Nowhere inside the Palace of Gold lobby could I find even a footnote about the cafeteria. I thought this was pretty strange, because eating is important, especially since we were in the hills of West Virginia and would probably have to skin a groundhog or worse – a Miley Cyrus fan – if we wanted to replenish all the energy we exerted being faux-spiritual in some dead Indian’s palace. What kind of establishment doesn’t post all kinds of ephemera directing visitors to their cafeteria?
I wasn’t leaving that joint without having my fat, heretic mouth fed the food of Krishna. I waited for the annoying redneck with the baby oiled-hair daughter to suck up by donating $10 to the repair fund, and then I sidled up to our shorn-headed guide and, in a tone reserved for a man inquiring about a happy ending, asked, “So, where’s the cafeteria?”
She seemed slightly surprised, I guess because most whities get their fill of the Palace and all of its splendors and then go back home to eat real food at McDonald’s. But not these whities. We didn’t just drive 80 miles from Pittsburgh for a 30 minute tour without ingesting some sort of edible souvenir.
“The cafeteria isn’t located in the Palace. It’s down by the temple and lodging,” she explained.
“Ok,” I replied, not about to be deterred. “Is it walkable?” She said it was only a quarter of a mile down the street and come on, this is the #7-ranked Walking Challenge Specialist in Pittsburgh, PA. A quarter of a mile ain’t shit.
But first we stopped at the gift shop, where the middle-aged cashier was talking to her friend on the phone the entire time (Seri said they were talking about someone having a mistress; I was too busy trying to keep my eyeballs from aooga‘ing over all the baubles) and had the audacity to ask if I could pay with cash instead of credit because she didn’t want to get off the phone. That doesn’t seem like something Sri Krishna would want his peoples to do.
I paid with my credit card.
Seri and I got matching bracelets to celebrate our independence from our men-folk! The only man for me is Swami P-dawg, anyway.
We walked the short distance down the street, passing nothing but fields, and then cows, before arriving at what I guess was New Vrindiban’s city center. We had to ask about the cafeteria one more time before finding it on the other side of the Lodge and a small playground occupied by happy Krishnan children. (Krishnan is probably completely incorrect but it sounds so, so right.)
Finally, we stumbled upon the open-door to Govinda’s Restaurant and walked in RIGHT BEHIND MY INDIAN ENEMY from the tour. God, I would have thought he had been halfway home on his high horse by then.
We walked into the cafeteria and were immediately met with a strong sense of awkward. The West Virginian red necks had probably bailed on the cafeteria in favor of Jeb’s pig roast, so that just left me and Seri as the outsiders. But I refused to be chased away by racial discomfort. Not on an empty stomach, anyway.
Turns out the secret mystery food of the Hare Krishnas is your regular Indian fare. How did it not occur to me that this was just going to be Indian food? I’m not sure what I thought it was going to be, but I was definitely hoping for some gold-plated pudding at least.
Still, I could be content with Indian food, especially since the last 87 times I suggested it to Henry, I was denied. What’s a girl gotta do to suck down some curry?
Drive 80 miles and consider converting to a new religion, apparently.
Seri, not being a big fan of Indian cuisine, was not as content with the Hare Krishna offerings, though. However, there were traditional American items on the menu too, for all the honky posers who are driven there by the power of George Harrison’s seminal hit “My Sweet Lord;” things like pizza and grilled cheese.
There was no organization to the ordering system, so we just kind of stood in the middle of the cafeteria like two maladroit dummies, until I finally had the foresight to approach the counter. Seri followed me, for I am her leader.
Too bad INDIAN DICK beat us there and proceeded to naan-block us while scribbling out his family of five’s order. (There was a teenage boy with them who evidently skipped the tour of the Palace in favor of sexting his boo. WWSP-DD?)
(What Would Swami P-Dawg Do? Obviously.)
But then I made eye contact with the guy behind the counter who had a head tattoo. I wasn’t about to piss around with the menu so I just ordered the lunch buffet. Since Hare Krishnas are vegetarians, I felt confident in my decision. Finally, I could eat the shit out of a buffet without accidentally biting into bull testicle.
Part of the buffet had just been taken back into the kitchen when we arrived because I think they were getting ready to switch to the dinner selections, so Head Tattoo told me, “I will just prepare plate for you.” You don’t argue with a man with a head tattoo, even if he bears an uncanny resemblance to Aziz Ansari. (He totally didn’t. I just wanted to see if your Racism Bell tolled.)
While we waited, Seri watched a man eating alone behind us. “What’s that?” she asked me, pointing to a plate in the middle of his table.
“I don’t know. Maybe like some kind of pot pie or something?” I shrugged. It turned out it was naan. In my defense, my eyes are REALLY BAD.
Head Tattoo came back with two full trays. “Oh,” I started. “I ordered the buffet for myself—”
“No! It’s OK. I’ll take it,” Seri said as she retrieved the tray. When in New Vrindiban, eat like New Vrindibanians. I was infinitely proud of her for that.
The non-head-tattooed cashier told me there was a $10 minimum for credit cards, so I told her to add a mango lassi.
“How do you know what that is?” Seri whispered.
“Because I’ve eaten in Indian restaurants before,” I whispered back, hoping that she wouldn’t expose my Caucasian roots.
“Yeah, but how did you know to order that?!” she persisted.
“Because I saw it on the menu!” I hissed under my breath, so INDIAN DICK wouldn’t catch wind of the cracker bitch trying to play like a seasoned lassi drinker. God, that was all I needed was for him to smirk at me.
Indian food is some of the most visually disgusting slop this side of homemade baby food. But Krishnadamn, is it good. And Seri appreciated the nod to the Western World the buffet gave by providing a vat of pasta. Our naan order was up at the same time as INDIAN DICK’S teenage son’s. Seri said he tried to argue with Head Tattoo because our plate had four pieces as opposed to his two-piece plate, at which point Head Tattoo gave him a lesson in counting. “That’s because THEY have TWO buffets,” he supposedly said. I say “supposedly” because who knows if we can believe Seri. We go to the high school track at night and she thinks she sees armadillos and crashing planes.
INDIAN DICK, above the Pepsi can. Even blurred, I can still tell he’s a dick.
“I COULD LIVE HERE,” I moaned, shoveling food into my fat mouth with my naan-shovel. Seri ate slowly and like a normal human not competing in a speed-eating contest. I envy that about her. But the one thing we had in common in that cafeteria is that our faces were both melting off above that tray of food. Hot flash city.
“I’m never leaving!” I texted Henry.
“The Palace?” he replied.
“No, the CAEFETERIA.”
And Seri tried everything on her plate and even liked most of it! (You’re welcome, Pete.) As usual, I ate faster than my stomach could handle and wound up pregnant with paneer and rice. What a stinky baby that would be. Halfway in, my stomach was expanding and the waistband of my jeans were waving the white flag, but I still kept eating because I drove 80 miles for this and by George Harrison, I was eating my fill even if it meant perforating my stomach lining. I really thought I was hungrier than I actually was.
Seri kept trying to rush me out of the cafeteria, probably because she knew I was 2 spoonfuls away from having my stomach pumped, but I was like, “Hello, can I finish my mango lassi? Krishna!”
In the temple afterward, not only did I come close to gilding a deity tableau with my vomit, but I apparently donated my entire iCarly wallet as well.