Life Cafe Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Life Cafe’

RENTheads who used Airbnb last performances of RENT

Hey RENTheads! A radio producer is looking for any of you who used Airbnb August 2008. I told him I’d pass on his request, see below.

Benjamen Walker (host of the podcast Theory of everything, part of, also makes radio for NPR, BBC, ABC) is looking for Rent fans who came to NYC in September of 2008 for the final performances who used the brand new Airbnb service (they launched in August 2008). He is hoping to interview these individuals for a series he is doing about the sharing economy, Rent, and New York City. His email is and you can find him on twitter here @benjamenwalker.

RENThead Registers and the Jonathan Larson Bench at Life Cafe, East Village, NYC

RENThead Registers and the Jonathan Larson Bench at Life Cafe, East Village, NYC


Kathy Life


August 4, 2014

This is a very special event and a limited time offer — I’m selling all the original collaged table tops from the East Village Life Cafe. Wouldn’t you love to have one?

Horned Man - Table 4 at Bench next to 10th Street Window

Horned Man – Table 4 at Bench next to 10th Street Window

Oh the memories . . . .

Cars around Coffee Cup

Cars around Coffee Cup

If you don’t get one, they might just go to Museum of the City of New York instead. This is your chance.

Raquel Welsh Table

Raquel Welsh Table

I’ll be in the Bushwick area early September. The tables will be available for about a week while I’m there. Email me at and let me know which one you want and to make arrangements.

Music Scores

Music Scores

Each is unique. They would make  wonderful table tops; they would make better wall art.

Baby Face

Baby Face

Most if not all of  the tables are shown here. There are about twenty of them; 17 measure about 30″ x 30″ and 3 measure about 24″ x 24″. The stands are not included.

Space Model

Space Model

Come to think of it, I believe there are only two 24″ tables — I donated one to Adelphi University. It’s on display in the lobby of the  AU PAC (Adelphi University Performing Arts Center) along with the Jonathan Larson Bench and a collaged wall panel from Life Cafe as well as a stage panel from the original stage production of RENT at the Nederlander Theater that I also donated.

Baby Toot Table

Baby Toot Table

I’m selling them for a little more than I paid the artists to make them. They used actual pages from vintage Life Magazines from the 40s, 50s and 60s. The large tops are $125 and the small $100 and include the dried up bubble gum on the bottoms, a real piece of New York City history.That’s a bargain and your luck as I must sell them quickly.

Baseball Table

Baseball Table

They were produced around 1996/1997 by two artists. One was David Chambard, a French painter, who I met in his studio/home in the Woodstock area. Last I heard he’s living and selling his art in Paris. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the second artist’s name. If you remember him, please let me know. He also had one or two art shows at Life Cafe.

Cover, How Life Began, a Memoir

Cover, How Life Began, a Memoir

Did you meet your significant other at Life Cafe? Maybe this was the table at which you sat when your life changed for the better.



These are the tables of legend, the ones upon which Jonathan Larson envisaged his cast of East Village characters dancing while singing La Vie Boheme. 

Marlboro Man

Marlboro Man

These are the tables actually danced upon in real life by hordes of RENT fans from around the world at special RENT events at Life Cafe.

Soaring through Life

Soaring through Life

I met 4 lead members from the Japanese cast of RENT at these  tables when they came to see a Broadway performance.

Funny Man Face

Funny Man Face

During a second visit by the entire Japanese cast, all 20+ of them sang La Vie Boheme in English, then again in Japanese to the astonishment and delight of all our customers during a busy brunch.

Satellite Dishes

Satellite Dishes

That was a tear jerking, stunning moment for me. Oh, the memories.

Hallway with Door

Hallway with Door

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

More Politicians

More Politicians

Think about it.

Wheat Field

Wheat Field

But not for too long.

Woman Monkey

Woman Monkey

You can also leave me a comment below. But it’s better to email me at



So many lives passed across these tables at Life Cafe.



Lovers, poets, the lonely, dreamers, thinkers, actors with and without parts to play.



The coffees, the beers, the losers and the leaders. All lives at Life passed across here.

If tables could talk, imagine what you could hear. Imagine what conversations you might have.

I’ll be in Bushwick the first week of September. Email me your interest at and I’ll respond immediately. If you’re not in New York City and need a table top shipped, I’ll attempt to make those arrangements and there will be additional handling and shipping costs.


Kathy Life






1 July 2014

It was a typical lovely late morning in the hills of Tarbena of the Costa Blanca, Spain.

