I had suffered theeffects of a nasty bug, in my weakened condition,
I was in no mood for any discussion of lunch—or, to be honest,
the company of my mother—but here I was, stuffed in the backseat
of our van, with quibbling children, while my mother babbled
on and on about the cold.
decided to take Mom to the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health,
as a change of pace from the usual brew pub or occasional
bistro to which we usually treat her. I had an amazing lunch
there a year and a half ago, as part of a daylong getaway
with three girlfriends, and since had been seeking a way to
fit another such lunch, this time with family, between all
of the soccer, baseball, hockey and drama-club commitments.
I was growing up in Great Barrington, Mass., what is now the
Kripalu Center was known as Shadowbrook, the name it was given
by its original owner, Andrew Carnegie, back in the glory
days of the “Berkshire cottages.” At one point, the site was
considered for a prison, which was the first time the term
“not in my backyard” entered my consciousness. Instead, an
order of monks bought the place, and everybody relaxed, while
at the same time wondering what exactly monks did in Western
years after the Jesuit seminary left the property, it was
sold to the Kripalu Center, which had been founded in the
Philadelphia area by disciples of the Indian yoga master Swami
Kripalu. Over time, the Center became “the” place to go for
yoga, meditation and a variety of other mind body spirit activities.
Unlike the Canyon Ranch bunch, who could usually be seen shopping
in Lenox on weekend afternoons in their Uggs and Christy Turlington
yogawear, the Kripalu devotees seemed, to our unenlightened
eyes, decidedly crunchier. Of course, as I get older, I think
what was meant by that was that they seemed more tuned into
how spiritual well-being affects world outlook, and vice versa,
as opposed to gearing up for glute boot camp.
we were on a severe February noontime, walking up the winding
driveway to the entrance of Kripalu. Like many blue collar
Berkshirites, Mom had never set foot on the property, so she
kept repeating, in between gasps of “My, it’s cold isn’t it?,”
things like “So, what is this place again?” While my husband
checked us in, I showed the rest of the family around; they
were particularly enthralled by the group dance activity,
in which scores of people from all walks of life partake in
a celebration of rhythm, percussion and group energy. Last
year, the girls and I had done this, at first reluctantly
with an eye to the door in case a quick exit was needed. Within
moments, however, we were transported into the sheer joy of
movement, and I still grin when I remember it.
people you see at Kripalu have come from far and wide and
are staying in the center’s guest rooms to partake of the
various programs over two or more days. (For this reason,
drop-ins looking for a meal should call ahead to check on
availability; see info below.) Kripalu has a large dining
room straight out of a college cafeteria, with high ceilings,
broad windows and lots of rectangular tables for communal
eating, all surrounding a few help-yourself stations of food.
The place is a zoo, albeit a positive-energied one, as throngs
of men and women, faces radiant from a challenging yoga class,
fuel up for that afternoon’s hike around Stockbridge Bowl.
chef Deb Howard started her first natural foods cafe when
she was only 21 years old, and most recently ran the Love
Dog Café, an organic restaurant in Lenox. At Kripalu, there
are offerings to appeal to just about any brand of vegetarian—Saturday,
for instance, featured a more traditional macaroni and cheese
alongside a vegan version, both of which satisfied immensely.
Roasted tomato soup was a perfect warm-up from our frosty
trek. There was a medley of roasted beets, parsnips and rutabagas,
sweetened ever so slightly with a bit of honey, and a crisp
salad of baby spinach, to which could be added any number
trough happens to be the Buddha Bar, where one can prepare
a macrobiotic feast that leaves you feeling energized and
sated all day long. On this particular day, there was brown
rice, tofu sauteed with hijiki, roasted cauliflower, adzuki
beans with pepper, and a variety of toppings such as toasted
sesame and pickled radish. One bowl of this fulsome meal had
me forgetting all about my ailment of the night before, and
soon I was on a second helping.
offers a variety of homemade, whole-grain breads, a favorite
being an olive loaf. Some of us tried a hearty whole grain
topped with chunky, nutty peanut butter and a sweet, violet
raspberry jam. This is PB&J for the gods. Even my 5-year-old—the
kid who never met a simple sugar he didn’t love—lapped it
up and asked for more.
refreshment, fresh juices, organic tea, milk (both regular
and soy) and water are provided.
speaking, I hate buffets, particularly the all-you-can-eat
mentality that seems to go alongside them. My mother, who
grew up desperately poor during the Depression and has spent
a life extracting every possible freebie and giveaway, would
embarrass us whenever we went to places like Bonanza or anywhere
that has buffets or salad bars. She’d make several treks to
the feeding trough, loading her plate up each time, as if
this was the last meal she was ever going to get. As if this
wasn’t bad enough, she’d take zip-lock baggies out of her
purse and stash foodstuffs into them, pretending that this
would be Daddy’s dinner, but we knew better.
was curious, to say the least, at how she would tackle the
Kripalu cafeteria. Strangely enough, it was possibly the first
time in many years that I saw her actually savor her meal,
not just gobble it down as if somebody else were about to
steal it from her. She asked me to get seconds on things like
the cauliflower and the roasted root vegetables, but she didn’t
overdo it, nor did she whip out the baggies.
mentioned, I had seconds from the Buddha Bar, and then a small
third, but, like Mom, I really savored each bite. When I had
lunch here with the girls last year, I remember that each
of us had helped ourselves to several servings of two salads,
one highlighted by slivers of hijiki and carrots, the other
with pepper bits of tatsoi. Not what one normally thinks of
in terms of binge food, but immensely satisfying.
depositing our dinnerware and dregs of crumbs and leaf into
the proper repositories, we wandered around the Kripalu Center
for a bit, unwilling to shake that feeling of well-being and
nourishment. Throughout the day, each of us felt sated, but
not in that “oh, God, I ate too much” way. Rather, our energy
levels were high and we didn’t have the customary urge, around
3 PM, to get ice cream.
for years the Kripalu Center has been around, open to the
public for meals (lunch is $15 for adults, $7.50 for kids),
and I only discovered it recently. I don’t imagine Mom will
take the B-bus there for lunch, but I know she won’t mind
if we take her there again. And, of course, I’m still trying
to get back there with my friends for a day of fine-tuning
mind and body—and for another crack at the Buddha Bar.
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is located at 57 Interlaken
Road, Stockbridge, Mass. (across from Tanglewood). Guests
can come to Kripalu for a single day of Retreat and Renewal;
however, availability is limited and blackout periods do apply
(including most weekends during the summer). Preregistration
is required. The day rate is $100 and includes breakfast,
lunch, and dinner and all Retreat and Renewal activities from
7:30 AM through the evening (not including ticketed evening
events). While guests may come for indivudual meals, seating
is limited on busy days. For more information, call 866-200-5203
or go to kripalu.org.