Monday, July 21, 2014

Manipulating Light (and how it nearly broke me)...


As you may have figured out by now I am fascinated by photography for so many reasons. And the more I learn about it the more I am understanding that it is (A) all about light, and (B) learning how to manipulate light. With that in mind, these are a few photos I shot with an ND filter (which is sort of like putting sunglasses on your camera)...it allows you to take really long exposures in the day time. And when photographing something like moving water it sort of slows it down. But the interesting thing about this series (I think) is how they came about. I really wanted to photograph some moving water and the closest (other than the Niagara River) is Serenity Falls in Forest Lawn Cemetery. I had never been to this particular location and after finding it I was a bit surprised to see that I had to traverse a small and muddy incline. With my tripod and camera slung over my shoulder I took one step, and then another. My third step slipped out from beneath me and for a brief moment I was airborne, only coming to rest on my camera and tripod which were on my back (ouch!). I then proceeded to slip and slide and sort of roll down the muddy path until I came to rest on the edge of what is known as Serenity Falls. Is the name a sort of joke, I wondered? Anyhow, after regaining composure (I was by myself) and brushing myself off a bit, I was able to check my camera to see that it was not broke. Nor was I...but I am rather sore today.  And this is what happened just before snapping these photos.




Urban Simplicity.

Sometimes only white bread will do...


So as you likely know if you've visited this blog before, I bake and eat a lot of bread but rarely the white variety. But sometimes the soft squishiness (yes, that is a word) is all that will suffice. An example of this is when making sandwich loaf (yes, that's a thing also...these are the types of things one must make when working at a private club). To make a "proper" sandwich loaf the bread must be white of course, but also soft and airy. So if you are the type of person that enjoys really soft white bread (soft enough to rival store-bought) then this recipe is for you. Keep in mind that unlike store-bought bread--with its dough conditioners and preservatives--this will only stay really soft and squishy for a day or two. Nonetheless, this is a really delectable loaf.

 
Butter and Egg Bread
Makes 1 loaf
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups bread flour
2 large eggs
3 tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 lightly beaten egg

Combine the water, milk, yeast, sugar, and 1 cup of flour; stir to form a batter. Allow to ferment for 1 hour. Stir in the 2 large eggs and melted butter, then add the remaining 2 cups of flour along with the salt. Mix then knead the dough for 10-12 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl at room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow it to ferment for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Remove the dough from the bowl, shape it into a loaf, and place it into a lightly oiled bread pan. Preheat an oven to 350F while waiting for the bread to rise (about 45 minutes). Brush the bread with the beaten egg and bake it for about 30 minutes, or until golden and sounds hollow when tapped upon. Remove the bread from the oven and it's pan and allow to cool before slicing. This recipe can be multiplied.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another face, another very real story...


"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Matthew 25:35-36

This post is a continuation of one I wrote nearly a month ago regarding the homeless in our city (click here to read it). In that post I mentioned witnessing a women being verbally abused while asking a group of young party goers for some spare change, and also of a man I spoke with who asked me for money on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He told me that he worked full-time (for minimum wage) but still had to beg on the street to support himself. The image above is of Sarah. I met her today while out on my bike. When I saw her sign it was as if my bike stopped itself. After giving her some cash she seemed a bit apprehensive when I asked her if I could take her photo. I told her that I have a blog, work as a chef, and am also an interfaith minister...she then looked at me like I was a bit crazy (and rightly so). Anyhow, we both relaxed and we had a nice but brief chat, this is her story. She's a single mom just as the sign reads. She and her daughter are currently squatting in an undisclosed vacant house with a few other people. They eat mainly at food pantries and with money she earns on the street. She became homeless after her father--in an alcoholic rage--threw her and his grand daughter out in the middle of the night. She has had difficulty getting/holding a job because she suffers from crohn's disease and is concerned about her daughter's safety. I have always been moved by seeing people on the street. And as a person of faith I literally cannot help but respond. But in my own personal view I am not doing enough. While I believe that all faiths speak the same truth, I call myself a Christian. And to me, being a Christian is not just about going to church on Sunday mornings, it is a call to action. If I truly were to live out the gospel I would have emptied my wallet to Sarah (OK, I nearly did...but trust me it wasn't much; I rarely have more than a few dollars on me), or I would have helped in other ways. Tonight when I lay my head on my pillow in my own home with a full belly Sarah and her daughter will be in an abandoned home somewhere. And yes, I am fully aware that she and others I have spoken with and given cash to may be making this all up, that they may in fact be asking for money to support a drug or alcohol habit. But then again, maybe they are not. And if they are not I can't help but wonder how I couldn't be doing more. Because seriously, as you read this, think about it...what if their stories are true. I'll get off my little soapbox now, but not before I ask you to watch the below video (it's only a little over a minute long).



Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

When Buffaloes Fly...recollections of chicken wings


By now most of you reading this know that I was born, raised, and in fact still live in the great city of Buffalo, NY. I moved away a couple times but have always found my way home. And while we (as a city) have an incredibly rich culinary tradition, we are—for better or worse—known for chicken wings. In Buffalo they of course are not known as “Buffalo wings,” just simply wings. I didn't think of them as a regional specialty until I was in my early twenties when I had moved away and someone first referred to them as such. You may have heard these stories before—in person or in print—as I've previously told them, but I made wings for staff lunch a couple days ago and I thought of this again.

Anyhow, the first time I had heard of them referred to as Buffalo wings I was in a music store in Nashville, TN. It was the mid-1980’s and I was buying a cassette (remember them?). Noticing my “yank accent,” the clerk asked me where I was from. When I told him Buffalo his eyes lit up and he asked me two things: if I was familiar with the band The 10,000 Maniacs and if I liked Buffalo wings. It sounded odd to me because I had never heard of them referred to as such. I'm sure I was smirking a little when I told him that I did. It hadn’t occurred to me that chicken wings—as a fried food—were unique to our region. I just assumed everyone ate them, like fries or hot dogs or hamburgers.

A couple years later I landed a job as cook at a French restaurant in New Orleans. One day the house butcher brought me a bowl of raw chicken wings. Normally they went into the chicken stock but this day he had saved them upon the sous-chef's request. The sous-chef, who I feared more than the chef (primarily because the chef never spoke to me, or screamed at me like the sous chef), wanted me to make the staff wings for lunch. He knew I was from Buffalo. Most of the kitchen crew were Cajun and loved the spiciness of the sauce.

“Take some to the chef, he’s in his office,” suggested one of the cooks. Terrified, and with hands shaking, I walked into the office with the sous chef and set down a plate of steaming wings, complete with celery, carrot, and made-from-scratch blue cheese dressing. I rarely had the opportunity to talk to the chef let alone feed him. “Qu'est-ce que c'est?” he inquired. The sous-chef told him in his native French that I was from Buffalo (pronouncing it boof-ah-loh) and that these were our delicacy. The wings, he told him were tossed with sauce piquante monté au beurre (spicy sauce mounted with butter). He also warned that they were trés piquant. Speaking in English (a language, I was told, he detested and spoke only in necessity) the chef told me he’d been to Niagara Falls, then picked up a drumstick and bit in. About 10 seconds passed before he pushed the plate away, and in what seemed like desperation, chugged the remainder of his ever-present glass of wine. Panting, he questioned “Shit, why so #!&¢!# hot.” Hey, I thought, he was warned they were trés piquant, and I only made them medium.

At any rate, I feel I don't need to mention the origin of this simple food as it has been in the media countless times, but the recipe for them is about as simple as one can get...simply deep fry some chicken wings (no flour nor seasoning required) and toss them in a mixture of melted butter and Franks Hot Sauce. Sure there are going to be people who claim to have a “secret recipe,” but there really is no such thing...butter and hot sauce are all that are required (though additions of garlic or onion powder or a plash of vinegar are tasty enhancements). 

Traditional Wings 

Preheat enough vegetable oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit to fry as many wings as you see fit. While the wings are frying melt a good sized piece of whole butter in a large bowl and swirl in Frank’s Hot Sauce. When the wings float and are crispy and cooked throughout, remove from the hot fat. Drain them and toss with the butter and hot sauce. 

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

H.H. Richardson's Beautiful but Incredibly Eerie Asylum...


So I normally do not post this many photos at one time but couldn't help myself (sorry). Last evening I was riding by bike past the H.H. Richardson Complex and the light hit the building(s) at just the right point that it quite literally stopped me in my tracks....the moon was already out and the clouds were incredible. These buildings, or more specifically, this complex is also known as the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and originally as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane when it opened in 1880, are straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. While there is a newer part of the complex which still functions as a hospital, these buildings haven't been in use since the 1970's. It was late evening just before the sun set and it was intense on the stone buildings...it made it (to me) seem even more eerie (not to mention the entire area was devoid of people). I did meet one gentleman who was birding...there are peregrine falcons nesting in the towers and can actually be seen if you look close (they are visible in 3 of the photos, and one shows one flying between the towers). Anyhow, I rode my bicycle around the circumference of the complex trying to catch the light as it faded. I shot a few dozen photos but these are a few of my favorites that I thought I'd share. If you like night shots, here's a couple dramatic ones I took of the towers last autumn. Click any for a slightly larger view.

















Urban Simplicity.