Add Some Brown Sugar

I’ve been looking up meatless recipes for Lent to send to parishioners on my mailing list for Fasting for Food Security.  I was just thinking about adding some of the Burque JVs’ favorite recipes, but I realized that most of the time, our favorite recipes include a lot of improvisation.  So I’ll just give you a recipe from Casa Amadea!

JV Regular Lenten Dinner


Whatever is in your fridge and cupboards


1. Soak a whole bunch of beans overnight.  As soon as you come home, put them on the back burner, and please don’t leave, because burnt bean juice smells terrible.

2. Meanwhile, take all the vegetables out of the fridge.  Pick out the ones that look like they will be compost-worthy in the next few days; put the rest back.  Grab a helpful community mate to help chop everything.  Don’t forget onion and garlic.

3. Blast the Latino pop music station.

4. While your helpful community mate is doing the hard work, choose a grain.  Quinoa, rice, or pasta will be fine.  Boil some water and then throw in the grain.  Unless it’s rice.  If it’s rice, put the rice in the water from the beginning.  Let someone know that you are cooking rice, because otherwise you will likely forget to check on it, and it’s not easy to get burnt rice off the bottom of a pot.  You’ll probably have to soak it, and then everyone will be mad when you forget to wash the pot.

5. Now’s the good part.  Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil.  Then dump the rest of your vegetables into the pot or pan.  If you have a wok, use that, because when else will you use a wok?

6. Indiscriminately add spices and more oil.  Some of our favorites are cumin, rosemary, basil, chili powder, cinnamon, and pepper.  Not necessarily together.  But hey, maybe.

7. Don’t forget salt.

8. You’d be fine just mixing everything together now, but if you’re feeling saucy, add water or milk and some flour.

9. Mix everything and taste.

10. If it tastes like it’s missing something, add some brown sugar.

11. Yell “DINNER!”

A Humble of Homeless

One of our guests at Bread and Blessings published a column in the weekly arts newspaper in Albuquerque!  When I first met Sean, he told me how he’d been asked to write this article, and I’ve been getting weekly updates on his writer’s block since!

He makes a great point.  When we abstract people who are experiencing homelessness, or anyone, really, we are likely to either sanctify them vilify them.  Reality is much more complicated.  Living in downtown Albuquerque, I am always walking by people I know from Bread and Blessings, and I say hello.  And it’s not scary.  Saying hi to everyone makes me realize that my middle class conceptions of “safety” are plain wrong.  As my community mate Andy says, “If someone’s going to break in, they’re going to break in.”  I’m not saying we should make choices that put us in unnecessary danger, but locking the gate, passing by people on the street without a smile, and driving everywhere do not increase safety.  They isolate us from reality.

So next time you pass by a humble of homeless, don’t avert your gaze.  Catch a glance.  Say hello.  Distance yourself from the reluctance of general public.  That’s how justice begins.


A World that Is Music

“We starve, look at one another, short of breath, walking proudly in our winter coats, wearing smells from laboratories, facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy, listening for the new-told lies with supreme visions of lonely tunes.”

–“The Flesh Failures,” Hair

Two nights ago, Zack and I were cleaning up in the kitchen, when Zack started singing, “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man,”and when I joined in, he stopped mid-verse: “You know Pippin?

“Yes!” I exclaimed, and, as musical theater nerds are wont to do, we began singing snatches of Pippin to each other, chattering about how awesome Stephen Shwartz is (SO AWESOME!), and naturally, we ended up at Zack’s computer to listen to the soundtrack.

Then Zack turned to me: “Do you know Hair?”

“Well, I know the song “Hair.”  One of my favorite I-feel-like-belting songs.  But, no, don’t really know the whole show.”

“You’ve gotta listen to this.  I was in Hair in high school, at the beginning of the Iraq War.  It was the first time that I knew theater could do social justice.”

So yesterday, I listened to the soundtrack for Hair.  Twice.  Then devoured the Wikipedia page.  Yes, I know, it’s all about drugs and free love.  But there’s a reason that we young people who are learning to commit ourselves to social change are fascinated by the youth of the 1960s and 1970s, and it’s not drugs and free love.  It’s so cool to me to think that this show opened during the Vietnam War, when young people were being faced with these huge questions about race and gender and war.  The music pulses with the urgency of the need for change, with the desperate attempts to move beyond a reality that was not good.

I feel that same urgency, that same sense of being trapped.  Many of us at Casa Carlo have started to think about what we’ll do next year, and it’s scary all over again.  The possibility that I will end up at a desk to work for social justice for the rest of my life terrifies me.  The possibility that I will give up on fighting injustice so that I can do something I love also terrifies me.  It is so frustrating to feel like what I love to do doesn’t match up with what I’m good at doing or with what I’m passionate about.

I was reading some of Mom’s old blogs the other day, and she talks a lot about “living the life I’m trying to save.” And isn’t that what we who care about justice should do?  When I listen to Hair, I know the world that I’m working for isn’t a world of universal health care, or a world without hunger, or a world where everyone has a home, but a world that is music.  To put myself in a desk, to only use my brain, is to refuse to use the parts of myself that have been marginalized, to alienate myself from my body, from my creativity, from the part of me that already knows justice and peace.

