"When you open up your generosity to others, the universe finds way to bring it back."

There's a couple of stories for this post, so please bear with me if you don't care for the more rambly of stories. There's the story of how I got to Chow, and the story about the $6 hero special.

It was a viciously slumpy month for us, and we hadn't had many people coming in. Neither of us could figure it out. The food was good. The people working here were friendly and kind. The wait times to get said food was reasonable. So what gives? This is about the time that we started getting aggressive calls from the deals websites, where you would offer X amount of food for 1/2 the amount of cost.

What they don't tell you is that the business only sees about 1/2 of what you paid for that voucher. The site offering the promotion keeps the other half. It's essentially like a loan, but with even worse rates than the worst loan shark ever. You're selling food for half the amount that it's worth, and then only seeing half of that money that you sold the voucher for. However, when you're in a tight spot, you start to consider those things feasible.

I reached a point of frustration, and said, "What about the folk who come here every day? If we're willing to sell our food for a fraction of what it's worth, and consider it promotion budget (advertising budget), then why can't we just offer the savings directly to the customers?" "Good point", he said. So we hatched the $6 hero deal. You get just the sandwich (no cheese, no Chow Slaw, no pickle. Which also means that the packaging is slashed by 75%, because now you just need to pack the sandwich in a piece of parchment paper, some foil, and a paper bag if the customer wants. With the regular heroes, it's the slaw, placed into a ramekin with its lid, the pickle, wrapped in foil, a fork, because you need something to eat the slaw with, and then the bag to carry that whole shebang with you. Yipes!

At the end of the day, it was cheaper for us too. And it made it so that people got to try our awesome sandwiches. And it meant that we could give people exactly what they wanted. It also meant that during our historically slow times (between 12 and 2), we could get more people to come in. The response was spectacular. People loved the fact that they could get a Kosher, vegan, organic sandwich for the cost of a couple of cups of coffee at certain national branded coffee chain. What's even better is that if you really did want the pickle or the slaw, you could request the stuff and pay a little extra, at your option.

So Cliff said, "It's like when you open up to the world with generosity, the universe brings it back to you."

It inspired us to really take a look at our menu, and look at the things that have gone down in cost, things that are easier to have made, because now everyone knows how to do them, and where we could offer lower prices and keep the "extras" on the side. We went through and pulled back the cost of a couple of the tapas, decreased the cost of the hero (now $10 instead of $12, and the cheese is $2 extra; so many people didn't get the cheese that it didn't seem fair to charge them for something they didn't want). We also decreased the cost of some of the desserts (cupcake, pound cake, etc).

Again, it was about opening up our arms, and letting folk know that we're thinking about them. Since we started getting a better price for our organic sugar and flour, we could afford to cut back the cost of those two things.

So now, a sandwich costs $10 (normal price), and a cupcake is $2.75. For a little more than what you used to pay for just a sandwich, you get a sandwich /and/ a dessert. And so now, people are actually ordering them way more frequently than they ever have before.

Which kind of brings me back to how I started working here in the first place.

It was back in November of 2007, and Steve and I had just moved to New York city. He had a job at the time, and was pulling in decent money. I didn't have to work, but I didn't want to faff about the house, doing nothing at all. However, I did love to cook (always had) and had a few copies of my cookery book with me. My Steve had let me know that a friend of a friend was working for NYU SEAL (an animal rights club), and they needed help with cooking for about 50 people, on a $50 budget.

In Manhattan.

Also, nobody could afford to do it from a restaurant, because they didn't have that kind of money.

Also, they wanted it vegan, and local, and seasonal.

Also, they couldn't afford to pay me.

I wasn't bothered about the money. I just love a challenge like that. I let Ashleigh (this was the person in charge of the food) that not only could we feed everyone who came, but we could feed them rice, beans, salad, and a vegetable dish, along with some kind of apple crisp. Yes, for less than the $50.

She was thrilled, and offered to buy me lunch at my favourite restaurant: Sacred Chow. Every time I came up to New York, I would jump in a Taxi and ask to be taken to Sacred Chow for at least one meal there. And at the end of each meal, I'd get a sinner bar. When Ashleigh offered to take me there, I jumped at the chance, so that the two of us could meet in person, and chatter away at each other about the food.

Apparently, she could offer a kitchen in one of the dorms nearby. It was fairly ill-equipped, but we'd have a lot of helpers. Also, the helpers had plenty of heart. I realise that this all sounds like a bad movie script, but it all really did happen.

You see, when you grow up poor, one of the things that you realise early on is that you can't always offer money to a cause, even though you may feel strongly about its goals. So you offer your time, your talents, and your heart. My mother was very good at this. Every week, when the Hindu temple in South Florida was a house that the community bought together, and filled with an altar and the things needed for a temple, my mother would pile us all into the car hours before the services started, loaded with food (at least a rice dish, and sometimes a rice dish and a vegetable dish), and all the kids. We'd get there very early, clean everything up, make it look presentable, and set out the floor mats for the people to come in and sit on. Then, we'd leave hours after everything was done.