Tarbena Town Square

Tarbena Town Square

Lunchtime was around the corner and I had to prepare something. That’s when it just hit me — a sudden craving for steamed veggies, fresh greens, brown rice and the taste of Life Cafe’s Tahini Dressing on my tongue. Tahini Dressing was the final glorious touch on the Life Salad, the most popular salad ever at Life Cafe. Whenever I didn’t feel quite right physically, a Life Salad seemed to always put me straight. It was delicious.

Fortunately I had a small jar of white sesame tahini in my kitchen cabinet. It’s not easy to find sesame paste in Spanish supermercados. Fortunately, there are a few health food stores in the surrounding towns. Unbelievably, I recently discovered that I can purchase tahini and even miso down the street from the village square at my local Farmicia (all of 100 square feet large) in Tarbena, population 809 as of 2012!

Tarbena Farmacia

Tarbena Farmacia

They also have lots of other non-gluten and macrobiotic food items as well. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted a small bag of textured vegetable protein, an essential ingredient in Life Cafe’s Vegetarian Chili. And if there’s something that I want and it’s not on the shelf, they’ll order it for me. This is not Walgreens with their large aisle of junk food, not by a long-shot. Thank God.

Health Food Selection in Tarbena Farmacia

Health Food Selection in Tarbena Farmacia

I searched through my Life Cafe recipes and costing sheets listing ingredients and found it. Eureka. I’ve been hoarding these recipes for years as I’m including many of them in my memoir, “How Life Began”. And I was very glad I did. I got down to work and put it all together. “Perfect,” I squealed out loud once I blended the chopped parsley fresh off my terrace container garden and dipped my finger in for a taste.

Parsley on Terrace Garden

Parsley on Terrace Garden

As I poked my fork into the veggies and rice, staring at the smooth, lemony sauce dripping down the warm nutty brown rice I became suddenly overwhelmed by one thought — I must continue to share this wonderful dish. I must get Life Cafe’s recipes out there. It inspired me to plan the final edit of the book. (I finished the story but put it aside to help John edit and self publish his own memoir, On My Way to Jorvik. He had a publishing deadline with only four months left to go to have the book ready for Jorvik’s 30th anniversary.) In the meantime, I wrote this blog to share the recipe.

This recipe makes about one and a half cups. It stores well in the fridge — but I doubt you’ll have to worry about that. It’s so good you’ll probably put it on everything you eat for the next three days. Enjoy!


  • 1 cup sesame tahini (white)
  •  1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (use toasted sesame oil for a special sesame kick)
  • 1 tablespoon soy oil

Mix all the ingredients by hand in a large mixing bowl or in a food processor. Add water to thin as desired.

Beatrice, our lovely pharmacist (farmaceutico) in Tarbena

Bea, our lovely farmaceutico (pharmacist) in Tarbena. She told me she loves New York City.



Full Moon Life Café Tuesday Night Poetry Readings and Zombies in Tompkins Square Park in the 1980s – Part 2

This is an excerpt from the up-coming memoir by Kathy Life, “How Life Began: A Story of Hope, Love and Huevos Rancheros at Life Café in the East Village of New York City”

We didn’t sell much on poetry nights because everyone was focused on reading and listening and because writers, like artists, didn’t have much money to begin with. But the readings were good for us; they put the Cafe on the map. Our name got spread around word of mouth and the readings helped to build a reputation and to build the business.


Frankie Lymon’s Nephew reciting poetry at Life Cafe around 1982

An Excerpt From Suburban Ambush by Robert Siegle:

Patrick McGrath recalls the importance of Life Cafe before it became, as he puts it, ‘deeply uppified,’ and our open mike poetry Tuesdays. He said it was through Life Cafe, for example, that Rose, Texier, and McGrath formed the friendship that led to their work together on Between C & D. ‘I just opened up to something,’ Catherine Texier says, ‘I felt it. There’s this sense that people are reading what you’re writing and you’re reading it aloud, and it creates an environment and gets you immediate feedback – and an impact in terms of stimulating us. We were there and part of a ferment.’”

Bar at Life Cafe around 1982

Bar at Life Cafe around 1982

At the real crazy readings, during the course of the night, I had to step outside to take a break and get a breath of fresh air, as it was so intense and smoky inside. One evening I escaped for a few moments just outside the door on Avenue B. The towering canopies of the American elm trees in Tompkins Square Park opposite us were lit from above. I looked up beyond them and saw a huge full moon early in its rise. That was when I picked up on a distinct sense of uneasiness in the streets. I looked around and saw there were more crazy people, drug addicts and drunks wandering around than usual and they were more animated. With a brief sense of relief, I realized none of them noticed me. But then I heard shouting and yelling followed by loud howling from deep within the Park. It was like a zombie movie in our backyard. It was primeval and menacing.


