Puttering around our less than manse flat, it was curious to note how many statues of Buddha that we have interspersed in and out of our living quarters. We have busts of contemplative Buddha, tabletop jewel bedecked Buddha, laughing paternal Buddha, bookcase mini Buddha and half cross-legged young Siddhartha Buddha (of virtual life-size stature, no less).

This is mildly humorous because none of us here are practicing Buddhists (albeit, certain dwellers subscribe to the Zen/Taoist Alan Watts movement) and intrinsically we are archetypical repressed Catholics wading in religious miasma. Of course, it is a wonderful thing to have such calming, philosophical icons in our frequently riotous and ribald household. But with me being a card carrying member of the Cloak of Guilt-ridden Catholics, I feel the need to balance out the oblique and perhaps purchase a few more Jesus candles as a token of my servitude. Because really, no one can ever have enough Jesus candles.

Last night, this was most telling when we had an uninvited power outage. In the midst of proofreading a mock magazine article for my son’s high school English Class (his instructor being an utter stickler of sorts, yet sets a poor example by not utilizing grammar check on her own missives) a boom shuddered from down the street, instantaneously rendering our computer screen faceless. Black went our apartment and a second boom ensued, which, if you don’t know, indicates that they really meant it.

There were only two Jesus Candles to corral, but they could not be lit as the wax had melted over the wicks. After much upheaval, I found a bag of dinky tea lights and, buried under last year’s Christmas ornaments, an entire box of red tapers. Two empty Stella beer bottles served to wedge the candles into. My son, who had non-computer homework to complete, urged me to quickly drink another beer so as to make available another candlestick holder to better illuminate his assignment.

I had originally made plans to have dinner with Mr. Tofu and whoever else he was bringing along. However, even though our gas range was not directly affected by the loss of power, the electric starter was. Suffice to say, my dining plans were dispersed into the ether and Mr. Tofu once again took his place on the top shelf of the refrigerator.

Let me leave you, though, with a tofu meal prepared well over a month ago and consumed that very same day.

Spicy Tofu
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 lb firm tofu, drained well and cubed
3 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tsp crushed ginger
1/3 c hot water
3 tbsps rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp asian chili sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
green onions for garnish

Heat peanut oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown tofu on all sides. Add garlic and cook until tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together hot water, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, asian chili sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch and red pepper flakes. Pour over tofu and toss to coat. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly.

Serve hot over fried or brown rice. Sprinkle with chopped green onions. Top with deep fried noodles.


* Originally posted 9.16.09

Corky Nepomuceno

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