Whatever the other people did or didn't think of it, whether or not they gave her any credit for it, whether they were jerks (and they were) or decent humans (rare, if ever) about freely asking my mother (who had a budget about 1/10 of what most of them worked with) for food (seriously), my mother was there every sunday, with large amounts of food. Why? Because she knew how to take a few dollars, and make them feed lots of people. I share that talent.

Ashleigh and I chatted for at least a couple of hours, in the empty restaurant.


Someone had slammed the door to the basement.


"You guys should NOT be eating here. The owner is a HORRIBLE man, and exploits his workers." (Side note: turns out she was stealing. How charming, right? The boss is a lovely man, for the record.)


She reached the door. She walked out, and slammed the outside door.

The outside door that has one of those hydraulic things that keeps it from slamming.

Made impotent by the uncaring door, the girl kicked the door with all her might, and stormed off. Ashleigh and I looked at each other in stunned silence, and burst out laughing. The waitperson apologised profusely for that particular little scene, and we both let her know that it was too funny /not/ to laugh at.

At the end of the meal, I approached the waitperson, and said, "OK, so it looks like you'll need a new worker."

She asked me to drop off my resume the next day.

The rest, as they say, is history.

What I'm getting at is that I was at the right place at the right time. I was there, because through some weird unconnected events, I was giving of my time and talents to a cause I believed in. They didn't have much money, and had to feed many people on very little money. The food turned out fantastic. Everyone was very impressed that we managed it for such a small amount of money.

Fast forward to a year or two later. Ashleigh called me to place an order for catering from Chow for her SEAL organisation.

I met my darling husband, because I was sitting in a vegan chat room a few years back, and sharing my cooking techniques with people. They would say, "Dino, I've got ____, ____, and ___, and I'm hungry now. Can you tell me what to do with that?" And I would. I'd give them about five or six different options for the stuff they had around the house. Then they'd come back in 30 minutes, and rave about how the food was so good.

Later, when I needed a vegan wallet, and mentioned it in passing (because carrying the leather one was making me a little ill whenever I thought of where it came from), Steve piped up and let me know that he makes wallets, and that he'd be sending me one, for free, "... because you help so many people out in so many ways, and I'm happy to do this for you."

Five years later, that gesture of kindness turned into a marriage that's given me more love and happiness than I could have ever imagined possible. And now that it's legal for us to get married, we've booked the Judson church, where Steve proposed to me (again) on Pride Sunday to ask me to officially marry him.

I said yes.


"I don't care about the credit; I just want to be heard."

We had a customer who got a sandwich that she didn't like. Usually, in this situation, the waitperson would offer them a new one, offer to take it off the bill, or (in the case of delivery) send a new one to their house. Unfortunately, today was one of those particularly busy days, where there simply wasn't enough time to get out to her house to send a new one (she had ordered the sandwich to take with her).

She called up to let us know that the entire thing was just not to her satisfaction. The waitperson offered her a full refund. "I don't care about the credit; I want to talk to the chef. I just want to be heard."

How many times do we interact with people who just want to be heard? Often times, it's just being heard that will make a bad situation bearable. I was at an event a few years back where pretty much everything that could go wrong went so spectacularly wrong that the entire thing was ruined for me, and I vowed to myself never to darken their doors again. I wanted someone to listen to me rant and rave (this is before I had my blog, and you wonderful readers who are so lovely to listen to my rambling), so I called up the management. Since it was an event that my work was throwing, it's not like they could offer me a refund. Since the event was already over, and I was not in the mood to leave the house, they couldn't offer to fix it either.

I didn't care about the money. I just wanted to be heard.

The manager patiently let me vent my spleen, and apologised. She said that on the event day, pretty much all the staff that they count on (because, let's be honest: most places have like one or two people without whom disaster strikes) were out sick, and that things started going wrong one after another.

But all said and done, I felt like I got good customer service, because the person actively listened to my complaint, and let me know that it wasn't my fault, and that it would never happen again. At the end of the exchange, I felt better, and the manager knew that I wouldn't be spreading horrible things about her location.

I can't even count the number of times that it's happened with my family or my friends too. There are times when I'll have lunch with someone /solely/ because we're good listeners to each other, and it helps us to process our feelings, and get them out of our system. There are even times when Bossman and I chat to each other about various things going on in life.

It's not about the money; it's about being heard, and feeling that your thoughts are reaching someone who cares about what you have to say.

When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen. Don't talk or do - just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper, and I can do for myself; I am not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy. But when you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling.

And when that's clear, the answers are obvious and I don't need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them.

Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes, for some people - because G*d is mute, and he doesn't give advice or try to fix things. G*d just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn - and I will listen to you.


Bursting w Gay Pride!

Mucho, mucho love 2 all u same-sex loving couples all over the world; & especially 2 those wondrous couples living in the Great State of N.Y.! Lovely joy: Freedom rings! Place the ring on his finger; take the vow 2 love her till death do u part: Perfect husbands; intelligent wives; delicious summer weddings! Happy Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay Pride! Sacred Chow is bursting w Gay Pride!


"It's not you, it's her."

So this morning, Bossman snapped at me over something trivial. Understandable, seeing as how he'd just finished off a fairly busy night, and had a bit of a rough morning, navigating the privations of Unnamed Party Superstore on 14th to buy cartloads of aluminium trays for a catering order that's coming up.

