Soul Food

by Catherine Sinow; illustrations by Abi Censky

 

If you take a stroll into downtown Colorado Springs, you might see a storefront adorned with kooky letters. These letters read “Rasta Pasta.” Yes. A mountain town restaurant has combined the idea of Rastafarianism with the idea of Pasta.

Did someone come up with the name, and only then make a restaurant out of it? Probably. When I first saw it, it reminded me of fake products I made up when I was in middle school. See: Veggie Blast, a healthy alternative to Kool-Aid with flavors like “Outta This World Asparagus,” “Cool to Like Carrots” and “Great Green Beans.” The thing is, I never made Veggie Blast.

Take a look inside and you’ll realize that this store is more Rasta than Pasta. You will see no Tuscan hills, fine aged wine and curling vines. Instead, a crimped tin roof adorns the bar, and a massive mural of Bob Marley’s face stretches across the wall. Rasta colors are anywhere there can be colors, along with Christmas lights and bumper stickers saying things like “one love.”

The tables are covered with plastic flower-print tarps, and the chairs are made of industrial-grade steel frames. If the apocalypse comes, we must all flee to Rasta Pasta to gather the chairs as weapons and fight for resources. Reggae music chugs along from the speakers, but I don’t feel like I’m in a reproduction of Jamaica at all. Instead, I’m at the apex of uncultured American—Americans claiming to love Bob Marley, but only knowing three of his songs.

The menu offers dish names worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. Tortellini Jamaica Mon. Spaghetti Trench Town. Spicy Jammin’. Chocolate Jammin’. Bananas Marley. All in a faux-handwritten font.

Pause. I am an obsessive aesthete who worships the trim stylings of the next-door Wild Goose and the now-dearly departed Mountain Fold Books. So how do I know all this information about the tack-fest known as Rasta Pasta? Did I look at Yelp photos? Did I have Cipher’s undercover agents walk through and take notes?

I did not. 

Actually, I have been to Rasta Pasta. 

Twice.

You see, I have a friend named Chunk. He is no ordinary friend to me. He is beloved. Chunk and I have talked many a chilly night. However, he has a viewpoint that I couldn’t agree with less: Rasta Pasta makes Chunk feel velvety passion behind his breast. It’s his favorite restaurant of all time. He has a comparable love for Soylent, the nutrient drink that you can live on exclusively. But at least Soylent has Silicon Valley guys pouring in billions. Imagine this: guys in short-sleeved button-downs and dreads, pitching Rasta Pasta to a venture capital boardroom. Now gag.

“When did you first go to Rasta Pasta?” I asked beloved Chunk. “And what’s your favorite dish there?”

“Do not accept your brother’s variable perception of himself, for his split mind is yours, and you will not accept your healing without his. For you share the real world as you share heaven, and his healing is yours. To love yourself is to heal yourself, and you cannot perceive part of you as sick and achieve your goal. Brother, we heal together as we live together and love together. Be not deceived in God’s son, for he is one with himself and one with his father. Love him who is beloved of his Father, and you will learn of the Father’s Love for you,” he replied.

The first time Chunk and I dined at Rasta Pasta, we went with his dear friend, Filiberto. We sat in a corner table, ordered from the rasta-colored menu and, in time, food was bestowed upon us. First they served us starter salad topped with a ginger dressing that turned out to be heavenly. The pasta soon arrived in thick ceramic bowls, dressed with blissfully sour white wine vinegar, savory diced onions and exotic jerk spices. Each of us also received a crisp, buttery piece of toast which sent my salivary glands into maximum overdrive.

And so we enfolded ourselves in a spicy, greasy nirvana, taking bite after bite of the fine cuisine known as Rasta Pasta. Then I realized something I cannot conceal without sacrificing my journalistic integrity. Although Rasta Pasta is a temple of tacky décor, the food is godly. A tried-and-true blend of carbs and oil has never failed anyone’s tongue, and so the buttery palate of Rasta Pasta injected my spirit with hits of true euphoria. On that occasion, I stuffed myself until I felt ill, but it was worth it to chow down extra Rasta Pasta. Chunk is 6’8” and needs to eat 3,000 calories a day, so he inhaled it with expert ease. 

