September 17, 2008


A snake had crept in through my nose and wrapped tight coils around my skull. Or maybe it was a sinus headache. As I stumbled through the day, I kept looking forward to late afternoon, when I could enjoy a bowl of hot soup at my favorite vegetarian diner, the Sucrose Mollusk Stone.

Finally, the moment came. I dropped Shaggy Hair Boy off at his guitar lesson and drove straight to the cafe. I felt some of the tension slip away as I walked through the narrow front door that opens on an angle to the street corner. Always, I enjoy this hour to myself, this time to sit quietly and write at the little table near the bay window of the old house.

"What soup do you have?" I asked the young man behind the counter. "Is it vegan?"

He looked up from the glass he was drying with a dish cloth. "Cream of — wait, I guess it's not vegan."

What? The soup of the day wasn't vegan? This seemed a tragedy of epic proportions. The snake wrapped around my skull pulled tightly, until the counter in front of me started to blur. I looked up at the board above the counter, which listed all kinds of vegan food. But I felt incapable of making a decision. I wanted to cry. My plan had been to eat a bowl of hot soup.

"I'm vegan, and I have a sinus headache," I said. I felt about eight years old. "I need something hot. Something spicy."

"We can make anything spicy, " he said. He set down the dishcloth and opened a menu.

"And maybe some hot tea," I said. You'd think I'd be familiar with the menu, but usually I just have whatever the soup of the day is. I wondered if he was going to start asking me a million questions about which kind of tea I wanted and what I wanted in it. I figured I might die if I had to answer all those questions.

He didn't ask any questions. "Go sit down," he said. "I'll bring you food."

Gratefully, I found my way to my usual table and took off my fleece. I dropped my book bag, took out my journal, and just sat there, quietly, willing the headache to calm down. The day was overcast and a dim grey light came through the bay window.

Helpful Young Man carried over some hot tea, in a cup the size of a soup bowl. As I lifted the cup to my lips, a fruity steam rose to my face. I breathed in the raspberry scent and drank the hot tea, sip after sip, feeling the muscles in my body loosening with each sip.

I'd just opened my journal when Helpful Young Man appeared with a plate of food. "Wasabi Tubers," he said. They were potatoes, coated in something green. I took a bite and chewed through delicious spiciness. The heat traveled up into my sinuses. I could feel the snake inside my head melting, releasing its grip. I kept eating, until my tongue and lips were burning. I could feel fluid dripping down my throat. My nose began running.

I kept eating, through the potatoes, the spicy vegetarian burger, the heaping of noodles. I kept drinking hot tea.

And suddenly the pressure was gone. I could breathe again.


Auntie Knickers said...

What a great server!(especially for not asking all kinds of questions about the tea!) I'm sure you left a nice tip. And I'm definitely trying spice the next time my sinuses act up. I didn't know about that.

Teri said...

I love that guy.

Is it bad that I have that reaction almost anytime things are not what I was planning? Headache or no headache, I'm in such a stress level that if my favorite restaurant doesn't have my favorite soup, I literally do not know what to do. (sigh...)

hope you feel better soon!

Mike said...

Wow! What a fantastic cure!

Jenevieve said...

Man, jo(e), when I finally make that imaginary trip to move my family into your house (um, or maybe just visit), the first place we're going is to that delicious cafe!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful person! I'm glad you're feeling better.

Have you ever tried any of the soups in the Laurel's Kitchen cookbook? Excellent!

jo(e) said...

Jenevieve: I'll be sure to take you there.

Rana: Yes. I love that cookbook. That and the Moosewood are my favourites.

BrightBoy said...

Awesome post. You make the food sound so delicious through your descriptions. I've never beena big fan of wusabi, but I'd definitely be willing to try those potatoes and that tea.

My mother gets bad headaches, too, and I should probably mention this to her. I've always been rather fond of home remedies myself, but had never thought of something like this (most of mine are very unoriginal and involve long showers).

By the way, when and why did you first become a vegan? Is it a moral thing for you, or just something that you do because it's so healthy?

Zhoen said...

Amazing how wonderful people can be when they are offered a real chance to be good.

BerryBird said...

This is such a sweet story.

Silver Creek Mom said...

I hope he got a great big hug or at least a tip.

Marie said...

I've just caught up on your last 4 or 5 posts and they've all made me a grin broadly. I love this guy!

Liz Miller said...

That guy's a keeper.

Kathy Rogers said...

Are you sure that wasn't a dream? That cosmic cafe where they bring you exactly what you need? Must be a fantasy, right?

Tall Kate said...

Isn't it great when the universe seems to take care of you? Wasabi is the best kind of spicy to clear up sinuses!!

Abby said...

oh man, I LOVE that guy who was working there!

(also, my word verification is hcknhdf, which, to me, looks something like "hacked enough." Fitting for a post about a cold.

Lomagirl said...

Your attitude just cheers me right up. Thanks for encouraging me with your spirit of gratitude.