Life Cafe on Avenue B Side around 1982

I moved closer to the Café door. So, okay, I said to myself – which is worse; stay out here and maybe get attacked and dragged into the park by a pack of blood crazed werewolf zombies, or go back inside and into the cozy reality of our known craziness? Sounds a silly choice to have to make, like a joke I know, only it wasn’t.


John Farris at Life Cafe around 1982 before he ran the Tuesday Night Poetry Readings

The realization hit me; there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Even packing it in for the night and going “home” meant walking through the crowd in the Cafe to get to the back where we lived. Once there I’d be pretty much trapped by the noise and the energy out front. I felt like I was between two dark and crazy worlds and the only place to go was to fall through the dark vault that I felt was opening up beneath me. I shivered, and shook the thought out of my head. “Get a grip girl and get back in there!” I told myself. I was needed in the Cafe to manage the floor. I focused on that, took a final deep breath and dove back into the mad melee. I think that was a deciding moment in my life; no matter how crazy it got, I wasn’t going to give up. This was my place, and my place was here, no matter what.

Life Cafe Regulars outside on E. 10th St. & Ave. B

Life Cafe Regulars outside on E. 10th St. & Ave. B

Tune in for Part 3 of  Zombies and Poets of the 1980s Lower East Side, coming soon

Full Moon Life Café Poetry Readings and Zombies in Tompkins Square Park in the 1980s

This is an excerpt from the up-coming memoir by Kathy Life, “How Life Began: A Story of Hope, Love and Huevos Rancheros at Life Café in the East Village of New York City”

David Life used the Café as a stage to present his ideas, which were taking on a bizarre ilk. On to the walls in eccentric and fantastical combinations, he installed discarded objects from the streets: toys, wooden masks and broken trophies. It was like the street was coming inside. One item was a WWII bomb to which he screwed a wooden laughing Buddha on the end. He began showing art by the locals, good and be locals, and created his own art, oftentimes painting right onto the building. His mythic cartoon-like animals stared down at you with lashing tongues and bulging eyes daring you to come in.

Founds Objects turned to Art Installation on Walls of Life Cafe East Village NYC

Founds Objects turned to Art Installation on Walls of Life Cafe East Village NYC

In 1982, the SSI guys living off of disability were the first to hang out like semi-permanent human fixtures. Ira Bruckner, a poet who lived a couple of doors down, occasionally came in for coffee.

He was an argumentative bugger, a rude hot wire, and a loose nut. One quiet afternoon when the usual guys were inside with their coffees and chess boards he walked in front of the Café, peered through the open arched window from where we sold ice cream, yelled some obscenities, then hurled the table fan sitting on the windowsill into the middle of the Café, supposedly at someone, who, no one knew. As tolerant as David was, that was the last straw. David banned Ira from Life for life.Life Cafe circa 1985

I thought Ira wasn’t really crazy, because he had these long moods of intelligence and empathy. For instance, before the fan incident, he did something constructive. In a challenging tone he said, “David, why don’t you have poetry readings here?” “Okay, Ira. Why don’t you organize them?” He set up the Life Cafe Tuesday Night Poetry Readings.

Writers came to read and vent their considerable angst. But Ira was too unpredictable and then there was the fan-throwing incident. So Dave took a chance and invited John Farris to take over, a good friend but another loose canon. Fortunately, he very ably steered his anger and intolerances toward society organizing the readings and reading his own work. He was good for Life. He knew everyone who was anyone in the literary world in and around the neighborhood.

The readings were free and open. All you had to do was sign up (this was before “open mike” got the name) and, unfortunately, anyone did. Before each reading, people gathered around the tables decorated with collages from our vintage Life Magazine collection and ordered coffees and something cheap to nibble on, much to my chagrin. I was always trying to figure out how to get them to spend more money so I could pay the rent and utility bills. To those we knew we sold shots of Puerto Rica rum in their coffee for an extra buck. 2539

Thick cigarette smoke accented with marijuana hung in the room like smoke before the fire. Life Cafe readings were wild. There was often a heckler in the audience, and one, a woman with wild hair, was potentially dangerous. When she yelled, everyone in the house shifted nervously. Occasionally a brave poet would rant back if that night’s heckler wasn’t too threatening; it was a cacophony of verbal anarchy, a word dart competition and the poet was the dartboard.

