Absolute bliss! That’s what I felt when the bright orange kobocha squash made contact with my taste buds. It was so creamy, and it was if it was melting in my mouth. I didn’t ask about the seasoning, as I was experiencing such joy; my mind was clear of any other thoughts or curiosity. I did taste a slight hint of dill which was peculiar and unique. It might not sound appealing at first, at least not for me, but I was pleasantly surprised. Have you ever been so incredibly delighted by food that your mind becomes clear of all thoughts? My senses were fully ignited and engaged during this particular meal.
Where was I dining may you ask? Shangri-La in Oakland, California. My husband Joe told me that he was excited to bring me to this Vegan, organic, macrobiotic spot in Oakland. I was a little unenthused and actually apprehensive-solely because of the word vegan. I’m very selective with Vegan restaurants as I am not a fan of fake meat, and it’s usually a staple on the menu. Most imitation meat is soy based and I don’t put soy in my body unless it’s fermented.
This simple restaurant was not what I expected. Joe didn’t mention the two factors that really had me absolutely thrilled. The hands that made the food were of happy Tibetan Buddhists, who were singing mantras* the entire time they prepared our food in the kitchen. I am ALL about good vibrations while cooking. It’s certainly the Sensual Food way!
During college, I studied Buddhism and practiced Buddhist meditation on a regular basis. I sought out temples in the US and where ever I traveled internationally. Through my deep desire to learn about this belief system, and my current understanding, I’ve developed a strong appreciation for Buddhism. I do not currently practice this form of meditation, although I do still meditate. There are some Buddhist principals that have stuck with me, that are naturally part of my everyday life.
Needless to say, learning that the restaurant was run and owned by Buddhists was incredibly satisfying. I believe that pure positive intentions were put into my food and that made it taste even better. Not that I hoped for better flavor, the food was truly divine.
As you can see, it was a very balanced meal with attention to optimal nourishment. The clean protein source was yellow split pea dal. The vibrant green kale had a light dressing of shiitake mushroom onion sauce and the fresh mixed salad with red cabbage, spearmint leaves was topped with a tangy, subtly sweet beet-tahini, balsamic vinegar dressing. I started off with my experience of the kobocha squash, which was simply orgasmic. The brown rice in the center was truly the perfect amount.
How could I forget? We stared off with black-eyed pea and kidney bean veggie ginger soup! I sipped it down without even getting a good photo. Guess you’ll have to try it for yourself : )
Even though this place was quite the opposite of glamorous, I was genuinely comfortable. Since I’ve traveled to South-East Asia and India, I almost felt as if I’d been transported. The emphasis was not placed on elaborate décor, the focus was on delivering high quality, nourishing food. I asked our server if the staff practiced Buddhism, as my first question upon arriving was which country they were from. I’m so passionate about travel and culture, that I am always quick to ask where someone is from, after I notice they’re clearly not American.
I told him that I was happy to find that my food was prepared by Buddhists and explained why. He responded by telling me that they believe it is very important to eat organic, clean food that is vegan and unprocessed. His sense of compassion was very evident as he spoke, (the Buddha taught that to realize enlightenment, a person must develop two qualities: wisdom and compassion), health was truly important to him.
By the end of the meal, and reading the quotes from the Dalai Lama XIV posted on the walls, I was overflowing with gratitude. It is such a blessing to have such nourishing food, full of positive intention so readily available!
Joe and I certainly overate a bit. This is most definitely not a common practice for me and by no means do I ever advocate overeating. Rare occasion for us. We were just basking in our sensory bliss and didn’t fully tune into the massive serving before us. We did, however, eat incredibly slow and mindfully. We took deep breaths after each bite and chewed slowly, while appreciating the source of the food. It’s incredible, science proves that praying over a meal (or singing mantras) changes the molecular structure of the food.
Maybe twenty or more times, we both verbally expressed how happy we were to be enjoying this meal together. The best part about overeating just a tiny bit with this type of clean food is that it can digest quickly. It is not difficult for the body to digest simple, clean food. We both left feeling a little full, but without discomfort. I wish I could describe to you the feeling of being completely grateful and at the same time satiated and nourished. I’m sure you’ve felt it before, so you could understand. We left with that feeling.
This is my idea of a perfect dining experience. Happy, joyful staff-making and serving food with love and devotion. Sustainable, organic food that provides optimal nourishment being consumed by all who enter is something that everyone can feel good about. This is how I like to vote with my dollars. Did I mention that Shangri-La only has one option on the menu? As if to say, this is our specialty. We make it well and it’s exactly what we believe will be the most delicious and healthy for your body. What a lovely way to do business, wouldn’t you agree?
If you’ve found a similar, equally incredible spot to eat, please share in the comments section below! Soon, we’ll have a list of gems like this from around the world. Ever had an experience just as sensually gratifying? Let us know the juicy details, below. We’d absolutely love to hear from you! It would also be fantastic to hear about any cooking rituals you have heard of 🙂