Thursday, August 4, 2011

Say "YES!" to Gratefulness

Yesterday, my sister and I met our cousin, Laura, and her boyfriend, Jan, for lunch at Café Gratitude on Larchmont. It’s become quite the vegan hotspot and a whole section of its menu is dedicated to raw food.

The first thing I noticed after sitting down was the chalkboard directly in my line of vision. On it in big, pink script was written, “Question of the day: What are you saying YES to?”

Hmph. What am I saying YES to? Right off the bat, I was torn between giving in to my deep-down touchy-feely hokey-pokey instincts and raising one eyebrow in a combination of skepticism and scorn. Skeptiscorn, if you will.

I was distracted from my skeptiscorn because our menus arrived. Café Gratitude is not satisfied with just being grateful itself. It wants its customers to be grateful, too, and the titles of the menu items are constant reminders.

Instead of indicating in some way the food you will be served, each title strives to be more empowering than the last. They all follow the formula: “I Am [insert positive new-agey adjective here].”

For example, I ordered grilled organic polenta with puttanesca sauce (which is just seasoned tomato sauce), cashew ricotta, and brazil nut parmesan. It was called “I Am Warm-Hearted.”

"I Am Warm-Hearted"
My sister ordered the handmade corn tacos with brown rice, black beans, salsa roja, guacamole, and cashew naco cheese. It was called “I Am Transformed.”
"I Am Transformed"
This might be obvious, but the food titles didn’t necessarily offer any insight as to what the food itself might be like. They did, however, influence my choices a bit. Did I feel “vibrant”? “grounded”? “dazzling,” perhaps? Apparently my cousin Laura felt “complete:” almond hummus, olive tapenade, live falafels and mint tzaziki sauce.

"I Am Complete"
The coffee is not called coffee. Instead it is called “I Am Courageous.” When my sister ordered it, the server who delivered it came to our table and instead of saying, “Here’s your coffee, lady,” she said, “You are courageous.”

I don’t know if my sister felt particularly courageous for drinking coffee, but I can tell you this: after eating “I Am Warm-Hearted,” I sure felt warm-hearted. And not in a bad, acid-refluxy way. Maybe it was the power of suggestion, I don’t know.

We all agreed that our meals were flavorful and satisfying, even if they didn’t all fulfill the implications of their names (Jan ate “I Am Magical,” but it’s not like he’s pulling off an Expelliarmus spell anytime soon).

The best part about Cafe Gratitude, in my opinion, is the meal called "I Am Grateful." It's by donation, meaning if you can't afford to pay for it, you don't have to. The suggested donation is $7, or you can pay $14 and the rest of the money will go toward someone else's meal. This is the first restaurant I've been to with an option like this, and I hope it catches on. I'd much rather provide someone in need with shredded kale, quinoa, and black beans with a garlic-tahini sauce than a few spare coins.

And that is how I overcame my skeptiscorn. The next time someone asks if I want to eat at Café Gratitude, I’ll “say YES!” to that.

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