He's also been frustrated with a mutual (mutual to me and him, that is) acquaintance. She's been grating on him for the past couple of months, and early this morning, she kind of pushed the wrong button at the wrong time.

Add to that the fact that it's been steadily (and blessedly) raining. While the temperature has been absolutely lovely, it has been a twitch wet out. All these things end up adding up to a perfect storm of annoyance, which manifests itself in ways that are unintended.

A lesser man would have let it go at that point, and pretended it never happened.

Bossman, however, is not a lesser man.

A certain unnamed child whom we all know and love had an Incident at school, where the teacher humiliated him in front of the whole class (again, over something fairly trivial), and made said child cry. When confronted on it by Bossman, she responded politely, but curtly (which is completely out of character to the warm, kind woman she'd been all year), and pretended like she never did anything untoward.

This is what's typical of most people.

It's really close to the end of the day (or what I hope will be the end of the day; it's been a rather long one), and he said, "It's not you, Dino. It's her." I knew exactly what he was talking about, and then we both laughed and moved on. That's what's typical for Bossman.

I feel like as I live longer, I learn more and more. There's nothing wrong with admitting that you might have been in the wrong. In fact, sometimes, it just takes admitting it to immediately seal any unintentional (or intentional!) wounds. Why? Because so many of us are so scared of being wrong that we would rather lose the person than lose that iota of pride.

However, I must disagree. You don't lose pride, or face, or anything else when you admit to something. You gain dignity. You gain the gratitude of the person who felt the slings and arrows (small though they may have been). You gain the knowledge that at the end of the day you /were/ right.

You were right about being wrong.

When I left home, and struck out on my own in New York, I did it in such a way that left my mother with hurt feelings. "Why didn't you tell me, so I could help you?" Not "why didn't you tell me so I could stop you". It was a sticky time. Fortunately, I ceded to her, and said, "What's done is done, and I'm sorry for that. What can I do to make it right?" "Come visit me in Connecticut."


I took frequent visits up to my sister's house in CT, and enjoyed myself tremendously. My mother and I grew ever closer. She moved to Arizona a couple of years back, but we do still keep in touch. I don't want to even think of how badly it could have gone, had I insisted on being "right".

I chose to be with the person.

A warm blanket from G-D.

There r a few things that I am feeling terribly grateful for, at this particular moment, so I wanted 2 express 'em.

One: I love my son Huxley, truly, w all of my heart, soul & mind - every second of every day. The time that I spend w Hux is exquisite; so fresh & loving. Of all the special & exciting wonders, discovered & undiscovered, in our magnificent world: Hux is a wonder 2 behold - his face, his laugh, his humor, his intelligence, his chess game, his kindness, his wittiness, his easiness towards friends & strangers. There r the 7 wonders of the world; & then, there is Huxley, my 9 yr old son.

Two, but very close 2 One: Sacred Chow. Growing, maintaining, & sustaining sanity...building Sacred Chow in to a biz that can finally w/stand the ups & downs of a very turbulent market, is nothing short of a miracle. If anyone of you know the history, most folks would have written Chow's obituary and filed it away many years ago. My whole being was forced 2 walk sideways in darkness, along a very, very narrow mountain passage-way; my hands frantically trying 2 grab hold onto anything that felt secure; here & there, I'd stop, breath, & thank the greater powers 4 my resilience, but not my predicament. However, I didn't stop. And being able 2 dig out from what felt like a very deep grave, & 2 feel the sun & love life & others again, and, 2 have reverence 4 the universe - is nothing short of an act of G-D. I have gained more than I dreamed was possible. I now see, going thru torturous times & not giving up, even though most have written u off as mad - brings you 2 a place of peace, love, serenity, & freedom. Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Sacred Chow! Thank you, 2 the core of my inner-being 4 that secret tiny lock-box that we all store deep inside: Thank you 4 allowing ur vibrations 2 be heard above all those head-trippy surface psycho-social emotional big baggage ticket items, which seem larger than the Empire State Building. Above all, if u manage 2 move carefully on that mountainous path, and 2 listen 2 the angels gliding all around u, and if u can really see the vision, and u somehow know u will get there - despite the head-triply stuff: U will. And once u r there, u'll find a glorious, joyous, wondrous, stupendous, miraculous....u. Message: Don't give up!

Three but equal 2 One: My dear, wonderful, supportive in every way conceivable: Mom, Harriet Preefer-Reitman. And since I must wind down, and get my tookus (Yiddish 4 a persons ass) a movin' & a groovin' 2 the miracle on Sullivan Street, like right now: I must stop. But, I need 2 say, although my earlier times w my mom were fraught with tears & hate filled innuendos...every thing, every thing, every thing, all of life's ups & deep, deep downs, take us 2 where r supposed to go. It's all preparation. So hold on to the edge, walk very carefully, and most importantly: Hug ur mom! Let her know that she is truly one of those rare, special moms: A warm blanket from G-D. And tell her: Thank you, thank you, thank you MOM, I love u!


mAkE lEsS vIoLeNcE: eAt PlAnT pRoTeInS!

True, true, true...
2 eat and not feel blue:
The only thing I do,
is dream of love & u.

