Few things are more intimate, more pleasurable and more necessary than eating. All of life does it; the universe does it; and perhaps whatever is beyond the infinite does it as well. But only in the Western world will you hear the term "emotional eating"—an affliction guaranteed to exist where indulgence and greed are as common as going back for seconds. Paradigm shifts don't always happen overnight, and neither do global changes in food consciousness, but looking at Café Gratitude's success offers a glimpse at another possible destiny for humans—and our food.
When the San Francisco based operation (now with 6 locations and counting) opened it's first cafe in the Mission District, the intention was for it to be a lure—a way to draw people in to play the board game developed by founders Matthew and Terces Englehart, says son and manager of the recently opened Los Angeles Larchmont location, Ryland Engelhart, 31. Transformed by walking the seekers path and studying many realms of the spirit world, the Engleharts felt that even though Americans have so much, they often take it for granted, and even harbor resentment to the world around them.
People loved the vibe of the cozy restaurant with the Abounding River board games built into the tables and the affirmations (more on those later). But more than anything, they loved the food, which became the real game-changer in the game-board operation and a means to empowering the mobs of happy customers throughout the Bay area.
What does serving food with unconditional love and gratitude mean? Certainly it's open to interpretation, but when inspirations are everywhere, especially the menu, the subtle invitations to be more mindful—not just about your food, but your entire life—can't be ignored. Cafe Gratitude's incredible, all organic focus on locally grown-ingredients in their unique vegan dishes doesn't hurt either. Unrivaled food quality is at the core of their success as well as the way in which they offer you a number of affirmations. Instead of soup, you might order "I am Thankful" or an enchilada "I am Elated," and trust me, it's important not to miss out on "I am Devoted," the so incredibly delicious coconut cream pie you'd be shocked to learn there are only several ingredients, and all of them good for you ("I am Totally Serious!").
But, does it really work?
So you plop down for a quick lunch of "I am Dazzling" (a most heavenly Caesar salad) and "I am Extraordinary" (a BLT that goes beyond extraordinary), but can it really change our Standard American Obsessions with food, our wonky, moody sense of self and instead leave us feeling gratitude? And grateful for what, exactly? "Gratitude is the best sauce," urges Englehart. "When you're in a good space and eating with enjoyment, you most definitely align yourself with an appreciation to all that's gone into your food." We so often eat with "expectations, discernment and resistance," he says. "We're very attached to our food being a certain way." By merely calling it what it could become—as in the very best possible part of yourself ("I am Super" Dark Chocolate Nugget?)—you can transform that experience into one of joy and love, which can effect other areas of your life as well. "Life is a picture of your mind," says Engelhardt, "where you have your attention creates your experience, and when keeping attention on gratitude we can have a truly full life."
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Image: Cafe Gratitude