroit days who had gone on to build an incredible career in the culinary arts. Gopati brought his wonderful vision, his professionalism, some recipes and his wise counsel to our book.
It was soon evident that we had a powerful team: With my boxes of recipes (see Where it all Began), Mayapriya’s tremendous work ethic (she is respectfully known in the publishing world as “The Finisher”) combined with our “cooking cadre,” we were committed to making a professional, yet highly readable reference book that would please Srila Prabhupada and would educate and encourage generations of devotees to come. Thus our project was driven to publication.
Lord Sri Krishna is the “self-sufficient philosopher who has been fulfilling everyone’s desire since time immemorial”. He has kindly directed us and allowed this book to finally manifest. Apurva, Sunanda, Mayapriya, Gopati and I all wanted the same thing. And in Krishna’s sweet time, it has taken place.
We hope this book inspires.
Kurma dasa ACBSP
Republic of Ireland
June 27, 2022