Story by Anthony Mathenia
Photos by Rebekah Mathenia
Syncopated: Displace the beats or accents in so that strong beats become weak and vice versa
“Food This Exit” declares another Interstate sign. However for her the options at this exit are no better than those at the last.
“You want some fries?” my wife offers.
“I’m sick of french fries,” my daughter moans.
“How about a mandarin orange?” We have a bag of Clementines in the trunk.
“I’m sick of oranges.” Her voice is fingers on chalkboard.
I must have done something really awful in a past life. However, there is a glimmer of hope on the meatless horizon: the culinarily diverse cities of Las Vegas and Los Angeles are coming up.
As we head west we make a brief side visit to the City of Sin to take my daughter to Veggee Delight. I’m a little worried as the GPS leads us through the Vegas Strip deep into the heart of Chinatown. However, the Vietnamese cafe owners are welcoming to this mid-westerner. It also seems to be popular with non-Asian locals; a few trickle in and take up seats in the tiny dining room.
I scan the menu offering a variety of Asian dishes with fake meat: chicken, beef, pork, tuna. TUNA? I double-check that I read that right. Yes, they have a meatless tuna. I shun the “tuna”, which is barely passable in its legitimate version. My daughter orders some kind of “beef” bowl. I’m not big on fake meat, so I choose something called “wet fried vegetables with noodles”.
I take a moment to ponder the ancient, oriental mystery of how a vegetable can be both wet and fried. Service is quick and soon I am tearing into my dish as fast as my preschool chopstick skills will allow. As it turns out the “wet” is a thin sauce over some fried vegetables (carrots, snap peas, shoots) and some crispy noodles. The food is surprisingly satisfying and soon we are back on our way.
We are only miles down the road before I hear again, “I’m hungry.”
“You want an orange?”
“I’m sick of oranges.” So it goes with vegan teenagers.
Continuing southwest into California, we watch the temperature escalate: 100, 101, 102, 103 … Through the vast Mojave Desert, Joshua trees dot the crispy landscape stretching out into a shimmering, hazy horizon. It looks wet and fried.
Our travel is interrupted as we are commanded off the road to a mandatory car search. State agents wave our Nissan up to a checkpoint. What are they looking for? Drugs? Booze? Illegal immigrants? “Ma’am do you have any citrus in the car?” a no-nonsense woman leans forward to ask. My wife nervously looks at me, her eyes as wide as saucers. Should we run for it Dukes of Hazard style?
Minutes later we are on our way again, but without our contraband in tow. California takes their citrus seriously and our illegal Clementines are not welcome in the Golden State.
“I wish I had an orange,” laments my daughter.
In L.A. we treat my daughter to another vegan meal. We arrive at Flore Vegan Cuisine on a Saturday morning while they are serving their weekend brunch. The diminutive seating area is packed with Californians enjoying a leisurely mid-morning meal and the daily newspaper. For the diners, there is no haste to finish so we join a small line forming outside. I impatiently wonder if vegan food is worth the wait. It is. When our name is finally called we are treated to an outstanding meal, rivaling some of the best I have ever head. I order some beautiful buckwheat blueberry waffles topped with bananas. My wife enjoys a southwest scramble, a tasty tofu version of huevos rancheros.
My daughter enjoys something even better than her vegan breakfast. She delights to spot SoKo, one of her favorite musicians, out for a walk. The French actress/singer is gracious enough to pause for a cell phone picture. She informs us that she is performing at the Make Music Pasadena festival later.
“Can we go?” my daughter begs.
When she hears my answer she responds with the usual.
“I never get anything I want.”
So it goes.