Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York When Jackie Sharlup was 4 years old, her parents took her to the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville, where she saw, for the first time, live pigs, goats and chickens.She’s been a vegetarian ever since.“I never ate meat again,” recalls the chef and owner of Tula Kitchen in Bay Shore. “I remember my mom pointed out a chicken and I said, ‘Like – dinner chicken?’ And that was it.”Sharlup’s childhood informed her career as a chef in a number of ways. Around the time she was settling into her late-toddler vegetarianism, her father was diagnosed with cancer, which led the entire family to a clean and healthy, plant-based diet.“[My mom] was always taking us into Chinatown to get my dad weird teas — all sorts of stuff,” says Sharlup.“She always cooked for him, and got him to a very good place. I knew at a very young age that you could heal people with food.”As a teenager, Sharlup started working in delis and pizzerias, as so many young Long Islanders do, and continued to cook and work as a personal chef after high school while earning a bachelor’s degree in art and design. In 2006, she graduated from the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in Manhattan and started to think more seriously about opening Tula Kitchen, a dream she’d been fostering for years. The restaurant officially opened its doors that same year.“It was a pretty crazy time,” she says. “I probably didn’t see the light of day for the first six years. Owning a restaurant is no joke. You have to give it your heart and soul, or else you just can’t do it. It becomes your everything.”Although Sharlup has been a lifelong vegetarian, she doesn’t like to force it on others. She knew from the start of Tula Kitchen that she’d offer some more mainstream options – chicken, turkey, fish and seafood – but decided to leave red meat off the menu.“And nothing is fried,” she says. There are, of course, plenty of vegetarian options, including some products you don’t often see on menus in the area, such as seared seitan, a high-protein meat substitute made from wheat gluten.“We try to cook as healthy and natural and balanced as we can,” says Sharlup, noting that nearly everything they use is organic, right down to the sesame oil. “We try to make everything in this restaurant. Maybe two percent is purchased. Everything else we make; all of our dressings, sauces — everything.”Tula Kitchen offers breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner every night but Monday. The breakfast menu feature flap jacks with real maple syrup and fruit. ($11.95). The extensive lunch menu includes starters like stuffed acorn squash with quinoa, kale, caramelized onion and a lemon dressing ($14); and sesame crusted seared tuna with a wasabi drizzle and Asian slaw ($14).Options for “din-din” include balsamic glazed salmon over cauliflower and white bean smash with red grapes, roasted beets and white balsamic dressing ($28); a tuna lentil burger served with hummus and roasted sweet potato salad ($15); and veggie moussaka, a classic Greek dish of layered spinach, feta, breaded eggplant and potatoes ($19).Tula Kitchen has a split personality: two separate spaces – “west and east” – that have completely different décors. The western room, the home of the original restaurant, is dim and quiet, filled with dark wood and accented by yellow seat cushions and red floor to-ceiling curtains.Next door, a new space that opened two years ago is flooded with light, stylish crystal chandeliers and a long dramatic bar, what the restaurant’s website describes as “Frenchchic.”“There are a lot of jokes about how it’s the two sides or my personality,” says Sharlup, cracking a smile. “Good versus evil; dark versus light; whatever works for you.”Tula Kitchen is located at 41 East Main St. in Bay Shore. They can be reached at 631-539-7183 or tulakitchen.com.
