Cooking for the deities

Sivananda was not an experienced cook, so Prabhupada taught him. The apartment kitchen was small, about six feet square, with an electric stove, a sink, and a little counter space. When Prabhupada said that Sivananda made good eggplant pakoras, Sivananda made eggplant pakoras daily. Then one morning Prabhupada asked, "You're not cooking that eggplant again, are you?"

Prabhupada then taught Sivananda some other things to cook, including a special way to cook cabbage, a way to cook capatis by cooking them on one side in the oven, taking them out, and then cooking them on the other side on the electric burner. Prabhupada asked for mangoes, but it was difficult to find them in Hamburg. Those that Sivananda could find were still green. Prabhupada instructed Sivananda to put the peeled mangoes in a sugar solution for a week; when the mangoes turned black, they became a kind of mango chutney.

Sivananda knew Prabhupadas concern for not wasting anything, so he asked him what to do with the mango peels. Prabhupada seemed surprised, but he said, "If you want to do something with the peels, then put them in mustard oil with salt and turmeric." The devotees tried this, but they found the taste awful except for Mandalibhadra, who liked them.

For breakfast Sivananda would usually take whatever was left on Prabhupada's plate, but one morning there was very little left, so Sivananda began cooking cereal for himself. He had just begun eating the cereal in the other room when Prabhupada entered. Prabhupada took one look at Sivananda's cereal and told him to come into the kitchen. There Prabhupada showed Sivananda how to make halava, cooking farina and butter and mixing it with boiling sugar water. "When you want something to eat," Prabhupada said, "then you can make this halava."

Prabhupada still had his small Radha-Krsna Deities in Hamburg, and They sat on the little altar shelf within his closet. Whatever Sivananda would cook, Prabhupada would have him make up a plate and then bring it and offer it with prayers to Radha and Krsna. One day, while Sivananda was cooking, Prabhupada came to the kitchen door and motioned for Sivananda to come out. He then led Sivananda to the open closet before the Deities of Radha and Krsna. Gesturing to the Deities, Prabhupada said, "It's not for me that you're cooking, but it's for Them."

Prabhupada had come to Hamburg knowing the center was undeveloped. But he wanted to encourage the devotees there and give Sivananda the opportunity to serve him personally. On Prabhupada's behalf Sivananda had so submissively come here and started the center; now Prabhupada had come to encourage him by engaging him as his walking companion, cook, and masseur.

- From "Prabhupada-lila" by HH Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

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