On Sunday, March 6, as black-clad, long-haired, beer-toting metal heads from across mesoamerica filled the streets of San Salvador in their pilgrimage to the historic Iron Maiden concert, I trekked out to Santa Tecla for a very different scene: a vegetarian Indian food festival hosted by El Salvador’s Hare Krishna Community (International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKON) at the Centro Cultural Hare Krishna.
It turns out that the good people at the ISKON El Salvador open their doors once a month to sell their home-made vegetarian food to the public, so I invite everyone to give it a try sometime. The space is beautiful: a large old Santa Tecla house with a spacious open patio in the center, full of flowers, plants and light. And the people are warm and friendly–not creepy, culty warm, but genuinely hospitable and kind.
So first and foremost: the food! Lunch was served comedor-style. All the food was vegetarian, and while the vegan options were more limited, there was more than enough to fill your plate.
The offerings were definitely carb-heavy, but I managed to make myself a fairly balanced plate of lentil and vegetable soup, steamed vegetables with garbanzo beans, some garbanzo-battered broccoli, a pineapple fresco and a peanut-raisin ball for dessert. All together, it cost me $6.40, which is far more than I’d pay for lunch on a typical day, but a good deal less than San Salvador’s two vegetarian Indian restaurants (Swagat & Pakora Hut) charge.
The fresco was, as usual, too sweet for my taste, and the soup was saltier than I’d prefer. Still, the food was overall hearty and delicious.
The activity seemed well-attended, with people coming and going late in the afternoon. As my husband and I were finishing our lunch, a mild-mannered monk approached us to ask how we had enjoyed our meal. He told us that El Salvador’s Hare Krishna community has existed for some 30 years (he himself has been a monk for 24), but the Santa Tecla Center has been running for a little over 3. Apparently, they used to run a farm where they produced all the of their vegetarian fare, but for recent security issues they’ve stopped production there now. He invited us to attend their weekly lectures (Sundays at 4:00PM) on meditation, yoga, and Hindu practice.
Overall, it was a pleasant and satisfying meal in a beautiful, tranquil environment–hard to ask more of San Salvador on a Sunday (and in the midst of the Iron Maiden invasion, no less). As a yoga instructor myself, I am personally sympathetic to the Hare Krishna tradition, but would caution anyone from diving head-first into what many would probably call a cult. That said, I can definitely recommend making the trip up to Tecla for some tasty vegetarian Indian food on a Sunday afternoon, and if it makes you more inclined to pick up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, well, all the better!