Dear Editor,Like most Americans, the only thing I knew about Guyana was that a very tragic event transpired some 40 years ago in the jungle that featured a megalomaniac preacher. There is a saying that we in the US can’t locate a country on a map until our military bombs it.Among all the things I learned over the past few years is that Guyana has a sizable Hindu population. Thankfully, attending the annual Hindu Mandir Executive Conference in Trinidad some four years ago resulted in a serious offer to visit. The trip would be sponsored by a few Guyanese along with my advocacy organisation, The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), where I sit on its National Leadership Council (HAFSITE.ORG). Though the A in HAF specifically indicates “America,” as in “the United States of…” the Board and staff agreed that we must not dismiss such sizable populations in close proximity.The scenery in Guyana is awesome but it is the people that really make the lasting impressions. I was immediately overwhelmed with great kindness and hospitality.The 1st few of my 9 days were spent at The Social Services Centre of Excellence in Woodley Park, WCB. This was founded by Pandit and educator, Ram Rattan, who currently spends most of his time in Florida but continues to maintain a presence in Guyana. This is truly a jewel of a place, offering classes for social and individual improvement. Sri Ramji was kind enough to provide me with a room and all meals when he learnt the purpose of my trip. He even joined me for several of the lectures I gave in that general area.Since so many Indians who became indentured in Guyana were from Utter Pradesh, my experience allowed me to sample new tastes—seven curry on lotus leaves.One breath-taking trip was the ferry from Parika to Essequibo. Everything about it—the water, passing the beautiful islands, and the wonderful breeze, all contributed to a feeling of great content.Guyana has absolutely stunning homes. What impresses most is the originality of the designs and architecture. All the houses are unique, unlike our dull subdivisions. I know that Guyana is not a “rich” country, but everyone in the US with whom I shared my photos would like to visit. I saw many inspiring temples outstanding among which was the one at Gay Park, overseen by female Pandita, Srimati Maraj. Our guide for the day, generous and always willing to help, Rudy (back shop) Rampersaud, made sure that we visited the site where indentured servants first landed in 1838.I would encourage Hindus from the US and India alike to take a lesson from the way pujas and yagnas are conducted in Guyana. We spend too much time in rituals that few can understand but in the land of endless summer, the rituals are briefer. There is always an accomplished harmoniumist and percussionist. The power of bhajans create an atmosphere of true bhakti. The kathas delivered by the pundits are the centre of attention. Drawing from the stories of the Ramayana (mostly) they engage the devotees in a way that I don’t often see in standard American Hindu temples. There are exceptions here, but they are rare.At US temples people overindulge in socialising. No matter if it is a church, synagogue or mosque, members have to be constantly told to stop talking. However, at a yagna with over 500 in attendance at Hampton Court on the Essequibo Coast, all eyes and ears were on presiding Pandit Lalaram from the Bath Settlement, Berbice. They were also very kind to me when I was asked to speak.Visiting and staying with Swami Aksharananda allowed me to speak for an entire day to the students at Saraswati Vidya Niketan, a private Hindu School at Cornelia Ida. The behaviour of the children, their rigorous schedule and the quality of the teachers, all contributed to its status as one of the best in the country. If we could import that level of academic professionalism to the US we would have a greater nation. Fixed in memory is a trip to the Stabroek Market, where I was able to purchase a beautiful gold necklace from the most venerable jewellery merchants in Guyana. I was warned that this was not the safest place for a white foreigner, but I was fortunate to have Swami with me.The purpose of my trip was to investigate the challenge that the Hindu community is dealing with what we call predatory conversion. While acknowledging the sanctity of a person’s decision to move from one religion to another, we know that some religious groups use methods on individuals and communities to persuade them to adopt a religion they wouldn’t normally join if not for pressure. This coercion can come in the form of bribery, medical aid, professional gains, etc. It was thought that a white American who did, in fact, leave his birth religion of his own accord to embrace Dharma might have a positive impact on the devotees who have to deal with ideas of superiority that the European explorers took with them to their colonies. In my conversations with retired lawyer and Guyanese-Canadian writer, Ram Sahadeo, we discussed a lecture tour I completed back in 2005 when I crisscrossed much of India’s northeast states, speaking at local temples, schools and public venues in an attempt to resist the rampant predatory conversion practices there. There seemed to be much interest in our mission in Guyana. Several good connections were made and many ideas were discussed but much more coordination is needed to combat this problem using the Gandhian principle of Ahimsa.Anyone interested in a more detailed report can contact me at [email protected],Fred StellaMember,NationalLeadership CouncilHinduAmerican Foundation