Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Sacred Place

We just got back from a trip to Sedona, in Arizona's high desert. Sedona is red rock country, and it is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. It’s dramatic scenery and wide open space.

A lady who was lovingly showing us around at the Sedona Heritage Museum ( pointed to a sign on the door, bumper sticker style, that read "when God needs a vacation, he goes to Sedona". I wouldn't blame him.

People in Sedona talk about crystals, things you can only see with your mind's eye, vortexes, portals and other dimensions. I read somewhere that a high percentage of the population claims to have seen spaceships, or has had strange things happen to them here. Many look at the red rocks and feel a strong emotional rush and start to cry. I'm not so sure about all of this, but I can say it has an energy I haven’t felt anywhere else. Sedona is sacred.

Upon arrival, looking for a quick bite to eat after a long drive (and preferring to go hungry over stopping for fast food), we discovered a recently opened cafe, D'Lish ( ). It was so good we went back for lunch almost every day we were there. Everything on the menu is Vegan (I'm a frequent vegan wannabe), but please, don't let that stop you. It's worth a trip to Sedona just to eat their grilled seitan sandwich - make sure you order it with avocado.

O.K. I didn’t know what seitan was before this visit. I was eating a grilled tofu sandwich – equally delicious – when the owner sat down at the table next to ours. Naturally, I looked over to scrutinize his lunch. “Grilled seitan sandwich” he explained. Seitan is made from wheat gluten, is high in protein and low in fat.

A word about seitan, tofu and tempeh here: I don’t like substitutes. I don’t think food should pretend to be something it’s not. Like tofu and tempeh, seitan is delicious in its own right, juicy and with a consistency that has character. (If you can’t get to D’Lish, you can get seitan at Whole Foods They sell it in small packages, already sliced. You can grill it on a dry frying pan and put it in a sandwich. Add leafy vegetables and avocado.)

The other restaurant I’d recommend was the one at Mii Amo. It used to be that spa food was restrictive, depriving and bland (celery sticks, anyone?), but now it’s one of the most creative and surprising. The menu at Mii Amo changes daily and everything we tried throughout several visits – vegetable strudel, spring rolls, ceviche, crusted tuna, cabbage roulades – was fabulous. We even attended two cooking demonstrations, to learn how to make coulis and sauces, as well as vegetarian dishes. (I didn’t take notes because I’m notoriously bad at following recipes. I’ll let you know how that goes.)

On the morning before our departure, we took a long, steep hike that zigzagged up onto Doe mesa. We sauntered along the rim, surprised at how incredibly flat it was up above. The view was so expansive it took my breath away. I couldn’t help it. I started to cry. I sat down on the floor, between two huge prickly pear cacti. And then I saw it: a gray eagle flying by, wings fully extended, with a snake in its mouth at least three feet long. I followed it in disbelief. An eagle sitting on a cactus eating a snake is the symbol of Mexico. “We have to move here” I told my husband in a rapture. “Immediately”.

“Do you want to live on the mesa?” he responded “or would downtown Sedona work too?”

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