On the four corners of what is arguably the primary gateway to Naples sit a beach supply store, a gas station, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant. That’s where I had dinner last night.
It took the greater part of a half hour to drive across town – stymied by all that post early-bird dining traffic, I suppose. Luckily I had allowed forty-five minutes, so I was early for my reservation to dine with some fellow Salemites.
I sidled up to the empty bar and ordered a green tea, assuring the energetic waitress that I was indeed expecting friends – just a little early. Implicitly, I suppose I also was communicating to her that I was functioning independently and would be perfectly comfortable sitting at the empty bar by myself even if I were not expecting company.
Pretty glad I built in that extra travel time, too, as it meant I got to spend some quality time watching SupremeMasterTV.com. Captions in dozens of languages fill the screen describing the merits of vegetarianism, the Dalai Lama’s recent fall, Nigerian flooding. Turns out Supreme Master Ching Hai aka the Buddhist Martha Stewart leads a worldwide spiritual movement that holds vegetarianism as a central tenet and has financial interests in the Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant chain.
That’s all fine and dandy as far as I’m concerned. I’m well aware that when I buy my fancy socks across the street at Saks I’m profiting the Jews, and the gas money I spend at the Valero goes into the coffers of South American Fascists. I might as well line the pockets of an Oriental cult leader while I’m at it. That’s what keeps the American economic engine churning right?
What I really wish, though, were that all these vegan restaurants – and I’ve been to a good number in my time now – would get over their fascination with meat. I didn’t go to the Loving Hut to eat “chicken” or “shrimp.” I want vegetables and grains and spices in combinations and assortments I can’t even imagine. Blow my mind with something I’ve never dreamed of eating before; don’t remind me that what I’m eating is a substitution for the real thing.