U, u, u: Only u, u, u.
Nite & day,
Every day,
U, u, u.

Think of peace,
Freedom, love & peace:
All the time,
& in time,
It'll change ur mind.
U'll know deep down,
w a focused plan -
U can stop slavery,
& the carnivore cans.
It starts w me, & then w u,
& then w them:
4 a brand new end.

Spend ur love,
On world out there,
Once u do,
Folks will love u too.

Dream of days,
Where all the kids r free,
Free 2 be,
Never hungry.

Send ur love,
2 the meany men,
2 the folks who hate,
Don't deliberate.

Let's find the ways,
2 make life free.
Do it now,
Eat the sacred chow.


... because you helped me clean up so much.

"So I was mad at you for a moment for leaving that mess, but then I wasn't anymore. Know why?"

"Why, Bossman?"

"Because you've helped me clean up so much in other ways."

We've got an odd working relationship. Odd in the sense that it's not normal.

The norm in most industries is to have one person take all the credit for the hard work of others. It's infrequent that you hear those celebrity chefs on TV, the CEOs of major corporations, the presidents of countries, or anyone else in positions of power actively try to give credit to all the invisible people who make life easy. My boss is odd in that respect: he does offer credit where credit is due. He tells me (and the others working here) that we make the place run, that our ideas are valued, that /we/ are valued.

There comes a point when you've got to give people their due props for doing the right thing. I do so with my husband, with my family, my friends, etc. How often do I do that with my boss? Not enough! I guess I need to (as we all do) really step back and recognise that we're not islands. People are social creatures, who depend on each other for various things. Aside from signing my pay cheque, my boss is also infinitely patient, kind, and passionate about his work. It means that I'm working with someone who genuinely enjoys my company, my contribution to the food here, and my opinions.

It's nice to be wanted.

Above and beyond that, he's got this space where people feel like they've got an embarrassment of riches. I can't count the number of times that someone will come in (with gluten, soy, or sugar allergies), and say, "I can really have all of THIS!? That's amazing!" Of course it's amazing. Every time we make something, it's with the thought of "how many people can we make this safe and delicious for?" "How many seats can we make at the table, so that everyone can come and share a meal?"

How can you help but to look forward to coming to work?

So maybe it is an odd dynamic. But in a world gone mad, who wants to be sane!?


Sweet Potato-Cassava Dill.

When I was a student in cooking school, our soups teacher wanted to see what her students had in them. When we arrived in class, there were vegetables, fruits and fresh herbs of every sort laid out on a few large working tables. She then entered, and said: " Class, today you are making soup from your head. Figure it out and begin, you have 45 minutes.

Today, at Sacred Chow, we had run out of soup, so I decided to make the soup from soups class. And since it's so interesting, delicious and simple to make: I wanted to share it here. And take note: No gluten, sugar or soy!

Also, I really love the soups name, its sing song polysyllabic sound & origins. The soups roots are African- South American- Caribbean; and it's song: Sweet Po ta to Cas sa va Dill, just makes me sing and smile. If I changed it to say, cassava w sweet potatoes & dill, or any other variation, it just wouldn't have the same rhythm & soul.

Sweet Potato-Cassava Dill

1/4 cup, olive oil
3 large peeled onions, chopped fine
3 1/2 lbs of sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped into medium cubes
3 1/2 lbs of cassava, hard ends chopped off, & its cylinder shape cut into smaller pieces, then peeled till the slight yellow film from the skin is removed & only the white of the cassava remains. Cut into small round cylinders, then cut in half length wise. In the middle will be a woody vein. Cut into smaller pieces, to avoid injury, and remove veins. Then cut into similar shape as sweet potato.
24 ounces, coconut cream
1/4 cup, nutritional yeast
3 tablespoon, sea salt
2 teaspoon, black pepper
1 teaspoon, nutmeg
1 gallon, boiled water
1 bunch dill, place in a bowl of warm water to remove any grit, swish back & forth, let sit so grit falls to bottom of bowl. Remove dill gently from bowl, so you don't disturb grit. Let water drip free. Remove stems, & mince.

Place soup pot onto heated stove, let pot sit on heat for 2-3 minutes.
Next, throw in a few pieces of the chopped onion, if they sizzle, throw In the rest.
Mix onions well w oil, & sear till onions soften.
Next, place the cassava & sweet potato into pot, mix well w onions.
Place next 5 ingredients in pot, mix well. Then slowly pour in water. Stir pot carefully, and cover for 45 minutes or so, till sweet potato & cassava are soft.
Taste to see if more salt or pepper is needed.
If it tastes wonderful, add dill, stir, & serve.

This soup also works well as a bisque. So it is perfect to place it in a blender or use a stick blender, & blend till creamy. For extra texture, boil some cassava separately, and add to bisque.

Serves 15-20.


Bleat like a zygote.

In our most competitive race, it took a certain tangle & squiggle 2 bleat like a zygote. So u see, each one of us pushed & shoved ourselves 4ward till we entered the human race. It is an instinctual drive that then manifests itself in the spirit of our being. Here 2, we must squiggle our way 4ward 2 ascertain our true destiny & purpose. It's not any easier than our race 2 the zygote. But here, we have the opportunity 2 mix up the instinctual w the cerebral. Come 2 the table, sit, relax, contemplate ur journey. Make less violence: eat plant proteins.


