Monday, October 4, 2010


Traversing the rough-and-romantic road that leads to the kitchen door… and into the soul

LOCAL RESTAURATEUR Rosetta Star Rzany was once quoted by Asheville’s Mountain Xpress, “Rosetta’s Kitchen is an extension of my childhood home in which the door was always open and it led directly into the kitchen.” The mere mention of the word, “door,” never fails to fascinate, or mystify me… it always conjures a poignant sense of beautiful selflessness and nonchalant generosity. What Ms Rzany was trying to communicate, I felt, was that that “extension of my childhood home” was actually a community center, where “many hands came together to create a casual, friendly place to relax, visit friends and satisfy a healthy vegan or vegetarian, appetite.”

Doors, food, fun, community, spirit…
In a deteriorating synthetic, consumerist society where the physical body is voraciously fed by microwaved, chemical-enhanced so-called fastfood, Rosetta’s “opening doors” become a welcome passage to spiritual redemption. I might be dabbing too much profundity to a seemingly simple, ordinary health-conscious trade alternative—such as Rosetta’s Kitchen—but “food” has always been a trancendental ritual to me. I was born and raised and grew up in a culture where “food” and “mealtime” are considered sacred rituals parallel to Angelus, rosary beads, mantra, and homage to Gods and Goddesses via raindance. Food is linked to “casual, friendly” convergence not by virtue of societal circumstance but because it’s part of human existence… people interact with people and food is always the starting point, middle ground, and end gesture. A very effective familial pitch in Manila goes, “The family that eats together, stays together…” In whichever culture one comes from, that human dictum rings true.

A Rosetta Star Journal
It couldn’t be truer than a peek at Rosetta’s life journal.“… I am from Old Fort, a little town, 40 minutes east of Asheville. My parents, I would call them pretty darn extreme people, as loving and good as can be. We had milk goats, big gardens, apple trees, and lots of time. Mom always stayed home with my sister and I… Dad did construction job just enough to buy the very basics... We were very poor, we never even had a car, we hitch-hiked, the whole family, including our dogs. I went to public schools all the way through...”
Rosetta’s memories—sentimental and mawkish, like creasy polaroid photographs neatly collected on a graying scrapbook… people and places stay like peeling latex paints at the backdoor porch. But there’s always a story behind, in between the pages.
Rosetta Star’s “kitchen door”—which commenced in “a 12-foot square room house that Dad built out of a building that someone else was going to tear down,” and slithered to Hardee’s and Taco Bell in Marion and Warren Wilson College – extended to a wild-and-romantic intercontinental wanderlust life that’d surely rival Bridget Jones’ diary. “I could write a book about this time in my life…” she beams. “Crazy!”
Let’s turn the pages of Rosetta’s scrapbook/journal…“
While at Warren Wilson, when I was 19, I met a German guy, real cute and with a cool accent… I got married as a joke in a mall in Tennessee to a man I didn’t even know. We had been seeing each other a month, he was 25. We spent a few months working and gardening and playing house and then we flew away…“
A few nights in London and then to Sri Lanka… Extremely jetlagged, and hung over—into New Delhi. My senses were all blown—everything in India was sensory overload. The smells, sights, my thoughts… We spent 6 months in India and Nepal, two months just partying in Goa… It was just too much intensity to a Southern girl. I was so home sick as could be when we left so I parted from my lover in an airport in France and, came home. A week of grounding in the mountains and I was again dying to get back to him. I flew to Hamburg, Germany, planning to move there…“
I spent a month living in the red light district of St Pauli and was fed up with my life there... too much coffee, cake and beer. I needed some meaning in my life, I was dreaming of big gardens and tea with my best friend in the apple orchards, I needed to come home. So back we came, we lived in a school bus behind my parents house and hung about. That fall, I found out I was pregnant. I had just turned 21. I took a pregnancy test in a bar bathroom in Little Italy, NY… We were driving some friends to the airport in Boston, and I knew I was very late and we were going to be out drinking that night. I didn’t tell anyone that night. When we got back to home we had been planning to go to Mexico for the winter but we were kind of scared to go so far so we went to Key West, instead.“
We squatted in an empty teepee and I worked at a café. We lived in our van with a cat and two dogs for a couple of months and then when I started to be swollen up pregnant I was ready to come home again. We moved back in with my parents. Luka Star was born Aug 18 in 1998 at home, he was a big loud baby but my ex-hubby didn’t take it so well, his new job as father. We did still have some fun and we partially built a cool straw/clay slip house on my parents’ land but finally we moved to town as a last resort to save our marriage. It didn’t work… we split in a nasty way and I redefined myself…
So that’s how Rosetta traversed life, rediscovered some wisdom along the way, and then headed back home. “Home” later became Rosetta’s Kitchen in downtown Asheville—which was inaugurated on a September three years ago, before her 26th birthday.“
Luka was 2 ½ and I loved downtown. I was amazed at how everyone ate out all the time and I reached back to a plan we had had before to open a place just like the kitchen in Hamburg or Berlin and instead I asked my family for help and they came through with shining colors.”

