Seedier Side of Life
It has never been my intention to write about food. I have Mid-Western roots and the concern with food in those parts is to cook it long enough to make sure its dead with A-1 being the only marinade, so I have never spent much time thinking about food. However, after being involved in a loved one’s cancer battle that resulted in death a year and half ago, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the Western corporate culture existence is cooking us long enough to make sure we are dead. Call me a party pooper, but I don’t want to be part of this marinade, so I have begun to be aware of how I can combat a system such as this. One way is to mind my peas and carrots. Tending to my peas and carrots has led me into places that I would have considered horrifying before my awareness began, even…don’t tell my Mid-Western father…vegetarian restaurants. That’s right…my growing love for the seedier way of life is how I ended up at Ahora Si (which translates as Now, Yes!) in the small Costa Rican beach town known as Samara.
I don’t know what drew me into the doors of Ahora Si maybe it was the barn in the front yard that has a mural of a sun, tree and heart on its roof. Maybe I thought, “I like sun, trees and hearts. Let’s check it out.” Whatever the case may be, before I knew it, I was sitting on Ahora Si’s wraparound patio painted in primary colors ordering something called Pumpkin Cream…if you tell my dad, I will deny all charges. As I waited for this dish of ill repute, I started to take stock in what I had just done.
I had just sat in a vegetarian restaurant. Yet, this was no ordinary house of the rising sun, this was a vegetarian restaurant with a theme. I grabbed the menu and took a closer look. The menu began with Ahora Si’s logo..a heart, a tree and a sun. However, this was more than a logo…..a heart, a tree and a sun, each had a meaning. The heart represented the raw items on the menu; the tree represented the vegetarian items while the sun represented the vegan items. As I looked through the menu again I found there all food had one of these symbols next to them…some of the items had two symbols and some even had all three. Like playing a Beatles’ album backwards, I had realized that this restaurant was based on alternative thinking. I wanted to ask the cook about it, but at that moment, the Pumpkin Cream arrived.
The Pumpkin Cream was served in a bowl and arrived in a poof of steam and with a bowl of homemade bread. I was a little scared of it at first. Before my demise into the seedier side of life, the only time I had eaten pumpkin was during the holidays when the pumpkin in the pie was smothered under a bunch genetically modified whip cream…the thought of this brought sentimental tears to my eyes. How could I eat pumpkin any other way? Was I some sort of communist? These were questions I asked as I dipped my spoon into the pumpkin’s non-GMO whip and placed it on my spoon. The first bite of this concoction made me say one thing,
“This is going to be a problem.”
It was too good…the whip not only had pumpkin but hints of nutmeg and cinnamon that really drew me in…before I knew it, the pumpkin cream was gone…horrified, I asked the waiter to bring me something else…what he brought? A dish known as Curry Paradise. What a paradise it was…peas and carrots and so much more delicately marinated with a sauce that took me back to the rooftop restaurants of Jaipur. As this treat rolled its way into my being, the owner of the restaurant, Sabina Salvatore, walked up to me and asked me how everything was. So intoxicated was I with these new tastes, I could barely answer her instead I could only ask her questions and let her talk while I continued to devour this dish. She gladly answered me in her song like Italian accent.
“Where are you from?”
“How long have you been here?”
“A little less than year. It was always a dream to open a restaurant but it needed to be a restaurant like this…because I wouldn’t feed people any other way.”
I could feel her passion for the restaurant’ theme. I thought about the cancer patients I had known in the past and what I had learned about the relationship between cancer and food…I nodded to Sabina with a mouthful of curried stew and shared her passion. To feed people unmindful food is truly a crime that sometimes (cancer effects 1 out of three, so the word often is more adept) results in death. We talked some more but I grew so full that the waiter called a cab and they rolled me out of there.
I returned the next day for some more. This time I came for lunch. Sabina who was wearing a little apron and sweeping the patio greeted me with her singsong voice. I walked around and took pictures of the chilies is she had drying on a table, chilies she had picked right there in the yard. My order arrived and I was forced to sit down and forced to eat. I had ordered a lemonade, which was no Minutemaid instead of hiding the sourness of the lemon fruit with processed white death (sugar to be exact), this lemonade used ginger and natural honey to compliment the sourness of the lemonade’s fruit.
Somewhere between the smoothie and the legume soup, a tiny little lady wearing coveralls came up to me. She asked in an accent thicker than Sabina’s,
She smiled real big.
I smiled back with a mango piece stuck in my teeth.
“Como te llamas?”
I answer without bothering to swallow,
“Renee. Et tu?”
“Nena,” she beamed with an inner light.
In my really broken Spanish, I ask her if she also owned the restaurant. This is when she jumped into her tale.
She wasn’t the owner just a friend of Sabina. Nena was Italian just like Sabina but she didn’t meet Sabina until she moved to Costa Rica…she mentioned something about fate. Nena had moved to Costa Rica over a decade ago. She had been living in Milan and she worked PR. She said in perfectly clear English,
“And it was killing me. Too stress, you know?”
Yes, I thought of my own life BC (before cancer), I did.
“So, I come here to Costa Rica. We live in a world that needs to be changed. We are killing ourselves…with our way, with our machines, with our food.”
I nod again with another mouthful of legume soup. She doesn’t stop,
“I cannot change this world.” She waved her little hands around,
“But…” she takes her hands to her heart,
“I can change me and it took a long time to do that…I had to unlearn all my Italian way of life…the go go, the money, and all that goes with it…but now I just me and I happy.”
Again, she smiled with that smile that came from within. She looked me up and down and said,
“You are a happy person.”
I tell her that I haven’t always been. I wanted to tell her that I shouldn’t be. I wanted to tell her of the horror I have seen in hospital rooms. I wanted to tell her how I have learned through reading, though research, through experience that the Western way of life was a contradiction in terms. I wanted to but instead I did what I do now so much and I don’t know why. I smiled real big now. She took her little hand, pointed at me and said,
“Pero ahora estás.”
But you are now.
I nodded back yes. Then, she pointed to the sign on the wall, which read,
She clapped as if to keep me in the moment we were in.
I smiled real big back, paid my reasonable bill and left. I asked myself why despite all the horror I have seen and heard that I am happier than I ever have been before. My theory is because due to this growing awareness of the dangerous paradigm that I was raised in, I am thankful that this awareness has given me choice, choice in what how I live my life and a choice in what I put in my mouth and on this journey, I have found restaurants such as this that tell me that I am not alone with these thoughts. Sabina and Nena are people of the revolution and so am I, just don’t tell my dad…not just yet. And this revolution cannot wait…this revolution starts Ahora Si…hold the A-1 sauce please...as we march on in.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.