Separate is not equal!

Time and time again, "democratic" western governments, particularly the U.S., prop up &/or shield corrupt, heinous dictators, 4 decades; & provide them w billions of tax dollars; while big biz digs 4 big profits & pays slave wages; & the dictators squirrel away considerable amounts of the wealth; & the majority of their fellow citizens live in dire poverty; & the tyrants henchmen r directed 2 commit atrocious crimes against humanity. Then suddenly something changes: And the "friendly" dictator falls from western grace. And the next government to come, perhaps, will hold free elections & move towards a "western style" democracy; or maybe, a new hungry wolf will come to power. Either way, nothing much will change for the majority of the republics citizens. Western powers only beat their war drums loudly when a strategic interest is at play. Quite telling is the chaos that has been engulfing the Syrian regime 4 the last few months. The regime has been killing their fellow country-folk 4 their uprisings against the regime's oppression. In this scenario, the west has remained relatively quiet. However, when a very similar uprising started fomenting against the oppressive regime in Libya, which has considerable oil wealth, the west immediately decided 2 aid the rebellion 2 topple the Libyan oppressor. And forthwith, western airman in fighter warplanes were ordered to bomb the dictator out of Libya.
Similarly, we read about billion dollar companies all over the globe, producing toxic products & by-products that irreparably harm consumers, our planet, the 7 seas, our fellow beings, our water supply, soil... While these harmful products r regulated, governmental approval & tax incentives allow 4 their massive proliferation, fossil fuels, rare earth minerals, fast junk food, cigarettes..., and provide unimaginable profits that flow directly into the government's pocket-book: Toxic tax $'s!
Unimaginable profits are also the end-game 4 communist China. China has the world's fastest growing imperialist agenda; the Chinese communist government is as big as big biz can get. Freedom 4 Chinese citizens 2 profit wildly has become a part of China's communist manifesto; but should any individual, tourist or citizen, speak out against any issue that is deemed harmful 2 the Chinese "communist" government: He or she may end up in a Chinese prison for a very long time. Unlike western democracies, autocratic regimes such as China & Russia, do not provide constitutional protections for their citizens. Nonetheless, the mantra of most governments worldwide, powered by big biz is: Profits, profits, & more profits.
So tyrant leaders thru democratically elected ones, & their powerful big biz lobbying kings & queens: Keep on the war-path 2 protect their wealth & profits at all costs. Similarly, big corporations often hide the truth about life threatening problems engendered in production of their output. As w these corporations, tyrant regimes & western governments interests tend to be vested in power & profit, as evidenced by the recent nuclear disaster in Japan. This resulted from government & big biz joining forces 2 concoct rich tax incentives 4 poor municipalities; a governmental nod 2 loosen construction regulations, & 1,2,3,4 nuclear power plants were allowed 2 be built in various tsunami prone regions. W/o the proper safeguards in place, the eruption of a major earthquake & tsunami created one of the most deadly nuclear disasters.
Once the power is in place, & the wealth well protected; the majority of humanity is deemed disposable. The folks with the wealth and the power work very hard to keep their power and wealth. In most western republics, the power stays with the politicians whose hands trade favors with the money that controls them; from Presidents to Prime Ministers to most members in government. But there r some western governments that r quite admirable in their ability to find a more equal path for all of their citizens, but far too few. The Scandinavians seem to be doing it almost right; just a small % of folks have much more than the majority. But despite this, the majority of the citizens in these republics r well fed, sheltered, educated and guaranteed health protection. This sense of safety is almost unrecognizable beyond these republics borders. W constitutional safeguards guaranteed, the mantra, in this beautiful corner of the world, is: Human dignity 1st.
In America, the disparity in wealth is reprehensible. In the wealthiest cities, there r folks that have nothing to eat, no place to live, and if they have fallen very ill, their only medical solution is getting better. A tyranny, a democracy: This is pure evil no matter where it is happening. But in the States, as in most western democracies, the wealth is available, pursuant 2 constitutional guarantees, to assure that all of the citizens have equal, not separate, housing, nutrition, health-care and education; yet the scales of justice are grossly out of whack. On a freezing N.Y.C. night, it is painful to see homeless folks huddling together, appearing so hungry & cold w seemingly no place 2 call home; & then juxtaposed nearby, u see & hear other folks, laughing so loudly, exiting one of N.Y.C.'s most exclusive & expensive night-clubs, in very fine clothes, & totally oblivious 2 the huddling, freezing, hungry folks under their feet. It's so out of whack: Dickensian poverty b4 our eyes.
The U.S. President has been well-schooled 2 fully comprehend the unconstitutionality between his White House world and this dire poverty. However, it's the promise of profits 1st, not equal dignity 4 all citizens, that wins elections, & keeps the tyrants, kings & presidents in power.
So 4 today, 2moro & the days ahead of us: Come 2 the table, sit, & contemplate the Sacred Chow. Give thanks 4 ur blessings. Let's think of the ways in which we can make less violence happen; & by doing so, little by little: That beautiful corner of the world will slowly make its way around the world. Make less violence: Eat plant proteins! Open ur mind: Come 2 table, sit, eat, & share ur ideas 4 constitutional challenges 2 wealth inequality. Unless, as a country, we work like a team, we will never work right. The degree of wealth inequality is unconstitutional; such a stratum, which clearly creates 2 class types: one class that has access to excellent health care, housing, education and nutrition; and a 2nd class that is either given an inferior choice or no choice. Equal access to the same excellent medical care, education, nutrition & basic housing is a fundamental right. This isn't about access to a hair salon, but rather crucial life issues from birth onward that create unequal & separate classes. A similar constitutional challenge can be found in the seminal Supreme Court case : Brown V. Board of Ed. This constitutional challenge created language applicable 2 wealth inequality. The Supreme Court concluded: "Separate school systems 4 kids w different skin colors is inherently unequal, & therefore unconstitutional." Here, an unequal class is created from the moment a child is born based on the child's parents wealth. These fundamental rights can not be based on the child's parents wealth, but rather on the U.S. Constitution, which states separate is not equal. Thus, separate access to education, shelter, nutrition & health care is not equal. To provide anything less is deny a persons right 2 equal protection under the constitution. And any institution that receives any degree of federal funding from hospitals thru universities, that deny equal access based on wealth status would be in violation the commerce clause. "Separate is not equal!" And thus, would be in violation of U.S. Law. Come 2 the table, sit & let's contemplate the idea of the Sacred Chow; and let's ponder the constitutional challenges that await the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court on issue of wealth inequality, like skin color, which denies equal access 2 rights that r constitutional. "Separate is not equal!" Come 2 the table!

