Back in my younger years I decided to become a Vegetarian. The outcome of that decision at the age of 16 got the exact reaction I was looking for; I completely freaked out my parents and got their attention straight away. But getting the reaction I wanted didn’t make me a “healthy” Vegetarian. I had never even considered tofu or complete proteins (this was the 80’s) and instead sustained myself on boxed fettucine alfredo, rice cakes with peanut butter and cheese (which I still love) and other versions of pasta dishes that emphasized carbs and dairy. I grew up in Virginia and don’t recall ever seeing a cooked bean other than a goober pea. Greens were not desirable in that they were generally cooked to their death along with every other vegetable. The only time I recall eating any fresh or raw vegetable was when friends and I would raid the neighborhood plots, sitting hidden in the garden rows while we munched on dirty carrots and un-ripened corn. So I carried on eating junk food, Burger King cheese burgers (extra cheese, hold the meat) and cream puffs or muffins for breakfast.
But then in the Fall of ’91, ten years older and wandering the country with cute boyfriend and a cat named Seymour, I came across the town of Manitou Springs in Colorado. I had never seen anything like Manitou. Nestled in the Front Range Mountains at the base of a beautiful, lone fourteener the town was a dirty little gem; crumbling sidewalks and houses that sat crooked on the hillsides, painted in faded pastels with Buddhist prayer flags fluttering on the front porches above the busy historic shopping district. I was totally and utterly smitten.
Some days later, cute boyfriend and I decided to put down some roots in this adorable little town. It had all the right elements for a young couple with no responsibilities – more than one cool pub including the Ancient Mariner which had a copper lined bar top and Samuel Taylor’s famous Rime etched meticulously into it. The town was walkable. It had a post office (no internet in 1991) and coffee
shops and sweet little parks. And it had restaurants within walking distance of our second floor apartment in an old house on Spencer Avenue behind the Cliff House. We had both been making our living in the service industry for some years and the idea of not commuting to work was a complete game changer – we would never commute again! And so one day while walking the Avenue I started down the 700 block towards the little Library when I noticed a small bay window decorated with a miniature ice cream parlor dining set.
There was a little wooden topped table with wire chairs big enough for dolls and next to it the cover of a menu and the name, Adam’s Mountain Café at the bottom. I peered into the window and saw the diners sipping tea and chatting and I wanted to go in but I had very little money. Still I did go in and ordered a coffee while sitting at a little wooden table set with a hand thrown honey pot, a cute little sugar bowl with brown, grainy sugar in it and a small vase with fresh cut flowers. Then I opened the menu. Vegetarian Lasagna, a Vegetarian Burrito (I didn’t know what a burrito was), Tibetan Vegetables (Vegetarian), a Vegetarian Californian sandwich with avocado, toasted walnuts, carrots, sprouts, Monterey Jack cheese and cucumbers, Senegalese Vegetables – what is that?? My mind was blown. So this is Vegetarian!! I was literally taken aback. And the Café smelled so good. A mix of cinnamon and clove and rich dark roast espresso. The dining room floor was patterned with tiny, white hexagon shaped tiles. There were elegant tulip shaped sconces on the walls and a big carrot cake with cream cheese frosting on a pedestal next to the wait station. There was laughter coming from the kitchen – always a good sign. A few moments later the server came up and asked me if I wanted to order anything to eat and I said no, but I would like an application.