April 03, 2007

That mythical creature known as being in the moment.

I met my alternate-universe counterpart today. Let me explain.

I took an early and slightly elongated lunch break today in order to bus down to my ridiculously far-flung bank and deposit the paycheck which university payroll had finally dispensed to me. Having done so, I walked out of the bank and found myself standing at Ashby and Adeline slightly before noon on a beautiful, sunny Berkeley spring day. At this point I evaluated my options as follows.

  1. Get immediately back on the bus and rush to return to my artificially-lit desk without any lunch worth speaking of.
  2. Wander down the street in the sunshine to spend my newly-acquired money on delicious food, then rush back to my desk.

I chose the latter, walked half a block down Adeline, and found Ital Calabash just opening for the day. I walked in past the confusing sign advertising chicken and fish sandwiches and asked the singing, dreadlocked Rasta guy setting out chairs if, you know, some of their menu might be vegan. He suddenly sprouted the hugest happy grin I've ever seen and told me eeeeeverything was, and would I consider the jerk chicken burger with avocado and sprouts? Would I fucking ever.

It's worth noting that one doesn't hurry soul food. I waited around for a while in the restaurant, which is really just an excitingly-decorated shack full of earsplitting reggae music, before emerging into the sunlight again with my food. But the smells were worth hanging around for, the music actually grew on me, and the friendly Rasta dude sang to himself and chatted with me while he fired up the stove and made my burger and fried plantains.

At one point he called out to me over his shoulder, "If you find better plantains somewhere, you let me know." I told him that it sounded like the kind of challenge I wouldn't mind too terribly. He explained that he was on a bit of an ego trip about his plantains -- no, he corrected himself, he didn't really want to say an ego trip, that wasn't right. I grinned and assured him that as far as I was concerned that was exactly right.

And it was right. I just missed the F bus back to campus and had twenty minutes to sit on a bench in the sun considering how right it was, and it was pretty fucking right. My burger turned out to be slathered in strangely colorful sauces, squooshing avocado out the sides and emanating an intriguing variety of spicy smells. I took a bite and my tongue wasn't so much on fire as wide awake and highly interested. That's a trick few foods can manage with my coddled, picky taste buds. The plantains were a gooey bundle of sweet and perfectly tangy fried amazingness. When I finished licking plantainy goodness off of my fingers it was all I could do not to run back and order another batch.

What I'm saying here is that you should run, not walk, to this place and eat something. Anything. Whatever the dude with the dreadlocks tells you to eat, just eat it. Order whatever he feels like making and pay whatever it costs. It will be worth it. It will be a small paper-wrapped package of blissful happy moments for you to experience, and I don't care how hippy that sounds. Just fucking do it. And bring me with you.

Posted by dianna at April 3, 2007 04:18 PM

Agreed: their plantains are delicious. And the smoothies are the best thing since sliced smoothie. Last time I went I had the beans & rice, which was devastatingly well seasoned. Yum. Just a little pricey, though.

Posted by: Jacob at April 3, 2007 04:58 PM

Yeah, my lunch did cost me 10 bucks. It was so wonderfully worth it, though.

Was it you who told me about the Pure Niceness smoothie? I spent a good five minutes today debating between that and the plantains, and finally pacified myself by promising to go back and get the smoothie another time. I can't not try it with a name like that.

Posted by: Dianna at April 3, 2007 05:22 PM

I'm unsure whether it was the Pure Niceness smoothie or not. Mine was made with coconut and sunshine. Does that sound like Pure Niceness?

Posted by: Jacob at April 3, 2007 05:29 PM

Well, the sun is very nice. I don't know if it's all that pure, though -- isn't it a gigantic nuclear furnace?

Posted by: Dianna at April 3, 2007 05:41 PM

Where hydrogen is built into helium, at a temperature of millions of degrees? Yes.

Posted by: Erik at April 3, 2007 07:02 PM

At last! And quite cleverly done.

Posted by: Lisa at April 3, 2007 10:20 PM