Sunday, April 19, 2015

Silo City...Inside and Out

Yesterday evening I rode down to Silo City in Buffalo's Old First Ward to take part in Boom Days. It was such a lovely evening I went to watch some of the bands, particularly the Alison Pipitone Band (pictured below), and to take some photos. Well shortly after I arrived the beer truck ran out of beer (egad!). Luckily I knew one of the bartenders and she was knid enough to find one beer for me. Anyhow, after watching the band for a while I walked around and took some photos of the grain elevators. I was surprised that they were open, so I went inside as well. And as I was in there I couldn't help but think of the generations of men and boys that worked their lives away in these elevators, and indeed, in some cases even lost their lives there. I took dozens of photos but not all came out as it was evening and progressing into night. I did have my tripod but only set it up twice. So most of these photos were shot hand-held. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Buffalo-Style Tofu Nuggets!

Okay, so I have posted this recipe before, but not in quite a while. Anyhow, I made this for lunch at work the other day and was reminded how good this is and was prompted to post it again. This is so easy to make, and yes (before you ask) the nuggets can be baked rather than fried (I've tried it both ways), the nuggets will be equally delicious just not as crispy. They can be eaten as a snack hot, cold, or at room temperature, or on a salad or in a sandwich. But you'd better make a double batch because they won't last long...

Buffalo-Style Tofu Nuggets
1 (14 oz.) extra firm tofu
1 cup Franks hot sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons granulated onion
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
oil for pan-frying

Drain the tofu and remove it from its package. Place the tofu between two plates and allow it to gently press out some of its moisture for about twenty minutes. Then dice the tofu and place it in a shallow pan. In a separate bowl, mix together the hot sauce, cornstarch, onion, and garlic, making sure that the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Pour this mixture over the tofu and gently lift and move it to insure that is fully coated. Allow it to marinate for about 20 minutes. Then remove the tofu from it's marinade to a clean plate. Heat about 1/2” vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. And when the oil is hot carefully add the marinated tofu. Fry for about 5 minutes, turning as necessary, or until golden and crispy. Transfer the crispy tofu with a slotted spoon to absorbent paper.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A few things I saw while riding my bike today...

Urban Simplicity.

Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips...

A few turnips, a beet, some water, and a little salt. That's it. That's all you need for this really healthy and bursting-with-flavor recipe. The classic recipe (below) also includes a hot pepper and possible some onion, but I didn't want that in this one...I wanted the brightness of the vegetable itself. 

It's interesting in that as I was slicing the beets and turnip I was listening to The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper and one of her guests today was Maureen Abood, the Lebanese-American author discussing her new book of Lebanese food (it's also on my personal book list). Serendipity, I suppose.

Anyhow, the image above is of the vegetables just added to the saltwater brine; they are not fermented yet. They were just added to the crock, and with warmer temps they should only take about a week to ferment. The single beet will color everything a lovely magenta; I'll post a pic of the finished recipe. 

Anyhow, if you would like more Lebanese-inspired recipes, click here; for more recipes that are fermented, click here; and if you would like to read an article on fermentation, click here.

Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips

8 turnips, peeled and sliced
1 beet, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 jalapenos, peeled and sliced
4 cups water
2 tablespoon kosher salt

Combine the turnips, beets, onions, and jalapeno in a container that is wide enough to fit a few small plates. Press down on the vegetables with your hands to release some of their juices. Combine the water and salt in a bowl and pour over the vegetables. Weight the vegetables with plates; they should be completely covered in salt water. Cover and leave at room temperature. Small bubbles will appear within 2 or 3 days, after about a week or so it will begin to smell and taste distinctively sour. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen the turnip will take between one and three weeks to sour completely. Taste it as often as you like and when the flavor is to your liking transfer the container to the refrigerator to slow its fermentation. 

This is Qulee...

This is Qulee. He and I had coffee together this afternoon, but I have to tell you the back-story for this to have any significance.

I had just been to a beautiful worship service at the church of which I'm a member; it felt really good to be there because—for various reasons—I hadn't been to worship in about a month. I had then stopped for a coffee afterward, as I often do. And as I was sitting enjoying my coffee and reading about a few continuing ed classes I may enroll in I noticed Qulee enter the store. The reason I noticed him is because when he came in he didn't go to the counter and order anything, but instead sat down and started to have conversation with himself. I went back to reading.

About 10 minutes or so after this, Qulee says in a somewhat soft spoken way, “Hey mister, can you buy me a cup of coffee?” So there I am feeling warm and fuzzy from the aftereffects of a great worship service and reading about spiritual classes I want to take—I also know that I have a ten dollar bill in my wallet—and I am always spewing to anyone who will listen that we as humans are all equal and connected in some unfathomable way, and then someone with no money (I'm assuming) asks me to by them a cup of coffee.

This, I am fully aware, is a minor thing to some, but to me it is not. How could I possibly say no.

After getting him his coffee we went back to our chairs (not at the same table). I went back to reading. After a few minutes he then asks what I do for work. I work as a cook to support myself, I told him, but I'm also a writer, photographer, and minister; he seemed impressed. He then thanked for the forth time for buying his coffee. You're very welcome, I told him, and then asked if I could take his photo and hear his story to post on my blog. He immediately jumped up, struck the pose in this photo, and said, “I'm naturally photogenic, what do you want to know?” And this is what I found out...