I like onion sandwiches.

I came into the office with my breakfast, and bossman gave me an odd look. "I like onion sandwiches," I said matter-of-factly. He agreed that onion sandwiches are indeed a lovely treat.

My mother used to say that I would take forever to make yoghurt rice (and I still do, with my own home made soy yoghurt that I make every few days). It's significant, because in a South Indian home, yoghurt rice is a very common snack, meal, finish to a meal, whatever. You have it when you want something fast. I liked it with lots of chopped vegetables (tomato, onion, cucumber) and spices (mustard seed, cumin seed, urad daal, toasted in fat) and curry leaves. In other words, yoghurt rice would take me 15 minutes to make, while most people are content with yoghurt + rice, which takes five minutes to make.

I tell you all that to tell you this: my onion sandwiches are no different. I like things just so. First, I liberally rub a baguette with a clove of garlic. This gives the bread a most tempting garlicky taste. I split the bread in half, and fry the cut sides in olive oil over medium-high heat, so that they get a nice crispy crust on the inside, and get pillowy and warm on the outside. This way, when I bite in, the outside is not toasted, but soft and fluffy. While the bread is toasting, I slice off a couple of slices of white (and if I have it, red as well) onions, and salt them. I let them hang out in the salt until they're a little tender. If you slice your onions thinly enough (as you should), they should be salted in about three minutes.

On a warm summer day, it's a most refreshing treat.


Mixed rice

In South India, there's a tradition of what we call "kalantha saadam" (literally, mixed rice). It consists of a couple of basic spices, asafoetida, ginger, and then something else to mix through the rice. Today, at the restaurant, I made a version of coconut rice. Here's how:

8 cups rice, cooked
2 1/2 TB canola oil
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 big pinches asafoetida
4 cm chunk of ginger, grated
2 cups toasted sunflower seeds
2 cups of coconut (either grated fresh coconut, or dried coconut, toasted in the oven for five minutes)
Salt, to taste
Chiles, to taste

In a pot, heat up the oil. Add the mustard seeds, and wait for them to crack and pop. They'll likely have at least a few end up on your stove. This is not a problem. Add the cumin seeds and the asafoetida. The house will begin to smell fragrant and lovely. This is a Very Good Thing. Add the grated ginger, and the sunflower seeds, and toast for a few seconds.

Add the coconut at the last minute, and turn off the heat. You want the coconut to cook as little as possible (especially if it's fresh). At this point, add some red chile flakes, a bit of salt, and black pepper if you like.

Toss together with the rice (gently) so that all the rice grains are evenly coated in spices. It's absolutely lovely when served piping hot, with your favourite salad on the side. Lovely!


Fat is good, but not something you want too much of.

I was making a corn chowder yesterday, and I didn't want for it to have heinous amounts of fat, nor did I want to throw in starch (like wheat starch, corn starch, etc), because it doesn't really add much to the party with regards to flavour or nutrition. Interestingly enough, I was just talking to my mother over the weekend about how the cost of coconut milk has skyrocketed, and how it's getting prohibitively expensive.

Then, I started to do some digging. Every site that I see promoting silken tofu says that you can use the pureed stuff in cream soups, but then leaves it at that. Does that mean that you puree it, and then dump in a bunch of it? Do you puree it in the food processor, and use it as a thick creamy thing, or do you puree it in the blender, and let 'er rip with a bit of liquid of your choice, and stir it in? Can you cook it down, or should it be relatively uncooked? How about freezing or thawing or boiling or all kinds of other considerations? How much should you use?