“I got my hair, I got my head, I got my brains, I got my ears, I got my eyes, I got my nose, I got mouth, I got my teeth, I got my tongue, I got my chin, I got my neck. . . I got my heart, I got my soul, I got my back. . .I got my arms, I got my hands, I got my  fingers, I got my legs, I got my feet, I got my toes, I got my liver, I got my blood.

I got life. . . . And I’m gonna spread it ’round the world, mother, so everybody knows what I got!”

– “I Got Life,” Hair

Plan for Surprises

On my days off, I like to take time in the mornings.  I sip my coffee in my flannel pajamas and glasses, lounging at the kitchen table beneath our skylight, observing the sun tiptoeing past the window frame.  I love Fridays for that: a chance to breathe in quiet, read my book, write a little, think a little.  And, of course, plan out my day.  I have so much fun imagining what I will make myself for lunch, where I will go for a walk, when I’ll have a cup of tea.  Simple living inspires this kind of unhurried living: I have no where to go, nothing to spend, and so I watch the sunshine.

This morning, my plan was also simple: go to the library to return my books, hang out there for a while, and come back home to make some turkey soup.  So I got dressed, packed my bag, searched everywhere for a lost CD, didn’t find it, and finally headed across the street to the library.  I curved my path into the parking lot of Immaculate Conception when I ran into Sr. Ann, who often helps with Bread and Blessings.  “You’re looking very lavender today,” she said, and I smiled, looking down at my purple plaid skirt (nothing perks up a day like wearing a plaid skirt!).  I realized she was headed to the 12:10 Mass, and on a whim, I followed her in.  I always mean to go to Mass on Fridays, but often end up forgetting on my way to other adventures.

Inside, everyone was standing, reciting the Angelus.  I joined in, stumbling over the phrases, only half-remembered from my days at St. Francis.  As we finished, I realized that the Blessed Sacrament was out in the monstrance.  A surprise indeed!  I sat a bit more reverently, and the deacon came out, covered in a humeral veil, swinging incense. We sang “Tantum ergo” in three different keys, and soon the Mass began.

Refreshed after Mass, I continued my trek to the library, and as I opened the main doors, Bing Crosby’s voice drifted up from the library store, and I had to smile, regretfully leaving the lobby for the quiet first floor.

But even here, there was music!  I surveyed the bookshelves until my eyes settled on a gathering of grey heads.  I saw a seat and stepped closer.  The crowd clapped as I found the bearded man up front, cradling a cello.  I sat down and tried to let go of my mind as the cellist played his next piece, and finished with “Julie-O” by Mark Summers.

Surprises keep dropping on me, like yellow leaves in the fall.  I woke up this morning with no plan for what to do, and my plans keep getting interrupted.  I think that’s a good reason to stop speaking and let myself smile.

A Night at the Theatre (Pueblo-Deco Style)

The KiMo Theatre sits prominent in downtown Albuquerque.  An old vaudeville and movie theater, built in 1927 and restored in the ’70s and the early 2000s, the KiMo exemplifies the creepily beautiful, slightly kitsch tribute to the Indian Pueblos of the Southwest known as “pueblo-deco.”  Navajo patterns and cow skulls gaudily line the walls and a red neon sign glows out its name at twilight.

I’ve been fascinated by the KiMo since my initial research of Albuquerque back in March.  You can imagine how psyched I was to learn that I live only a few blocks away from it!

Back in September, when Tim was out job developing, he stumbled into the KiMo and picked up a flyer (and also apparently got lost in its day-darkened halls and came across a ghost…but that’s his story, not mine!).  It turns out that, in celebration of the New Mexico Centennial, the KiMo is playing monthly movies filmed in New Mexico for free.  And the volunteers’ ears perk up.

Tim, Zack, and I made our way downtown on a Wednesday night, dinner stashed in reusable containers in Zack’s backpack.  We were looking forward to a free movie, but, oh did it get better.  It turns out that September marked the 85th anniversary of the KiMo Theatre, and so there was also free popcorn, free soda, a free talk by the screenwriter before the movie, and free cake and coffee after the movie!

Oh, my friends, I think that’s what heaven is like.  We sat in our chairs, eating lentil shepherd’s pie as the lights went down, laughing with the crowd at the New Mexico jokes that we didn’t quite understand, but in which we were thrilled to be included.  When the projected DVD paused unexpectedly in the middle of the movie, we yelled, “Forward!” along with the crowd as the film handler attempted to find the right spot.

When the movie ended, Tim and I (Zack had left during the technical difficulties) joined the crowd making its way toward the Happy-Birthday-KiMo cake in the lobby.  Looking around, I found we were in a crowd of Fabulous New Mexico Oldsters.

Now, I don’t know if it’s the climate, but one thing I love about Albuquerque so far is that old people here are, frankly, fabulous.  They stand jauntily, leaning on one leg, sport silver-haired bobs, wear gaudy turquoise jewelry and flowing tunics.  When they peer at me from behind their jewel-toned glasses or give me a one-handed hug as a greeting, I know that my pretentious twentysomething self can only hope to someday exude the confident cool of the desert at night.  These fellow-cake eaters are the real deal.

My adventure at the KiMo has made me appreciate the oldsters in my life.  As a recent college grad, entering a world where people my own age do not abound but have to be sought out, I appreciate the other people in my life, especially the volunteers at Bread and Blessings.  Most are older than I am, some, a lot older, and each Sunday they welcome me into the Albuquerque community with a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the back.  And most importantly, they show me that I have a lot to look forward to!