November 23-29, 2005

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The Byrne Report

Kindhearted Woman

By Peter Byrne

Under the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais, surrounded by shops selling crystals, Buddhist prayer flags and goddess ointments, there is a 23rd-century restaurant: Lydia's Lovin' Foods. The décor is functional and unpretentious. The layout includes a soft area for kids to play in. Service is mellow yet efficient. And the super-clean kitchen, which is visible through a huge window, turns out a plentiful assortment of raw, vegan and vegetarian dishes. It is all delicious, but the raw pies--to be reincarnated for!

Do not be alarmed, dear reader, this is not a restaurant review, nor have I gone mentally squishy and What the Bleep-ish. This is about glimpsing the past and future of food in a world overflowing with imperial consumerism and toxic ideologies and the mass gulping of effluvia disguised as food. It is refreshing to get down at Lydia's with the same food groups that energized our primate ancestors: nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, seaweed and unrefined grains. Of course, Lydia uses industrial grinders and expensive drying machines instead of mortar and pestle and sunlight to prepare the daily bounty, but a chimp would feel right at home with the low-fat, high-fiber diet, as should you. A good meal at Lydia's runs between $10 and $15, but if you are poor and hungry, she will not turn you away.

How did this slice of a logical and healthy past/future society drop into downtown Fairfax in deepest Marin County? Not easily. Kindheart, 42, spent her childhood in Paris, France. After her father, who worked as an educator for the United Nations, passed away, she found herself as a teenager at Petaluma High School. "I felt like an alien," she remembers. One reason she didn't fit in was because she eschewed eating meat after soul-bonding with a dying sea bass who had locked eyes with her after being fished from the ocean by her then-boyfriend.

For the next 10 years, Kindheart followed the sun from the wilds of Washington to the beaches of Baja, living out of customized school-bus homes, trying to avoid the System. She became adept at preparing natural foods sans modern appliances. She became a raw foodist, but admits to having eaten cheese and, once, a bite of fish. After she gave birth to her daughter, Sonya, in 1991, she settled in Marin and Hawaii. She began marketing her nutritious crackers, which are available all over California and in parts of the East Coast. After several business partnerships collapsed, she went solo and opened Lydia's Lovin' Foods three years ago.

Since she was unfamiliar with eating in restaurants, it took a while to figure out how to best serve the public. A foray into selling healthy breakfasts slammed into America's glorification of eggs, butter and bacon, and withered. But gradually she learned how to prepare attractive plates of food without going the labor-intensive vegan gourmet route.

A visit to the kitchen reveals vats of almond and safflower seeds being hand-squished into a mash for crackers by Latino kitchen workers. Kindheart speaks Spanish and seems devoted to her employees, even though she does not pay them very much or provide health insurance. The kitchen staff is dedicated, she says, to eliminating unnecessary waste--washing plastic bags for reuse and not throwing away anything that can be eaten.

"I want to step lightly on the earth," she says. "I want to change the world for the better by doing my part. You know, I affect people in the most intimate way: at the molecular level.

Kindheart, who radiates health, says she feels the stress of being a single mom while "leading" a growing business. Also, she is surrounded by the System. "I am aware that with a push of the button, there is mass destruction. But the grace of love binds all, so there is hope for the planet."

Why change the world in ultra-affluent Marin?

"I am aware of suffering in the world, and I hold that in my heart. But if I focus on the suffering, I get crushed," she says. Instead, she focuses on feeding the people at hand, and spreading her global message of good health and sustainability by increasing the reach of her cracker products. She plans to open a restaurant in Sonoma County soon.

"McDonald's is an inspiration to me. They are so efficient. They understand how to drive down costs by increasing volume. I'd love to addict people to eating good food and taking care of themselves, instead of grasping for the drugs of sugar, blood and grease."

In the meantime, Kindheart is doing her best to change people positively--one cracker at a time.

Now about those worker wages and benefits . . .

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