First and foremost, let me make one thing clear: you don't /have/ to use silken tofu. You can, if that's what you have, but if you don't have any, or don't feel like tracking any down, just use whatever tofu you have lying around in the house, or whatever is cheapest at your market. You're throwing this into the blender to blend down to an absolute puree, so it doesn't really matter.

I'm just sick of all these recipes demanding that you use a particular thing, when it's not even necessary. Y'know, like those ones that ask you to use MELTED MARGARINE.* What is melted margarine? OIL. So why not use oil? It's infuriating. In the same way, since you're going to be blending the heck out of it anyway, just use whatever you have, and the heck with what everyone tells you to do.

Secondly, remember that tofu, when frozen, changes texture. This goes for pureed tofu, but far less so than for fresh tofu. This means that if you are going to be using tofu to replace cream, please use exactly however much you need, and use it up. Don't use frozen tofu. I wish that I didn't have to make this distinction, but I do, because not everyone is familiar with the stuff, and won't know not to do so.

Finally, if you are going to be using extra firm, or firm tofu, please don't cook it too terribly much. If you've ever had tofu that's been put into miso soup, and sat there, you'll know that the texture changes completely. For the best results, keep your tofu cream aside, and stir it in just before serving, or at the last minute to the pot of soup. If you do have silken tofu, and you grind it, you'll have more leeway to work with to make the magic happen.

How about the ratios? How much tofu to how much liquid?

Here's the exciting part. Yesterday, for two cups of coconut milk, I used about four pounds of tofu! Two cups is about the standard size of coconut milk can that you see in the store. This means that the coconut milk that you bought for however much can be stretched out with tofu and water to make far more than what you started with. To scale this back, it works out to about 1/2 cup of coconut milk per pound of tofu. This should provide you with enough cream to stir into a pretty decent sized pot of soup. This also means that you can scale this down further. You can use 1/2 lb of tofu for 1/4 cup of coconut milk, or 1/4 lb of tofu for 2 TB of coconut milk.

This means that people with less than normal food processors, or blenders (I'm looking at you, people with mini choppers who use them as food processors*) can still do the job, because you can scale down as far as you need to or scale up as needed.

So. Recipe time, right?

Corn Chowder

1 tsp canola, peanut, or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 1/2 tsp thyme
2 medium potatoes, diced
2 ears of corn, taken off the cob
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (or, lots more if you're like me and love black pepper in chowder)
2 cups of water

Tofu cream
2 TB coconut milk
1/4 lb tofu

In a stock pot, sautee the onions over medium high heat until they become translucent. Add the thyme in with the onions, and stir everything around until the herbs are evenly distributed with the onions and the fat. You do this so that the essential oils from the thyme have a chance to release their flavours efficiently.

While the onion cooks, chop up the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. Since there's only two potatoes, you should be able to do this relatively quickly, even if you're a slow chopper. When the onions are cooked, add the diced potatoes, and stir the veggies around in the pot until everything is evenly combined. Drop down the heat to medium low, and put the lid onto the pot. While that hangs out and cooks slowly, take the kernels of corn off of the cob. When the potatoes have cooked for 7 minutes in the pot, add the corn, water, salt, and black pepper. Increase the heat to medium high again.

While the water comes up to the boil, combine the coconut milk and tofu in a blender. Blend until the tofu is pureed smooth. Add water (from the soup pot) to thin out the tofu cream, until it resembles the consistency of a thick heavy cream. Turn off the heat once the potatoes are tender. Let the whole thing sit for about five minutes to cool a bit. Stir in the cream, and serve immediately, with a rain of lovely freshly ground black pepper, chives, or soup crackers, as suits your fancy.

The reason that I'm a fan of using tofu instead of all coconut milk is twofold: for one thing, the tofu adds protein to the mix. Yes, I am well aware that the coconut milk, corn, and potatoes all contain protein of their own. However, the tofu does have a good fair bit of concentrated protein that will boost up the whole thing. Also, the tofu means that I can reduce the amount of fat that I'm using. In the past, for a recipe like this, I would have cheerfully used 1/2 cup of coconut milk. I've managed to cut back on the coconut milk drastically, and still keep that rich, creamy texture that I like. I've also not gone off the deep end to the other extreme, where I'm afraid of fat. Coconut milk and olive oil/canola oil/peanut oil are healthy fats. When used in moderation, they're good for the body, and help absorb fat-soluble vitamins. They are a vital part of your diet. While you don't want to overdo them, you also don't want to avoid them completely.

Besides. Fat tastes good. Just because I'm eating healthy doesn't mean that I have to eat like I'm sick, right? I can still enjoy the things I like while making minor substitutions which improve the overall food, while not going to any extremes. I hope you will also agree with me, and give the recipe a try! Corn chowder is absolutely delicious, and the perfect way to use up all that lovely corn that's coming into season.

*For the record, I'm using these lines in a humorous fashion. It's not meant to offend, or to seriously call into question how people like things, or do things. Sometimes, in the written word, the tone is not always clear. Let me make it clear now that it's meant to be taken in a jokey manner, and not in a ranty manner.


Classic Coconut Buttercream Layer Cake. Vegan & G.F!