During full moons the streets tended to be more rowdy than usual and the lunacy spilled off the street and into the Café.

Those were the toughest nights. I had to work the floor during those readings because the Café was packed and we needed to keep a closer watch over the crowd, which couldn’t be done from behind the counter where Dave was. He was too busy making espressos and small change.

Tune in for more Zombies and Poets of the 1980s Lower East Side, coming soon.



“Life Salad” Menu Picture Riddle for Life Cafe by John G. Sunderland

This is an adaptation from my forthcoming book: How Life Began: Finding Hope, Love and Huevos Rancheros at Life Café in New York City.

This series is about the heritage of the Life Café menu and the food that was on that menu. Many of the recipes originated years ago in the old pantry of my youth, way before I came to New York City and are intricately connected to the history of Life Café and its humble beginnings.

I’m going back, pulling out jars of the preserved tomatoes I made that were inspired by those my mom use to make each summer. And I’m digging into the bags of brown rice and dried beans that I took along on my two-year American road trip with my young husband at the time, David Kirkpatrick (now known as David Life) cooking up wild berry pies and bean and veggie stews over log and mud campfires.

I hope this project nourishes you as it has me over the decades. And I hope you take pleasure in the read and the recipes. There’s more coming!

We were only married a few years. The unrealized hope of a loving marital relationship caused conflict inside me that I couldn’t shake. I looked okay on the outside when I wasn’t throwing myself on the ground in tears; but really I was a total mess.

As David went about with his pals busy with their art and antiquing, I tried to shake off my loneliness. It was probably more than that; it may have been depression. I compensated by expanding my universe from inside the house to the outside and the patch of land around us. There I told myself I would plant my heart in the garden that I would make under the sun and the trees and not in my husband’s shadow.

I planted a vegetable garden and taught myself how to preserve the harvest. I became obsessive. Once I started working the land I couldn’t stop until I was totally wiped or the sun went down and I couldn’t’ see anymore.

The physical work of the garden absorbed me completely, both mentally and physically. Ladies, if inside both you and the home is an emotional desert, go outside and create a garden. I did. With every turn of the sod, I buried my crushing depression. It wasn’t the garden I was planting, it was me. I needed to grow, blossom and bear fruit.

As a child canning was something I’d watched my mother do for years, and a lot of what she did was a mystery. Now married, I taught myself the specifics. Dave and I never had enough money so I quickly learned the fiscal sense of growing, harvesting and preserving.

I remember one hot afternoon when I was eleven when I helped my folks harvest tomatoes in our back yard.

I was a picky eater, but the tomato in my hand called to me. It was still warm from the sun; I took a bite. When my teeth pierced the skin the delicious flavor burst in my mouth and the juice ran down my chin – pure, and fresh. It was the mother’s milk of the earth. That single tomato planted in me seeds of the essence of real fresh food.

Back in our little kitchen Mom’s tomato canning process took over for days. First she blanched whole tomatoes in boiling water in deep white enamel pots to remove the skins making the kitchen a sweet tomato-scented steam bath.

Next she dipped the tomatoes in cool water, slipped off the skins then crushed the pulp of each tomato with her hands over a large pot, added salt and pepper and brought it to a boil. While that was heating up she filled an even larger blue and white-speckled enameled pot with water and put that on to boil too; into it went her Ball canning jars. The jars went in and came out on a wire rack. Boiled and baptized they were now ready to receive.

Now timing was critical. Once the jars were sterilized, she quickly poured the steaming hot stew into them, set the rubber-lined lids on top of the rims and lightly screwed on the collars, carefully placing each jar onto a rack on the kitchen table to cool overnight. As I passed through the kitchen I’d hear the jars “pop” on their own as they formed a vacuum seal. That “pop” meant they were ready and our future as a family was secure.

Months later while getting dinner ready she’d call down to Dad, “Bring up a quart of tomatoes, would you Tony?” He’d built a pantry in the basement to store all her canned tomatoes and the pickles she made from the cucumbers he grew. There were also canned green beans and homemade applesauce down there. Like secrets, at the back of the highest shelf were the jars of the wild mushrooms he hunted during the fall in the woods. I wouldn’t touch them; they looked slimy, evil and dangerous, like witches’ spells he didn’t understand. Of course they weren’t, at least to him. I sat head in hands at the table as Dad heartily sucked them up. I watched and waited while he wiped his lips and burped. But that was the worst of it; he didn’t up and die. Mom and Dad weren’t that happy together, but the kitchen is where they came together.

