Back when Gerald Ford was president – ring any bells? He was the one who pardoned Nixon if anyone still remembers him. Anyway there isn’t much to say about that time when Ford was president and Love Will Keep us together by Captain and Tennille and Glenn Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy were at the top of the charts. Kinda speaks for itself, doesn’t it? The mid seventies. A strange time.
But yours truly was a chef at a popular restaurant. Really. My training… I knew how to read a cookbook and I showed up. And I was clueless enough to believe it was possible. One day, our mixer was not working so I offered to make the whipped cream we needed for today’s dessert in the blender. Seems do-able, no? Only I opened the lid to check on my progress (you do not want your cream to turn into butter) when it was still going. Whipped cream all over the ceiling!
The restaurant was the Golden Temple on DuPont Circle in Washington, DC.
It was a magical time, and in some small way, we knew it. Lee and I lived in a crumbling brownstone on Q Street. We had the master bedroom with 6 foot windows facing the street that we could not afford to drape and a mattress on the floor. Our room had a small rounded alcove that we set up as the nursery for our 18 month old son. Before too long we had a second son, let’s call him Rami, almost the exact same age. It was an informal foster care agreement. Suddenly we were the parents of twins. If we weren’t careful we would have our own baseball team in a few more months.
Every Sunday I would pick up the boys from the dungeon… I mean basement ashram day care and we would walk to the restaurant for community dinner. Five city blocks. Easy. Only most days, it took us almost an hour to get there. Little Rami had decided that he could protest his destiny with two forms of passive resistance. One was a vow of silence. A long noble tradition from Thomas Merton to Meher Baba. So while our son was chattering on with new word discoveries every day, Rami had carefully selected one word as the essence of his little life… “NO”. He practiced that one with one-pointed concentration. His other method of choice was a refusal to walk. Poor guy, he had already learned to work with what you’ve got. It took Gandhi many years to fully understand that lesson. Slowly, slowly we would crawl our way to the restaurant. I do not remember the walk home but I think by then we had caved and carried him home.
But back to the Golden Temple. A vegetarian restaurant was a very rare sight in those days and those that existed were dingy, unimaginative moldy places. The Golden Temple was beautiful, soft lighting and melodic chants playing, and gorgeous white turbaned young servers. Customers came out of curiosity, some out of wonder, but many came back again and again. I wonder if I we would think the food was good now when we have all become such food snobs… but I remember it as wonderful. One of my favorite specials from those days was what we called Bhajan’s Banquet – after our teacher Yogi Bhajan or mung beans and rice. It is still one of our favorite meals. Especially for a cold winter night. Check out the recipe.