Vegetarian serves food for the soul

Posted on 24. Jun, 2000 by in Reviews

St Petersburg Times

By Eileen Schulte

(TIMES PHOTO | SCOTT KEELER) Employee Radana Spodniakova prepares a breakfast at Palm Harbor's Consciousness-Blossoms Restaurant.

(TIMES PHOTO | SCOTT KEELER) Employee Radana Spodniakova prepares a breakfast at Palm Harbor\’s Consciousness-Blossoms Restaurant.

Owner Tilvila Hurwit says she wants her vegetarian restaurant in Palm Harbor to help customers achieve an inner peace.

For Tilvila Hurwit, the way to a person’s soul is through the stomach.
After all, just because you are at the top of the food chain, it doesn’t mean you should eat something that once had a face.

Hurwit, the owner of Consciousness-Blossoms, almost certainly Palm Harbor’s only all-vegetarian restaurant run by devotees of spiritualist and musician Sri Chinmoy, believes she is feeding the soul and providing inner peace.

Animal meat promotes aggression and restlessness, Hurwit said. Natural grains, vegetables and similar blood-free fare apparently calm people and help them play well with others.
That is why she offers dishes such as neatloaf — a concoction of brown rice, grains, tofu, ricotta cheese, eggs, onions and spices, topped with barbecue sauce — not meatloaf.
Hurwit does serve eggs at breakfast. Eggs are okay because they were never alive outside the shell.

“We do eat dairy,” she said. “We are ovo-lacto.”

Hurwit said her restaurant is that truly rare thing: an all-vegetarian establishment in the Tampa Bay area. It is tucked between Fantastic Sams and Accent on Travel in the Cascades strip mall, 3390 Tampa Road, and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The restaurant will be closed for vacation from Aug. 14 to Aug. 30.
Hurwit said she opened the restaurant to nuture both body and soul and to “help bring forward the aspiring heart.”

“Inside, I believe, is a longing; there is a longing to be better,” she said. “There is a longing in the heart and (an) inner cry to go higher.”

One corner of the restaurant features a television that plays videos of Chinmoy talking about his teachings on transcending the self. Nearby, there is a bookcase of his works, which are for sale. Recordings of his flute music play in the background.
Hurwit offers music and poetry events at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, and meditation workshops at 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

It opened in October and is run by Hurwit, a trained ultrasound technician who still freelances in that line of work, and friends and volunteers from a meditation group she attends in Safety Harbor. She is in her 40s and has been a vegetarian for decades.
“And I’m still alive,” she said.

Even though the restaurant does not serve meat, it does not exclusively attract hard-core vegetarians. On the contrary. She said carnivorous humans are known to frequent it.
“Most customers eat meat,” Hurwit said.

One day recently, she was clad in a flowing sari and sandals that let her toes get some air, sitting calmly at a daisy-covered two-top table and saying, in simple terms, she wants to feed the soul.

The sari attracts attention.

“One little girl said, “Oh, what a cute dress,’ ” said restaurant manager Jackie Broderick. Since 1980, she has been a student of Sri Chinmoy, a prolific author and leader of what Hurwit calls a “spiritual path” more than a movement.
She was raised in the Jewish faith, but the religion didn’t fulfill her. It was only during a trip to Jerusalem at 18 that something so personal and amazing happened — she won’t say exactly what — and erased her doubts, leading her to believe fully in Christ. She said Christianity doesn’t mean she can’t be a student of Chinmoy; students of his are affiliated with all kinds of religions.

“The same thing happened to me the first time I heard Sri speak at a concert,” she said. “It overwhelmed me.”

She changed her given first name, which she won’t divulge, to Tilvila, a phrase derived from Sanskrit and meaning “spiritual fruitfulness.”

Born in Bengal, India, in 1931, Chinmoy, who now lives in New York, gives talks and flute concerts nationwide, which lead to the sale of books and tapes.
Hurwit considers herself a good friend of Chinmoy, whom she visits several times per year. The chances are good he would approve of the restaurant’s menu.
There is barbecue tempeh, barbecue tofu, hummus roll-ups, harvest burgers and BLTs featuring soy bacon. Diners can wash their selections down with mango lhassi (mango yogurt drink) or chai (Indian-spiced black tea brewed with milk).
Hurwit said, “People still don’t know we’re here,” but she is fond of the customers she does have.

“One elderly gentleman sat at a table and ordered soup and coffee,” Broderick said.
“We were really busy that day and out of silverware and dishes. We were trying to get them washed. He motioned for me to come over and said, “I didn’t get a spoon.’ When I was going to get him one, he said, “Oh, I don’t need one. I just didn’t want you to think I walked out with it.’

Maybe eating a meat-free diet does make you nicer.


Publication date: July 24, 2000

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