Veggie Kulcha

So, here I am on my day off, sitting at the bar-window in the restaurant where I spend most OTHER days working.. While it’s true that I typically feel like I wish I were investing my time and talents elsewhere, it seems quite clear to me that, even after I’ve served my time and have moved on from this place, you will never have to pay me to be here. What brings me in on days-off are the same things that attracted me to come eat here in the first place almost two years ago. The food is pure, healthful, affordable, and intensely satisfying. On top of all that, I happen to personally KNOW how they make it — what does (and does NOT) go into the making of things here in terms of philosophy and practice. While I couldn’t say that I am savvy to the exact proportions of specific ingredients within recipes, (mostly I’m too BUSY doing my part in keeping everything sanitized, clear, and flowing throughout the restaurant), I AM aware of the fact that we use only the finest, highest quality authentic herbs and spices within all our dishes. Not one thing ISN’T made from the ground up — that is, from “scratch.” The chefs are a husband/wife team who have been surrounded by expert cooking techniques from their childhood til now, even going to far as to study and obtain certification from professional culinary schools. Every batch of every dish is made by eye and feel, without use of measuring spoons or cups, or even timers of any kind. Each masterpiece is a work straight from the heart in this place. Really, it’s amazing.

I recently became aware of the disturbing fact that most Americanized food establishments have developed a practice of adding sugar (and often, salt or even high fructose corn syrup) in outrageous proportions to their products, in order to hook their patrons into coming back by taking advantage of our primal human addiction to sweet, fatty, sugary things. A good example of this is the Chinese-American food restaurants on every corner. Sugar AND salt are now in high abundance within most of these westernized recipes, though you couldn’t find their counterparts in ACTUAL China. I didn’t see anything close to the garbage we consume here over the whole three months I spent along the East Coast there in 2008. Then, unfortunately, I tried “food” from the other Indian restaurant in our tiny city. They’ve been around for several years and I expected them to taste/be comparable to the things of the same name that we’ve been preparing here in OUR little restaurant. Well, let me be the first to tell you how shocked and disgusted I was. Not only did they add sugar to their dishes, I could make out the distinct flavor of La Victoria’s Spicy Nacho Cheese Sauce in their Chicken Tikka. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not knocking the Cheese Sauce in itself — I love that stuff and am just as addicted to its chemical cheesy goodness as the next person. (Nachos are a personal weakness..) What I AM saying is that something like that has no place in a “traditional” Indian restaurant that claims to be “authentic.” I say something “like” that because I would not be so bold as to assert definitely that they use this cheese sauce as a foundation for their recipe. What I AM saying is that anything that is made there shouldn’t even taste remotely LIKE that..really…CHEESE sauce flavoring?! WTcob.

On a different, yet related, topic, I was recently offput to discover, yet again, labeling and other marketing tactics that are implemented to be intentionally misleading for consumers. I reached for a new coconut-water drink we’re now carrying here in the Cafe and bought it. Examining it retroactively at the register, my boss laughs and points out that after the very large “ALL NATURAL” label, it says “Sugar Free.” Well, anyone who has ever drunk from a coconut will tell you that part of the appeal of that delicious treat is that it is SWEET. To take something which is already naturally sweet and make it “free” of sugar, means that there is something else, something artificial added to compensate for the remove-d sweetness. However, nowhere on the label could I find anything stating the introduction of chemical sweeteners. Under “Ingredients,” the only things listed was “100% Fresh Coconut Water.”

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