According to Jain practice, the meal contained no garlic or onions and no root vegetables like carrots, because harvesting them means killing the entire plant, as opposed to removing just a part of it. Yet the overall effect was hardly austere. I was struck, in particular, by the way that the sweet taste of the sheera made the savory elements of the thali stand out. It reminded me of a comment I'd once heard from a native of Punjab, in India's far north: "Gujarati food is nothing more than Punjabi food with a lot of sugar added." How far that was from the truth. The point, I now recognized, wasn't sweetness but balance. Or, as Mehta put it, "Sweet, sour, bitter, salty, spicy—in the Gujarati thali, all the flavors are there." Even the simplest of dishes, she went on to tell me, can be made to sing in that carefully pitched harmony.