squash soup

The Sanctuary vegetarian restaurant, at 25 First Avenue in New York City's East Village, is one of the area's most loved establishments. It is run by the Interfaith League of Devotees, a spiritual community that promotes unity in diversity, whatever one's race, culture or social status. They don't preach any one religion but they do facilitate the practice of yoga: upstairs from the restaurant you will find yoga classes and free meditation, kirtan and satsang open to all.

Knowing that one route to humanity's higher nature is through the stomach, The Sanctuary provides affordable sustenance that is not only delicious (from Indian curries and Japanese noodles to healthy salads and fresh juices), but also what they call "Karma-free" or sanctified in other words, they place the ingredients on an altar for God's blessing. The food is then prepared in loving service: The staff work voluntarily, with effort worthy of the highest pay.

As part of their community service mission, The Sanctuary distributes free meals to the homeless in a local park five days a week. Everything is freshly cooked – no leftovers or canned convenience – and the ingredients are sanctified just as for the restaurant's paying guests.

"We call this program Feed America First," explains manager Susan Bauer, "because it's about caring for people in our own neighbourhoods. Otherwise, it's like doing welfare work but neglecting your own family."

However, the Interfaith League's social action does have a global reach as well. In one corner of The Sanctuary, they sell crafts and jewellery to raise funds for a Nepalese orphanage, and they also send volunteers there to teach English to the children.

So whether you spend your money on a great meal, a yoga class or a handmade necklace, you'll know it's going to a good cause.
Angela Starks

sanctuary squash soup
(for four people)


4 cups water
8 cups acorn squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 bay leaves
2 t salt
4 T olive oil (for spices)
2 cloves of garlic
1 T diced ginger
1/2 t turmeric
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t asafetida (Indian spice available in any Indian grocery)

selecting squash

With the cooler weather upon us, the ubiquitous and versatile squash is truly in season. Not only is it great for making all kinds of comforting meals, from warming soups to sweet pies, it is also a good source of antioxidants and immune-boosting nutrients, including vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene) and vitamin C.

When selecting squash, make sure that it feels heavy for its size. The skin should be hard, with no soft or mouldy spots. Acorn squashes are perfectly ripe when their shiny green skin develops orange patches. You can buy them green as they will continue to ripen at home. There is no need to refrigerate winter squashes and they will keep well for weeks if stored in a cool, dry, dark area. Acorn squashes are an especially good storage variety, lasting up to three months after harvesting. It's so satisfying to know that you have a stock of these wonderful vegetables on hand throughout the winter.


  1. Boil 4 cups of water and add the squash, bay leaves and salt. Boil until tender. Remove the bay leaves and blend the water and squash into a creamy consistency.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil and all spices for about 1 minute. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
  3. Add the blended squash to the cooked spices.
  4. Stir until smooth and heated through.

Boost the soothing factor of your Winter Squash Soup by adding a decorative swirl of creamy soy yogurt to each portion, and add dimension with croutons.

for the croutons:

4 slices of almost-stale bread, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt and white pepper
Optional: 1/4 t of cinnamon or
other spice of choice.

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss until the oil is absorbed and spices completely coat the cubes. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes, tossing often to ensure proper browning and crispiness.

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Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life