I just love experimenting. And in the last few weeks, I have been feeling freer than I have felt in ages. Oh, there are many good reasons. Building a biz ain't no easy joy ride. Struggling, no matter the circumstance, is painful. When Chow opened on Sullivan St., after moving from Hudson, the day we opened the door, the tax man cometh, claiming that the closed down Chow on Hudson was a restaurant, & therefore owed sales tax near $400,000. He was willing 2 negotiate, however, as I had just built out an entire space from scratch & customers were not finding their way to the till: I had but a nickel & a dime. Not a good starting point to negotiate from. Feeling like Sisyphus w his giant boulder being pushed down the mountain every time I was a few more feet ahead, did not lend itself 2 a laser-like focus on growing the new biz. To the contrary, I felt like I was being drowned & could barely breath; the directions 4ward, pulled from my hands, I was completely lost. I had moved the biz, placed my bets, and was left w but a couple of pennies. More or less, I was totally impoverished, financially & emotionally. Vendors, staff, Con Ed, insurance, Verizon...had to get paid; the landlord just wouldn't stop posting his 3 day notices to vacate. "How could this happen? I mournfully thought, every second of every day. "No! Please! I am pleading w u higher holy power: No more begging, borrowing, lying and stealing!" But on it continued or Chow would have died. All was definitely not going according 2 Hoyle!
But I would not let go, no matter how heavy the burden; and woe-man, it was heavy beyond measure. Most folks with any degree of self-respect, or annihilation anxiety, of which I had plenty, would have closed the doors & moved 2 the mountains; or to the top of the Empire State Building, and down she goes! The tax man never relented, but there was nothing 2 give, so I stalled & lied 4 over 4 years. I also went to multiple hearings and wrote a brief, as I am an attorney w 2 bar exams behind me. Not exactly a walk in the park.
In my inner, inner, inner, deep down, down, hidden waaaaay far back in a stored away fantasy place: Chow was a global enterprise. But I was a broken down truck on the side of the road. Despite it all, I maintained a Sisyphean stance, cheered on by my number one guy, my favorite person in the whole wide world, who believes more than anything that his daddy can push the biggest boulders up & over the top of any mountain.
Fast 4ward: Issue w the tax man, resolved! Chow, strong as Hercules! The darkness, flickers w tons of candles. Feeling safe? Hmmm? Safer!
Life unravels mysteriously b4 us, & what seems & feels like "the end" is really just a new beginning; the rivers of creation, here in life & its movement in2 the ever-flow, expands & builds the heavens endlessly. If we r fortunate enough 2 live in a democratic republic, & have an adult or 2, in our childhoods that fill us w a degree of positive imaging & love; then the lessons we need 2 learn along the way, will happen, if we listen carefully, and believe, from the core of our being, that we exist w a purpose that transcends the impossible. The impossible is not impossible! But still, our creation, our purpose, our meaning, our being... life: Ends, 2 begin again. A journey in2 the never-ending.
And what about the classic coconut buttercream layer cake, vegan & G.F.? It's delicious! Better than I ever imagined, or perhaps that is the way I imagined it. Yes, delicious, free of cruelty, safe 4 celiacs, vegans, kosher, lactose intolerant folks... Nice!

Halva-Nutella Hero.

When I hiked in the Negev Desert, in southern Israel, I always chowed down, after my hikes, on this amazing sandwich made from crusty, chewy bread, that was spread thick, w something like a hazelnut nutella, & then enclosed w a dense slab of sweet-vanilla halva. Oh my! I could have eaten this wonderful, texturally pleasing, palate sensation, it seemed, 4ever. It was one of the most satisfying, enjoyable mouth-feeling combinations I had ever concocted.
I love thick chocolaty-nutty textures. I adore fresh, chewy, crusty, teeth-pulling breads. And halva, for me, has such a sensually exciting taste & texture. Combining these 3 foods 2gether created an experience I continue 2 salivate over.
The bread was outstanding just by itself, as was the spread & halva. But the neutral taste of the bread along w its exceptional chew made it perfect 4 spreading this peanut buttery smooth, thick nutty chocolate cream; & then, positioning in between, this sweet wedge: the sawdusty dry, super-rich, hard-crumbly halva.
The Negev is an outstanding place to go hiking: swift gazelles glide by; Bedouins on camels mysteriously slink thru; glorious colors bounce off the Mountains of Moab & the Judean Hills; there r caverns filled w wonderfully soft limestone powder 2 hike thru; sudden rainstorms create stunning Wadis; lone indigenous inhabitants build little wood-fueled fires under large round pans, in which they bake & sell 2 travelers, warm, tightly rolled up, charred-speckled, tube bread...But nothing beat: Stopping 2 rest after a long hike, & chowing down my Halva-Nutella Hero.


Comfort their darkness.

Let me hold ur hands in mine, my sweet friend: I adore u. We r a part of the glorious, fortunate few: Here, 2 love life & 2 help each other help others, in their darkness. W hands united, we commit our lives 2 finding the ways, big & small, 2 making less violence happen. A sacred vow placed in2 the spirit of our souls; star dust enters gravity, the universe nods its approval, sperm meets egg: Birth. Life, reason, mindfulness heard: " b4 the next journey in2 the far reaches of the beyond, beyond: Here, comfort their darkness, shower them w warm, nourishing, sustainable love, & sacred chow."