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I Am Ungrateful. March 21, 2009

So, in my continued quest for healthy and yummy food, today I paid a visit to the (in)famous Cafe Gratitude. I first learned of this place when a friend of mine wrote about it in her novel, and I swear I thought she had made it up, it was sooooo crazy. But no, it is quite real.

There are so many aspects of this place that are really laudable, but really it like some bizarro New Age raw food experiment gone completely, completely awry. Just click through their website if you think I am kidding. But I did that before going, and it was nothing like the real experience. Believe me, I did this today so that none of you ever, ever have to.

First, the hostess. “Find where you want to sit, and I’ll follow you around and give you your menu.” She can’t just HAND me the menu and let me find a table. So I wandered through the front room, the back room and almost out to the patio and she’s trailing me like a puppy dog. Finally after perusing the entire place I decide I want to go back to the front room, which is quieter, less crowded and has smaller tables. She gave me my menu with an annoyed look like, “It sure took you long enough, and why didn’t you sit here the first time you saw it?”

The menu. Not only do they give everything a faux-New Age cutesy name like “I Am Satisfied,” rather than “small green salad” or “I am Sensational” for a bogus “pizza” (with no crust and no cheese) made with hemp seed – not only that, but they FORCE YOU to SAY “I’d like “I am Sensational,” or they will not bring you your food. You can’t just mumble, “Hemp seed pizza, please.” I AM NOT KIDDING. I had already learned this from reading some Yelp reviews, and I did not want to get into a whole power struggle with my server, so I just sucked it up and said, trying to snort back my laughter, “I Am Satisfied, I am Thriving, I am Refreshed.” (translation: small salad, small mushroom soup, small lemonade with agave syrup)

I could tell they were getting their hemp panties in a twist because I was Twittering into my iPhone rather than doing seated yoga while I waited for my food, but I did not care.

Finally it arrived. The mushroom soup, while pretty tasty, was only lukewarm. I should add that 90% of the food at Cafe Gratitude is raw, ie. uncooked. Even the pizza. (whyyyyyyyyyy do they even bother to call it pizza? I suspect just to completely enrage people. A buckwheat “flatbread” (ie cracker) topped with “cashew parmesan” (It’s crumbled nuts!!!! It’s NOT CHEESE!) and cold tomato sauce is not, by any stretch of any imagination, pizza.

I think they really believe that to heat a food is to mortally harm it. Thus, my soup was borderline room temperature. I really like my hot food hot and my cold food cold, so this was annoying. Then my salad came. It was no more than a handful of greens with some shredded carrots, oil and vinegar, more nut “cheese” and two delicately placed “teriyaki almonds” on top, as decoration. Almonds are very key ingredients over at Cafe Gratitude. All dairy products, like milk shakes and ice cream, are made with almond milk. What, they think almonds don’t hurt when you milk them? They think almonds don’t have SOULS just because they don’t have eyeballs, or footprints? Please.  My lemonade was the favorite part- lemony, sparkly, sweetened with agave which I have been curious to taste (one of the very few natural sweeteners with a low glycemic index) with a nice sprig of mint. Mmm! It WAS refreshing!

I happened to be sitting nearby the barista, who would prepare a drink, and then bellow out, “MARISAAA! YOU ARE REJUVENATED! (wheatgrass cocktail)” or “AMY! YOU ARE ECSTATIC! (vanilla latte)” It was actually too surreal for words.

This place takes Mindful Eating and shoves it down your throat. After I ate, my server took my dishes and said, “Our question of the day (QUESTION OF THE DAY?!?) is, ‘What makes your heart open?’” My jaw almost dropped to the ground. But again, not wanting to get into a scuffle or accumulate too much bad karma, I said, with a straight face, “My daughter.” (which happens to be true) She said, “Awww!! Great answer!” and glided (glid?) away.

She returned with my bill. I glanced at it. Then I took another look and my eyeballs almost popped out of my head. Unfortunately, I had not paid close attention to the pricing on the menu, so distracted I was by all the “I am Blissful” menu items.

My bill for a “small cup” of lukewarm soup, a “small salad,” and a Very Small Lemonade, however refreshing, came to $23.

I was like, not amused.

Nor were the blue-haired grannies who were sitting near me. They had been escorted into CG by their two ratty-haired twenty something granddaughters. They looked absolutely bewildered, appalled and frightened by the place (and rightly so). After getting a long-winded orientation to the menu by the server, I heard one of the granddaughters say, “Grandma, it’s ALL VEGETABLES.” And no, they don’t really cook them either. It’s going to be a long luncheon, ladies.

What could I do? I paid. I left. I went home and looked up the menu for world-renowned Chez Panisse, which is just a block or two down the street. Guess what? Their salads and soups (for the DINNER menu!) was the exact same price as this vegan nuthouse.

Mindful: I “checked in” with my stomach about 45 minutes after lunch, and I was a ravenous, gaping cavern of hunger. I was So. Not. Satisfied.

Went home and had some nice Irish Cheddar with Guinness Stout. (the stout is cooked into the cheese; it’s awesome) Felt better immediately.

 

 
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