Comment permalink

Cult Restaurants: Loving Hut And More

Come for the vegetarian spring rolls, stay for the brainwashing!
When I say "cult restaurants" I don't mean "an underground hit" or "a restaurant with a small but loyal following." I literally mean "a restaurant run by a cult." Throughout the ages, several religions and cults have decided that the path to Heaven starts with a full stomach. One such cult is run by Supreme Master Ching Hai, the leader of the cult that runs the chain of Loving Hut vegan restaurants.
 
The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association operates out of Taiwan, and promotes a splinter religion based on Buddhism which requires strict veganism from its adherents. In this respect it is similar to the Jainism religion, an Indian religion which also promotes strict vegetarianism leading into veganism. 

Jains even avoid consuming microorganisms whenever possible, which means avoiding fermented foods like yogurt (which contains live bacteria). They accept violence against plant life only in so far as it is required to sustain human life. They even go so far as to avoid some forms of vegetable matter, like potatoes and carrots, because consumption of these root vegetables leads to the death of the entire plant. Unlike, say, an apple, which you can pick without damaging the parent tree.
 
There are about 25 Loving Hut restaurants in America, most of them in California. The Houston Press ran a hilarious restaurant review of the Houston branch a few years ago. ("If Scientologists were less aggressive and more interested in food, this is undoubtedly the kind of restaurant they would run.")
 
Along with the strict vegan fare, the restaurants all run looped video on flat screen televisions scattered throughout the dining floor. These videos are essentially an infomercial for Quan Yin, which is the Buddhist offshoot invented by Supreme Master Ching Hai. 
 
Hare Krishna temples also often offer free vegetarian meals on Sundays, after their regular service, in conjunction with their Hare Krisha Food For Life organization. In some locations they expect you to sit through a sort of sermon after the meal. In other locations (particularly the bigger temples) it's a cafeteria-style meal without any sermonizing. 
 
The Hare Krishnas' food is apparently pretty good, and I have to applaud their mandate to bring free nutritious food to homeless people across the world. And unlike Loving Hut, since it's free, you don't end up supporting a cult with your own hard-earned dollars. But then again, "that's how they get ya," so I hesitate to recommend dinner with the Hare Krishnas.