It was then that I started to see Rasta Pasta in its true form. I began to feel as if the restaurant was the only thing there was—ever. The red, yellow and green swirled together in a melting pool of light and my soul was suddenly a mirror the size of Louisiana; I could now tell that my aura had been red, yellow and green all along.

“Never deny the rasta pasta,” a deep voice said behind me in a Jamaican accent. I turned around.

“Bob Marley, is that you?”

“It is, mon,” he said. 

As he spoke, I could see each of his paint strokes flying across the wall, all moving together in a carefully organized pattern.

“Wha-wha? What should I do for a living? What is the meaning of life?” I stammered.

“Believe in the pasta…” he said, and then I was overtaken by a burst of flavor as Chunk held the back of my head and spooned Rasta Pasta into my mouth.

We paid our tab, and Chunk, Filiberto and I returned to my dorm room. We watched silly videos such as “Yee,” which features low budget singing dinosaurs (stop reading this right now and watch it). Soon, however, I felt a nauseating pressure overtake my whole torso. After a few less-than-mentionable moments in the lavatory, I returned to my room and said the unthinkable to my beloved brothers.

“You guys might have to leave.”

In the end, that was the right choice. What occurred afterward was only a more unmentionablecontinuation of the previous regurgitation. Oh, the humanity!

Despite this mishap, I actually went to Rasta Pasta a second time. It was one chilly evening, and Chunk and Filiberto arrived at my doorstep and told me that they wanted to dine. Their male bonding needs were through the roof, however, and it seemed Rasta Pasta resonated with them more than video games or beer. I didn’t want to deny them their manhood, so I acquiesced and gave ol’ Rasta a second chance. After all, I had eaten quite a bit that first time. Maybe I needed to give it another chance and consume in a less gluttonous manner. Only then could I decide if Rasta Pasta and my esophagus were meant to be.

Once there, we ordered our food and chatted like all good friends do. A youth at a nearby table was apparently having a birthday, and a voluptuous waitress belted “Happy Birthday” in an opera style. I put away a much more reasonable portion of Rasta Pasta on that occasion, putting down my fork when I was full. And within due time, I started to see all the red, yellow and green swirling together yet again. 

“It’s time to RuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrR RAASTA PAH-STA!” said Bob Marley in a universal voice that transcended all concept of acoustics. He and the other Jamaican figures painted on the wall began to warp and gyrate wildly, pulsating with sensual neon colors. I felt Tejon Street vanish, I felt Colorado Springs vaporize, I felt the entire world as I knew it crumble and disperse into space. But simultaneously, I experienced the booming soul of Rasta Pasta overtake astral planes more enormous than I could ever perceive before. Rasta Pasta was all there really was in this world, and to love the swirling red, yellow and green in front of me was to love all that there is. I felt all the walls of my mind collapsing into dust, and finally its petty contents blended with the endless celebration before me. I knew then that the multiverse theory was real. There were a million Catherine Sinows, a million Chunks and a million Filibertos, and each and every one of them was at Rasta Pasta.

Soon, like all good things do, my deeply spiritual experience with Rasta Pasta wound down and concluded. By the time I scribbled my signature and put my wallet back in my bag, I could only be in one place at a time. But we knew the lessons we learned out in that Rasta Void would stay with us for at least twelve reincarnations. Afterward, to celebrate the gift of life, we all went to Filiberto’s abode and played a delightful, lengthy board game called the Great Space Race. I went to the bathroom in the middle of the game, worried that I would have another adverse reaction to The Pasta, but I came out unscathed. The following night, however, I was not so lucky. The Rasta Pasta Monster had come back to bite. But I was not in low spirits. I thought of the sacramental Andean brew, Ayahuasca. Those who consume it often have fits of vomiting in which they purge negativity from their body and soul. Likewise with Rasta Pasta, my purging experience signified that I had imbibed true divinity.

At this point, semantic saturation surrounds us. What is “rasta”? What is “pasta”? What is the meaning of life now that these two words could be the answer to every philosophical question?

I firmly believe Rasta Pasta is not a joke, but neither is it a restaurant. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of things, perhaps everything. Since we cannot always be in its presence, we must accept it as something that isn’t always visible, or in fact, knowable. Rasta Pasta is a mystery, both a threat and a glory, something tacky and something beautiful, something undiscoverable, intangible.

Join the movement! Text “Believe in the pasta” to ten people you know!