Season to Taste

[Silverbelle C. Jane (Hinesburg SBs) is the author of Spirit Traffic (see link below). She also sends out weekly Love Letters that are teeming with wit, sass, and wisdom. This one explains ayurveda in less than 1000 words, perfect for the attention-challenged inhabitants of The Jungle. Sign-up for your own weekly love letter at I know you didn’t ask, but I think I’m a Kapha. SB SM]

“Pepper. Smoked Paprika. Garlic. My standbys tend toward the spicy. I am also heavy handed with crushed red-pepper flakes, ginger, and sometimes cumin. In ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, based on the idea of balancing the body and bodily systems with diet, herbs, and yogic practices, there are three humors or types called doshas. Like Myers Briggs personality types, the doshas define us in many ways.

Based on the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) the types are Vatta (air and ether), Kapha (earth and water), and Pitta (fire and water). These types are believed to be responsible for a person’s physiological, mental, and emotional well-being. This is a gross simplification of a natural system of medicine that is more than 3,000 years ago. In ayurveda, you are supposed to eat foods that bring balance and do not exacerbate your type. 

Let me simplify the system even further. Pitta people like me and my fiery son should avoid spicy foods. We almost never do, though, craving jalapenos when poblanos are called for, sprinkling red pepper flakes whenever and wherever we can. When I explained my extremely limited understanding of the ayurvedic system to Emmett, he said, “I want to eat more hot foods so that I can be more me!” I often feel the same way. Balance sometimes eludes both of us. 

Though my hand is not as heavy as it was even a few years ago and I do have a fundamental understanding of the concept of moderation, I still go for the hot stuff—on the plate and in life. I am reminded of Albert Fuller, a brilliant and influential harpsichordist and early music conductor I once knew who famously said, “All things in moderation… but all things.” Based on the wonderful stories I’ve heard of him, I imagine that Albert was Pitta, too. 

As I dive into the new year, a dry month, and a more balanced life, I wonder if I will succumb to milder flavors. I doubt it. It feels too much like slowing down or giving in when I am more of the Dylan Thomas do-not-go-gentle school. I’ll bet Thomas was a Pitta, too. 

A few years ago, I wrote a LinkedIn profile for a guy who was just coming out of retirement. He wanted to leave off the dates on his work experience in his profile, so he would not appear so old. I told him, “Honey, you are the George Burns of LinkedIn. We need to keep your dates, maybe even exaggerate them in the other direction.” At that moment, he began calling me Gracie and we became fast friends. George has teen-aged grandchildren. He’ll be 81 next week. 

Georgie Boy sent a new year’s note the other day that included a story about Clint Eastwood and Toby Keith. I had to look up Toby Keith, apparently he is a country music singer, songwriter, actor, etc. Here is the story George told at a New Year’s Eve party:

“This unlikely duo were sitting in a golf cart while playing in a celebrity golf tournament. Keith asked Eastwood what he was doing in his life (knowing that he was in his advanced eighties) fully expecting him to say that he was slowing down since he had achieved so much in his professional life, and it was time to “dial it back.” Eastwood replied that, to the contrary, he was starting a new film. Keith asked why at his age and with all his accolades was he doing that, he replied that to stay relevant in his mind he worked every day to “not let the old man in.” Keith was so taken with his response that he wrote a song entitled “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” which Eastwood featured in his recent movie “The Mule.”  

When I finished telling the story, one of the men [at the party] turned to me and thanked me for sharing it and, being recently retired, said that it gave him a new perspective on how to engage with his “new life” in 2023. In turn I said that there is one line in the song that summarizes my state of mind relative to my grandchildren/children which he might find particularly relevant…..”Ask yourself, how old would you be if you didn’t know the day you were born?”  

I’ll bet George is Pitta, too. And Eastwood, for that matter. 

The University has asked me to start teaching drop-in yoga classes again after a three-year pandemic hiatus. In that time, my body has changed. I am not as flexible as I once was; I am nearing the age when the long, gnarled fingers of the unthinkable begin to scratch at my best laid plans and forward folds. 

I’ll need more spice to keep that old man at bay. Smoked paprika for sure.”

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