very now and then I must devote a post to the endlessly beige span of desert known as the Inland Empire, since this is nominally what my blog's about, and it helps in the occasional non-porn Google search.
I live in a part of the world known for its cancerous growth -- the fastest in North America, if the newspapers are to be believed. More articulate and smarter people (who generally don't live here, almost by definition) can tell you all about what problems that generates. I care about all of them, but not right now.
Right now, I'm concerned that this population boom means my corner of the world now has the lowest per capita rate of vegetarian restaurants in all of herbivorous California. This is shocking.
Even though I've joined the legions of leaf eaters, I'd like to have the occasional culinary adventure just like other civilized people who throw caution and lower dress sizes to the wind. Imagine my delight upon hearing there is a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in my town. With some pluck and help from a site called the Happy Cow, I found Veggie Way (formerly Panda Wok) less than 3 miles from my humble, meat-free abode.
Last night, we ventured there, keeping our expectations low, which turned out to be wise. First, we had to find the strip mall, nearly indistinguishable from all the other fading, litter-strewn wrecks with gaping vacancies and cracked blacktop. We found it wedged between the Liquorama and a nail spa. Doesn't that tell you everything you need to know?
The restaurant was your typical greasy spoon, with a few creaky tables, dim lighting and crimson Japanese lanterns. A mirrored wall kept the baby busy most of the evening, and a TV console broadcast Chinese religious programming with English subtitles: "Find the person who knows God and let him enlighten you!"
Sure. Right after I finish my egg rolls.
We seemed to be the only people over 30 there, which meant we were also the only ones whose every last inch of flesh hadn't been given over to tattoos and piercings. It never fails to amaze me how many holes the human body can sport without leaking.
We shared chicken-less chow mein noodles and curried vegetables. I didn't die. Minitaur ate his customary brown rice and steamed tofu. You read that correctly. This is what my son has eaten in every Asian-themed restaurant he's ever been in, though sometimes it's soba noodles instead of rice. Poor kid. I've pretty much ruined him, haven't I?
As we ate, others filtered in who didn't seem as threatening: two gay college kids, a middle-aged European couple, and a few others of non-Anglo ethnicity. You would never have noticed any of them if we didn't live in Vacuous Fatso Land. Most people seemed in a good mood, especially the gay couple, who were all giddy with young love.
It took a while for the two women behind the counter to warm to us. We were clearly the interlopers here, us middle-class family types wearing jeans and sweaters and without any visible bodily alterations.
It isn't exactly our piece of Santa Monica or Laguna Beach, but it's not terrible, which is about what you expect in our part of the world. Sad, I know, but until someone offers one of us a job in a less carniverous part of the country, this is what we get.