Rosetta’s Kitchen’s Concept
Rosetta’s Kitchen’s concept was “reborn” in the early spring of 2002… “a place to be, a community kitchen. It was basically to take the idea of my home kitchen which had always been a colorful and fun place to be full of good food and open it to the public.”
As expected, Rosetta’s restless star gravitated to downtown Asheville’s gruffly-romantic and sweetly-flawed humanity… “I love the beauty of the fact that no one really knows what is the `right way’ to live anyway but are each trying in their own way… I see a whole community of people really open to knowledge and change and tolerance of others trying to do the same thing in their own way. I think this community is learning about the power of interdependence, and that the more we all keep this dialogue of conscious community open, the more it will spread.”
She continues, “I love the community. I love having a huge group of people who feel like family, all the connections and networks of all the little different groups; professional, social, activists, diverse cultures, there are so many great people here. There are great people everywhere, but in Asheville I find people that are more excited about life and living it to it’s fullest, people who see solutions to civilization’s problems, people who are consciously creating themselves and the world around them, rather than just being apathetic and following the status quo.”

Nasty Workings of the American System
That excitement about life trudged a scary episode when she, along with other protesters, had a dose of what she calls, “nasty lessons in the workings of the American system...” during the first day of mass protests against the outbreak of war in Iraq.“
I was arrested by choice while trying to get everyone present to follow my example... when the police started making violent arrests, I thought that from what I learned from history of civil disobedience in this country that we didn’t want to let them only take a few scapegoats and chase every one away...”
Rosetta, at this point, could easily, effortlessly ramble from childhood memories of her parents’ Old Fort kitchen to an Oktoberfest soiree in Hamburg to a kirtan afternoon in New Delhi to why her second child Petra Star (with partner Gary Buan) was also born at home on Oct 23, 2003 to her sweet anticipation of her third child... back to that violent street demonstration in downtown Asheville where she was pinned down to the ground… to her exuberant pronouncements of having “a beautiful family of my own… family is the most important thing there is and to have a stable one is such a blessing”…
I haven’t even talked about her Kitchen’s Korean BBQ tempeh, pad thai, and broth of life of miso, ginger, arame and garlic. While this article wasn’t intended to be a restaurant profile or food review, I can’t help but touch the spirit behind the counter... or beyond the kitchen door. That’s all that I could do--considering the fact that my subject has opted to talk about a screenplay-worth of beautiful, intriguing trials, triumphs, and tribulations--than offer me an obtuse recitation of entrepreneurial flair and/or overwhelm me with heavy-handed socioeconomic rant. You see, I just want to write something nakedly human about the soul behind one of the beautiful spirits of downtown Asheville.
However, I must admit that before I got to liking Rosetta’s flailing, gypsy/neohippie fashion sense… I first got enamored to the kale and peanut butter tofu in her little Lexington Av eatery. But, as I previously mentioned, “food” and “mealtimes” are sacred rituals—you don’t really talk about them, you just let them live within yourself, enjoy them… These days, we don’t really visit a diner or eatery to partake of its culinary pleasure--we, more often than not, try to feel and savor a communal vibe and, simply, feel good. We want to observe humanity, eavesdrop once and a while, or engage someone in a freewheeling, rambling conversation...
Such is Rosetta’s Kitchen from dusk till dawn... such is the experience of a lazy August afternoon with Rosetta Star Rzany. She has more magic and secrets to share other than skillet corbread and granny’s gravy. Obviously, she wants to talk more about gifts and blessings beyond the kitchen door, such as… “I still have lost of pets and a colorful house…”