We're supposed to be vegans—it's right there in the Bible. In Genesis 1:29, Yahweh told Adam and Eve, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."
But then man became wicked: first came the Fall, then the Flood. Fed up with his meaty progeny, Genesis 9:3 tells us, Yahweh lifted the meat ban. "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you," He told Noah. "Even as the green herb have I given you all things."
I meditated on this point—and the possibility that "every moving thing" might allow for cannibalism—during a recent visit to Good Mood Food, a restaurant nestled into a Huntington Beach self-improvement strip mall (other tenants include a beauty and tanning salon and a gym) like moss in concrete corners: vibrant life amongst drabness; an organic treasure that hawks raw dishes served with little non-natural embellishment. "We are not born with a cooking pot!" its website explains. "Animals don't cook their food. What makes humans think that they need to cook their food?"
One answer is that we're smarter. And have opposable thumbs. And that cooking with heat kills pathogens, which make us sick and gooey. Besides, Good Mood's mantra seemed contradicted by the pot of Blooming Bliss tea that sat steeping on my table. (Truth in advertising: stimulated by an open flame beneath the delicate glass teapot, the tea's flowers do indeed bloom.) "It's so lovely—look how it blossoms!" the waitress beamed. And it was pretty, but also aromatic and as refreshing as a bite of rose-water ice cream. Sipping this tea and watching the petals and leaves sway felt so damn communal I was almost able to ignore the New Age music trickling through the stereo and the pear-as-still-life wall art over my table.
The tea prepared my palate for a menu that includes several enticing appetizers—falafels and olive pts, I will return to eat you—but my dining partner and I settled on the mushroom carpaccio. A large, square plate arrived at our table topped with something that resembled my front yard after the first rain. There was no butter or garlic: bits of pesto, pine nuts, fresh basil and tarragon oil spruced up the earthy fungus flavors.
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It was raining outside, and my friend wanted a hot soup. He ordered the belmato, a promising combination of bell peppers and tomatoes, but his face scrunched after just one bite. "Cold," he proclaimed. I stole the bowl from him. One sip, and I realized why heat can be an enemy to vegetables—not only does it kill nutritious enzymes, but it usually reduces vegetables to homogenous textures. But in the belmato, each bell pepper and tomato maintained a pristine, bold flavor that left no lingering film or aftertaste on the palate.
I ordered the Just Greens, a wrap that was like nose-diving in the garden and coming up with a mouth full of greenery. A huge leaf of romaine framed an eclectic mix of leafy veggies, onions, tomatoes, about three types of sprouts and creamy avocado slices. A thick tahini sauce soaked through the veggies and dripped onto the table.
The desserts were just average. The menu presented a few choices but stated that the offerings are on rotation, depending on the mood of Good Mood chef/owner Ursula Horaitis. This night, Ursula whipped up mini-cinnamon rolls with coconut mint frosting. Maybe the waitress misunderstood, but when the plate came topped with a single pillbox-sized piece, we were disappointed to find the seeded roll dry and the icing bland. But it was a minor point. Good Mood Food's food is a blessing, a change of pace that can change your mind about stoves and microwaves.
GOOD MOOD FOOD, 5930 WARNER AVE., HUNTINGTON BEACH, (714) 377-2028; WWW.GOODMOODFOOD.COM. OPEN MON.-THURS., 9 A.M.-9 P.M.; FRI.-SAT., 9 A.M.-10 P.M.; SUN., 10 A.M.-8 P.M. DINNER FOR TWO, $10-$25. NO ALCOHOL.