Qulee (not sure if I'm spelling it correctly) is a West African name, that's where his father was from. He has been in a number of places, most recently in Los Angeles where he started having panic attacks and subsequently found it difficult to hold a job. He currently attends ECC full-time, but spoken word is his true passion. He went on to tell me that he wanted to use his spoken word poems as a way to connect and help others on the street and in the community. He also says that his panic attacks often affect his concentration and it pulls him off track, but he will keep trying because that's really what he feels he was put in this place for, it's what his personal mission is. He kept talking and talking—to the point that he apologized for talking—and finally I had to go.

It's interesting, I think, the way chance encounters happen, but even more so, the circumstances in which we each find ourselves. Things that have happened in my life, for example—the good and the bad—have shaped me to be the person that I am today, just as your experiences have with you. And in this case, so too have they with Qulee. Before I left I told him that I truly hope that he finds the peace and solace to put what's in his head and heart onto paper. I also asked him to remember me when he becomes famous. And with a big grin, he said he would.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Five or twelve quotes from Ram Dass...

Image found here.

 Born Richard Alpert 84 years ago today.

“We're all just walking each other home."

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

“The most exquisite paradox… as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can't have it. The minute you don't want power, you'll have more than you ever dreamed possible.”

“Be here now.”

“Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.” 

“Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.” 

“The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can't be organized or regulated. It isn't true that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.”

“What you meet in another being is the projection of your own level of evolution.” 

“The next message you need is always right where you are.” 

“We are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another.” 

“It's very different because the Indians live as if they are their souls and Americans live as if they are their egos.” 

“Everything in your life is there as a vehicle for your transformation."

 More five quotes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Paschal Moon (again, but full this time)

I first posted a picture of this moon--the Passover/Easter moon--here, posting about it's relevance to both Easter and Passover and thinking I wouldn't get a chance to see it full. But then last night, amidst a rather turbulent sky, the clouds parted just long enough for me to get a few shots. And here is one of them. Click it for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Our Lady of the Blessed Cupcake...

It's Easter Sunday and I didn't go to church today, but I did last night. I along with a small group of people stood in the snow and passed out cupcakes in front of gay bars. But I'm jumping ahead, which I sometimes do; I'll begin again.

I first heard of this event when it was posted on Facebook a few days ago; it was called the Christian Cupcake Mob (and was picked up by local and national media). It was spearheaded by Rev. Drew Ludwig, Pastor at Lafayette Presbyterian Church, and backed by Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, Executive Director at Coalition for Economic Justice. It was their natural response as Christians to do something when they heard about the “religious freedom act” in Indiana which makes it legal for businesses to refuse a person solely on their sexual orientation. And I believe it began when a bakery refused to sell a gay couple a wedding cake, that it was somehow “un-Christian.” So last night—in a show of solidarity to our LGBT brothers and sisters—we stood in the pouring snow and handed out cake. No preaching. No attempted conversions. No strings attached. Just humans offering free cake to other humans (and laughs and conversation as well).

The event was filled with love and laughter (we had to have a sense of humor given the sudden incredible snow). This was a perfect example—whether certain people care to acknowledge it or notthat we are all children of the same divine source, and in fact connected to one another in some incomprehensible and unexplainable way. The lives of the LGBT community are just as sacred and equal as everyone else's. And for the literalist out there, Jesus never refused anyone; he was about welcoming, not turning away. Christianity is based on inconclusiveness (no matter how it may get highjacked at times).

And so last night this was our church. This is what I thought as I looked around at all the shivering but smiling faces. What could be more sacred than the joyful acknowledgment and worship of the equal divinity in each other. So that is what we did...stood in the snow and handed out cupcakes. We talked, laughed, and a few hugged. But I couldn't help think, as I watched the cupcakes being passed out, that in some casual way this in itself was some sort of Holy Communion. Instead of thin flavorless wafers that suck the spit out of your mouth, or even a loaf of bread, the Host on this night was a simple cupcake. If Jesus could ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (which was a political statement in itself), then his loving consciousness could be manifest through cake in front of a gay bar on a really snowy night. And the street was our altar.

"For where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst."
Matthew 18:20

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A few things I saw while riding my bike today...

I rode my bike to Tift Nature Preserve this morning. And it is really interesting on a few levels. One is that the nature preserve is located within the city limits but when there you have the feeling of being in the country. And to get to it (by bike) one has to ride through an industrial section (which is also teeming with wildlife) and past the Outer Harbor. Anyhow, I took a bunch of photos, here's a few of my favorites.

Urban Simplicity.

Food Not Bombs!

As I rode my bike through downtown this morning I passed the good people from Food Not Bombs offering a free hot meal and free produce to anyone who needs it or would like it. They are in Lafayette Square every Monday and Saturday no matter the weather. With all the negative news in the press these days it is really heartwarming to see good people doing good (and asking nothing for it). For more information about Buffalo Food Not Bombs, click here or here.

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The lake at sunset (words and pictures)

I stood on the shore of the lake at sunset.
And beheld its beauty.
The sun set and the moon rose.
A cycle that the lake has known from the very beginning.
It was cold while the wind swept over me.
I had come to find solace; a reprieve from my daily life.
And I did.
I was on the farthest end of the lake in Buffalo.
Was this the same wind that also blew through Toledo, Cleveland, Erie?
Seagulls seemingly hung in the air as they glided into it.
I tried to imagine this place before European explorers.
Proud Iroquoians plying the water in canoes.
Living near the lake's shore.
And what must the first Europeans have thought?
Surely they were in awe.
Just as I am still.
As the original natives were.
But did they feel this wind.
This same wind.
As it washed over me like a baptism.
Washing away my worries.
They must have; how could they not?
It is said that God whispers in the wind.
And tonight She was.

Urban Simplicity.