The following is taken out of a long thread in a discussion group about using tamasic foods. I think it warrants wider reading, so with permision from the author (the same Gaura Keshava das who performed the installation ceremony of the current temple that RVC reside in) here it is:

There are many many descriptions of foods and what can and cannot be eaten, offered, etc. Different communities of Vaisnavas (and Hindus) place differing degrees of importance on these.

Some quote some verses of Manu but do not follow ALL of Manu. Please be consistent. People tend to follow the rules that they like and disregard other rules which they do not like.

Some say that vegetables grown on impure substances are forbidden but do not list what those impure substances are???? (Modern fertilizers???) (Tomatoes were once considered poisonous in Europe)

It is well known that many food items are adulterated not only in India but also in countries like US. (Most Milk in the US contains Vitamin D Fish Oil, yet was accepted by Srila Prabhupada to be used, similarly many foods in India and other countries are adulterated)

We cannot protest that a food is rajasic when we continue to eat piles and piles of chilies, which somehow are exempted from being rajasic????

We protest at food that is older than 3 hours but readily accept 6 month or more old lemon and mango pickle.

We reject pasta but accept papadams.

We reject the use of yeast (or at least we used to in the time of Srila Prabhupada), and yet accept cultured foods like yoghurt?

We reject as tamasic old food but make jelebhi, dosa, idli, and vada from batter that is all fermented. (Is not western cheese also fermented??? Is not curd coagulated by adding acidic agents to milk???)

We reject sour food but accept the use of tamarind, lemon, etc.

We reject small amounts of coffee, chocolate, and other flavorings but eat sweets that have an intoxicating effect on our bodies due to the large amounts of sugar contained in them.

We reject wine but accept ayurvedic medicines that contain more alcohol than any wine.

There is also a bizarre Indian obsession with foods that are red in color as being associated with meat and blood.

As Ganesh Prabhu pointed out, what is the logic behind saying that garlic and onions are tamasic because they grow below ground and yet eating carrots and potatoes??? These are no doubt odorous but there are also Vaisnavas who similarly reject the use of Hing/Asafoetida as being too pungent or odorous. If the objection to garlic is the odor then one might be surprised to know that there is odorless garlic supplements that are sold for health in the West, and that both garlic and onions have medicinal uses, though obviously are not generally acceptable for offering as prasadam.

No doubt Manu Samhita rejects garlic and onions, etc. However we have also NEVER seen mention of chilies in ORIGINAL Vedic cuisine because they originally come from South America.

Many orthodox Hindus and Vaisnavas do not accept Videshi vegetables ie those that have a foreign origin (some examples are potato, chili, tomato, cauliflower, capsicum, tea, coffee, chocolate, etc). And we have to remember that food restrictions have changed over the ages so we see that in Puranic times perhaps eggplant was forbidden but later during the time of Mahaprabhu accepted (Madhva’s still don’t accept it except for a particular small round green type).

It’s quite obvious that Srila Prabhupada didn’t have any problem with carrots (unlike some other Gaudiya math people), or with eggplants (unlike Hari Bhakti Vilasa) or with drumstick (unlike many orthodox Ramanuja Vaisnavas), or with beetroot or red cabbage (unlike many, many Indians who will not eat any red colored vegetables).

Masur dhal or red lentils is supposed to be equal to non-vegetarian food. However it is restricted (as is non-veg food) in the last month of caturmasya. If it is restricted for that month then surely it is allowed to be eaten on other occasions???? Hari Bhakti Vilasa also mentions several non-veg foods that are restricted in Karttika month.

From time to time Vaisnava Acharyas write books to clarify the rules for offering foods and eating foods. These rules are some of the most complex of all social rules. Anyone who has been to India knows that all over India different communities have not only different foods but also different methods of serving and eating those foods. So it’s not surprising that there is confusion amongst people as to what exactly is the standard. Because there is no one standard.

Sanatana Goswami suggests that a devotee offer to the Lord that food that he himself likes as long as it is SATTVIC. For understanding what SATTVIC food is I would refer everyone to Bhagavad Gita. 17.8-10

“Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness, and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, too salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease. Food prepared more that three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness.”

I suggest everyone read the purport.

Please note that much Indian food falls under the rajasic category, even foods that are offered to the deities in many Indian temples. Foods in India on the whole tend to be extreme in taste, either being too bitter, salty, sour, hot, pungent, or even too sweet. So just because a preparation is culturally Indian and acceptable to the Indian palate does not make it SATTVIC.

Indians are amazed that some of the older more orthodox temples like Sri Rangam and Jagannatha Puri do not offer items like chilies, potatoes, or tomatoes to the deities. This is because their ancient temple recipes predate the arrival of the Portugese who brought these vegetables and others from the NEW WORLD (America).

It seems that we all knew what was to be offered and what was to be eaten when Srila Prabhupada was with us and somehow now we have all forgotten or think that we have to introduce something new. Srila Prabhupada mentioned many times that garlic and onions were not to be offered. Other things can be researched in the Vedabase. For all other foods that people have doubts about they should use their own good judgement as to whether those foods are indeed SATTVIC.

your servant

Gaura Keshava das