Steve Braunias: The man who ate Lincoln Rd hears the word of God

Steve Braunias is on a mission to eat at each of the 54 food joints on Lincoln Rd in West Auckland. • Episode 38 (and food joints 50 and 51): Punjabi Kitchen, Laidlaw College cafe
I wasn’t there for the food so much as the hope that I might have some kind of spiritual experience. Photo / Michael Craig
I wasn’t there for the food so much as the hope that I might have some kind of spiritual experience. Photo / Michael Craig

The man who ate Lincoln Rd asked as to the whereabouts of God at a couple of food joints on Monday. At one of them someone said sorry he's not here right now, and someone at the other one said He was the reason they'd made the pilgrimage to the Holy of Holies - Lincoln Rd.

First I had lunch at Punjabi Kitchen, in a block of shops next to Chiko's Kitchen and in front of Mazuran's wine cellar. I ordered the $11 chicken korma, which came with rice and naan. It was very nice, a good, solid meal, as expected - the online reviews are consistently very high.

But I wasn't there for the food so much as the hope that I might have some kind of spiritual experience. I'm nearing the end of my mission to eat the entire length of Lincoln Rd in 2016, and an anxiousness has taken hold: what if it's all for nothing? What if I complete the quest, fill my boots at every single food joint on that golden mile in west Auckland, and it's unfulfilling?

As I sat in the tastefully decorated, dimly lit restaurant, I stared out the window at some of the 45,000 cars that fume along Lincoln Rd every day, and looked for a sign. There were vehicles marked OFFALY CONTRACTORS and VERNON LOGISTICS and SIKA MARINE SILICONE and TEGEL and MAINFREIGHT - and then, behold!, a truck marked HEAVEN CONTRACTING.

Was it an omen, a portent? Was I about to meet some kind of heavenly father in Punjabi Kitchen? I had a word with the manager, Harkirat Sidhu, 22. He wore black pants and a black turban. He said that he was a Sikh, and worshipped Guru Granth Sahib.

I wanted to say, "Take me to your guru!" But I was discreet about it. I pointed to a brass statue of a figure at the door, and said, "Is that the guru?"

"Nah," he said. "It's just a statue."

There was a small carving of a figure on the counter. I said, "What about him?"

"Nah," said Harkirat.

He explained that Sikhs were vegetarian, but the menu at Punjabi Kitchen includes meat, so it would be sacrilegious or offensive to have an icon of the guru at the restaurant.

In which case I may as well have been in any old godless zone. I stomped down the street to a destination where God was a guaranteed presence - Laidlaw College, which offers study courses in theology and Christian ministry.

It's got a little cafe beside reception. I sat down with a cup of tea and a delicious slice of ginger cake, and waited for God. Nothing much happened so I mooched over to the next table and had a word with a beautiful African-American woman.

Laidlaw student Jacque Williams, 34, said she was praying at her Love On Fire church in Phoenix one day in 2014. Things were unsettled in her life; she'd been married for 10 years, but her husband had "a crisis of faith", and they'd divorced.

"I said, 'Lord, I will go anywhere you want me to go.' And God answered. He said, 'I have called you to New Zealand.'

"Well, I didn't expect that! I was shocked. I had no connection with New Zealand. Nothing. Nothing at all.

"I thought, 'What am I supposed to do when I get there?' I'm a speech therapist, but I didn't get the feeling that God wants me to go to New Zealand for work. I thought maybe God wants me to get educated in ministry.

"So I went home and googled, 'Bible colleges of New Zealand'. They all come up, and I'm instantly drawn to Laidlaw College. But I think, 'No, read them all. Save this to last.' So I looked at all of them and felt nothing. Nothing!

"I came to Laidlaw right at the end. It was the one for me. I knew it in an instant! That was in March 2014. I sold up, and moved here in December 2014."

The woman who God told to come to Lincoln Rd.

I regarded Jacque with something resembling awe, and thought: isn't Lincoln Rd my destiny, too? Haven't I sometimes felt supernatural forces as I've marched along that same stretch, over and over, every week for a year? The end is nigh; there are only three food joints left to experience; am I heading towards some unexpected enlightenment?

To the ratings. Punjabi Kitchen: 7.5/10, a point deducted for the absence of a divine being. The cafe at Laidlaw College: 9.5/10, a point added for the presence of Jacque's God.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 25 Feb 2017 20:26:18 Processing Time: 837ms