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Prasad, Um? 

Thursday, Mar 24 2005
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Illustration by Chandler WoodStoryboard artist/illustrator Chandler Wood, surrounded by an array of colorful pillows, is perched in a high, sari-draped alcove at Prasadam* in Silver Lake. His blond Mohawk is growing out, and his brow is furrowed, as he attempts to acclimate himself to the rather convoluted, albeit enchanting, New Age menu. After considering the Japanese Cucumber Flower Power Salad and Brain Brightener Tea, which, for Chandler, posed the question, How bright do you want your brain to be anyway?, the North Carolina native settled on a Stuffed Avocado Half, a couple of slices of Humboldt Fog Day and Night Cheese, and a small glass of Apple, Carrot, Ginger Juice, which promises to serve also as a skin tonic. Claudia Frank and a friend came here today after yoga class. Claudia comes here a lot. She likes the tostadas and enchiladas, and says, “The Rainbow Beet Salad is awesome.” Today she had the nachos and an ice coffee, but she also likes the smoothies. “I love this place. It’s my favorite new place. The Carrot Cardamom Almond Shake is awesome!” Claudia, who has short brown hair and captivating brown eyes, directs reality TV. She just wrapped a show for MTV called Damage Control, which filmed in New York. It was her first sole-director credit. “I had to place 25 hidden cameras for each episode,” she says. “It was really cool.” Now she’s moved into an apartment in Echo Park. Everyone she knows says it’s “so hipster.” “But you know what? Everyone there is so friendly,” Claudia insists. “They all say ‘Hi! Did you just move here?’ They may be hipsters, but they’re nice.” Claudia, who is a pretty nice hipster herself, is still in her yoga clothes and wears a small silver wishbone around her neck on a piece of thread. When it falls off, she is supposed to get her wish, and, jokingly, she says she is “ready for that to happen.” Chandler is accompanied by a friend, who has decided on a Liver & Skin Repair Tea, and a plate of Celery Sticks Filled With Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter, for which they will be charged $1.75. Earlier, when Chandler asked his server about the active ingredient in his friend’s tea, “The guy came over, unscrewed the top and held it up for me to smell the flowers,” says Chandler in shock. “I think he had no idea what was in it.” Seeming progressively more like a modern-day Woody Allen trying to make sense of L.A., Chandler takes a bite of his elaborate salad and goes back to reading the drink selection. “ ‘Oregon Chai Latte,’ black teas, green teas, red teas and white teas, artichoke tea! ‘Cancer Killer.’ ‘Yes, I’ll have one please.’ ‘Liquid Dinner.’ That’s for people on the go. ‘Master Cleanser.’ Only a dollar fifty? That seems kinda cheap. ‘Please add fifty cents for soymilk and twenty-five cents for syrup.’ ‘Please choose glass . . . recycle.’ ‘Our water from our sinks is pure enough to bottle.’ ‘Fruit and vegetables available depending on season, crops and availability.’ Crops!?” “Wow! It’s like the inclusion of the word ‘crops’ is reminding us that we are a part of the planet? Indicating that they have an intimate relationship with the farming community. That word is so unused among urbanites,” Chandler’s friend asserts, dipping a stalk of celery into her honey peanut butter. “And the use of ‘available’ seems redundant, don’t you think? Available depending on availability?” Both Chandler and his friend are baffled by a small italic message that reads, “Would you care for hot water?” They later discover that it is the restaurant’s way of informing customers that they may sit around and get hot-water refills free of charge. This is definitely the type of establishment that encourages contemplation. You can tell by the worn paperbacks that surround the base of the aromatherapy bar. “There is a lot of bizarre information here,” says Chandler, turning the menu over. “What catches your eye is the unusual. But all the other stuff is normal. Like, look: ‘Honey Wheat Toast, Bagel.’ The graphics and grammar inconsistencies are outstanding.” Chandler’s friend asks if he thinks the owners might have been stoned when they wrote it. “Don’t you think there would be a lot more spelling mistakes?” “No,” she asserts. “Spell check.” “I think there is a lesson here,” Chandler continues. “And the lesson is, we are all confused by menus unless they are really well done. Most of the time you come into a place and you know what you want. You don’t pay attention to peanut-butter smoothies.” Chandler might be on to something. “Marshall,” a freelance journalist from the L.A. Times, comes here often and pretty much gets the same thing every time: the Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Veggie Burger Wrap and the Red Cabbage Salad. He describes himself as “not very adventurous” and “literal-minded,” which is what makes it only that much more interesting that he claims to have never paid attention to the grammatical anomalies of the menu. He says he really likes it here and wouldn’t want to offend the owners. Though, when pressed, he admits that the menu says “Prasada” and the outside sign says “Prasadam,” and he always felt that was strange. The pretty blond owner, Rachel, laughs when she hears this and says she is “going to take the M off the outside.” “It’s really a mental exercise,” Chandler says, going back to the menu. “Because you have to put together the words ‘Green,’ ‘Almond’ and ‘Shake,’ it’s complicated. “You know what is my favorite?” Chandler’s friend asks. “The Bruce Lee Salad. ‘Bruce Lee: Chop. Chop. Red and green cabbage, daikon, broccoli, carrots, beets, baked tofu, and black sesame seeds tossed in spicy peanut sauce.’ Chop period? Chop period? Why the periods? Shouldn’t it just be chop-chop, or something? Chop period is like some type of command. Chop!” Rachel comes back to explain it is just “fun, hipster-speak. You know? Chop-chop.” She makes a karate chop in the air to explain herself. Chandler and his friend say they can’t wait to come back, they think the experience is way more engaging than most. They also think the food is exceptionally good. “We are completely in L.A. right now,” Chandler says with a smile when his friend’s cell phone starts ringing. “She is on the phone talking to a friend who is on his way to see a healer at the beach, and she is reminding him, ‘No, it’s about your intimacy issues.’ The Doors are playing. She just had ‘natural’ peanut butter and celery, and it’s lunchtime! If I were 3,000 miles east from here, I would have barbecue and some fried shit, and no one would be using the word ‘intimacy.’ It’s amazing, I swear to God.” *In the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, the word Prasad(am) means “blessed food.” Specifically, food dedicated to God during worship and eaten by devotees afterward. The word also means “grace” or “tranquillity.” Traditionally, Sanskrit appears in characters, so when Westerners write it they do so phonetically. For example, Shiva and Siva are the same Hindu god. The words Prasad, Prasada and Prasadam all mean essentially the same thing.

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