Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


In spite of all the tropical distractions, I've been tuned in enough to catch wind of the unexpected closure of Cafe Gratitude (and her slightly-earthier, much more hip younger sister, Gracias Madre).

On hearing the news, my Facebook feed exploded with dramatic exclamations of dismay and disbelief. (This is not surprising, given that I have a lot of hippie yoga friends who try to eat well.) And yet, it's somehow not shocking at all. Hard to say who or what's at fault here. As much as the place has been a refuge of freshness and vitality and good intentions for me and my beloveds for years now, it's also laden with some heavier baggage.

Despite my, erm, gratitude for Cafe Gratitude (it's been well-documented around these parts in the past, here and here, for instance), I've always been weirdly suspicious of their Landmark affiliations. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of the shady cult aspects of that influence are at play here, too. It's disappointing all-around.

But, here in vegan heaven, I've been thinking a lot about Cafe Grat and the remarkable, truly countercultural kinds of offerings they prepare, and how rare it is to walk into a restaurant and feel at once free to enjoy whatever you'd like (most vegetarians can relate to that sense of limitation, no?) and certain that you're channeling your money into the kind of establishment that operates on a slightly enlightened (or making an effort to be enlightened) plane. So it's sad to see it go, if only because the loss really puts a crimp in my regular dates with KRW and crew.

I'm on the final day now of my stay here at Kamalaya [wistful], and eating here has been much like living in a 24/7 paradise island version of Cafe Gratitude (with better, faster, less cheesy and invasive service, I might add). The food is incredible: fresh and green and light and (for the most part) vegan, and so unbelievably full of prana. It's the way I'd like to eat all the time, every day, if I had my druthers:
Fresh fruits for breakfast. Strong coffee (natch). Roasted and sprouted nuts. Olive oil and ginger and garlic. Wok-steamed vegetables with Thai herbal sauces and Indian cabbage and pumpkin curry and zucchini pasta. And on and on and on.
Every evening means starting dinner with the kind of excellent freshly-squeezed vegetable juices that I haven't had time to make since grad school, when I spent hours finding reasons not to write my thesis. (I did a lot of juicing then, needless to say. Juicing and playing piano.) Spinach and kale and parsley and red cabbage and beets and carrots and lime and pineapple and broccoli, juiced. Perfection.

I studied up a lot on juicing when my Pops got cancer, and anyone who's read anything on juicing knows that it's the way to go for the maximum in nutrition with the minimum in digestive effort. That's one of the many habits I'd like to pack up and take home with me when I leave.

This kind of soul work, the project of eating well, so tied to the body, yes, lies at the heart of our mission with Bhakti Kitchen. It's not restrictive, it's not proscriptive, it's not joyless. It leaves plenty of space for flexibility, for being human, for eating the blue-cheese-stuffed olive in your martini or that huge slab of birthday cake. It's just this: we believe that eating well can change one's experience of being in a body, that eating well has a direct causal relationship to living well. Simple.

I've seen it already in just this week, in the difference in my own skin and mind and body and sleep patterns and sense of well-being. And I have no doubt that this easy manifestation of my ideal eating habitsahimsa-driven, high raw, vegan, lightly processed, fresh, and locally sourced — has set a tone for the weeks to come, has shaken me out of the more prana-depleting patterns that come from living a hectic, nomadic urban life, and has reminded me of how easy it is to feel well, to consciously create wellness in and of our own choices, 3+ times a day.

Wanky-sounding, I know. But it's a sentiment that's been reinforced these past days, too, in all the Jivamukti and bhakti and philosophical and theological emphases on compassion, ahimsa, living lightly on the earth and in harmony with the lives that interweave often unknowingly with our own. Click a few of those links above. This one in particular feels especially hep to what I'm feeling today, swimming in green smoothies and fresh pineapple and saute├ęd morning glory and the like.

Just choose. Decide to live well, in a spirit of ahimsa, with mindful intent. In every bite.

That said, you just might wanna hustle over to Cafe Gratitude before they shutter. I know I'll be there a lot in the weeks to come. That raw chocolate hazelnut mousse pie? To die for. And don't miss the coconut cream pie, either. Or the Tiramisu, come to think of it.

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Vegetarianism preserves lives, health, peace, the ecology, creates a more equitable distribution of resources, helps to feed the hungry, encourages nonviolence for the animal and human members of the planet, and is a powerful aid for the spiritual transformation of the body, emotions, mind, and spirit.

— Gabriel Cousens, Conscious Eating

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