My mother served her stewed canned tomatoes in little side bowls chummed up to plates of steaming hot boiled ring bologna, boiled peeled potatoes and her homemade applesauce. We’d smother the potatoes with margarine (butter was too expensive for her budget), salt and pepper. The flavors melded simply and wonderfully. This was one of our Lithuanian family’s favorite meals and it was heartily delicious.

For my second garden season I was buried in even more tomatoes. I’d already canned enough of them to get us through the winter. What to do? I had to act quickly. I got a “eureka” moment – homemade tomato juice! I followed my stewed tomato recipe but strained the seeds, added oregano, basil and thyme and reduced the liquid. I was so proud of myself; I’d produced the deep red elixir of tomatoes picked fresh off the vine in glistening glass jars bursting with life-giving enzymes, vitamins and minerals. I can taste it now.

But there were still tomatoes left and I was beginning to run out of steam. I decided to make tomato sauce. Fran, my lovely mother-in-law, told me it was a good idea and that instead of going through all the canning, I could store the sauce in the new Ziploc freezer bags that just came on the market. And, she said, lay them flat in the freezer so they took up less room.

She was right, as always. It was easy to pull a bag of homemade spaghetti sauce for two, four, or ten people, however many showed up at any given time.

The recipe below was used many times at Life Café, but for economy of time and space, we used canned instead of fresh tomatoes at the Cafe. Use the sauce straight on the pasta of your choice topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Or, use it as a base, adding seafood, mushrooms. You can also add carrots, honey or  dash of sugar to add sweetness to it.

Don’t worry if you don’t use the sauce the same day you prepare it. In fact, it’ll taste even better the next day.  Once cooked, you can store it up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Otherwise, freeze it until needed.  Yes, spoon it in those new-fangled zip-lock freezer bags in the portion sizes that suit you. Just remember to store them flat to save room!

Life Cafe circa 1997

ELEMENTAL MARINARA SAUCE from Life Café, New York City

Enough sauce for a pound of pasta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced

½ white onion, diced

35 oz can whole peeled tomatoes (no not crush)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup fresh chopped basil or 3 tablespoons dried

Sauté the onions in about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil for about 10 minutes until they’re transparent. Add the garlic and sauté 3 more minutes (don’t let the garlic turn brown or they turn bitter). Add the whole tomatoes with liquid and dried spices. (Hector, head cook of Life Café, said leaving the tomatoes whole helps neutralize the acid.) Bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. If using fresh basil, add it at this time. Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher to the consistency you desire.



December 6, 2012 – A few blast from the past photos of the earlier days at Life Cafe that you may enjoy . . . . and then on to the CHILI !

Ice-T during a Law and Order Shoot at Life Cafe East Village

Life Cafe around 2010

Early Life Cafe, East Village

Life Cafe, New York City, around 2002

I was missing the old days and feeling the need for the spice and warmth of Life Café’s famous Veggie Chili a few weeks ago. But I was missing three important ingredients: CHILES! Dried Guajillo, Pasilla or Chile Negro or Poblano (the dried form of the Chilaca chile) and Ancho, those dark, rich, flavorful Mexican spices that give heat and depth to the dish.

What was I to do? Go shopping! The local markets offer vast quantities of fruits, vegetables, olives, cheeses and even an incredible assortment of very fine used clothing. I was confident I would be able to find dried chiles.

They grow very big cabbages in Spain

Totana Outdoor Market

At the Wednesday Totana Market there is a spice vendor. The aroma of his spices in his bins, which you can smell 10 feet away, is sublime, no comparison to the little glass jars you get in a supermercado (supermarket).

Looking into the Spice Vendor’s Bins

Searching through the Spice Vendor’s Bins

He didn’t have the Mexican chiles. Spanish food is not hot like the summer temps of the country. Rather, it’s mellow and lush, like the population. I had to improvise like I’m known to do in the kitchen. I usually prepare meals from the ingredients I have on hand. Anyone can do this, if you don’t mind cooking Bohemian! I’m still formulating precisely what that means, just for fun. But basically, it means make do with what you have, grow it if you can and keep it simple using fresh, seasonal ingredients, the basis of much of Spanish cooking.

Being bohemian – art lived at both Life Cafes

For the “made in Spain” chili recipe, I used locally grown dried nora and what all the market vendors called pimento chiles. As far as I can tell, these are dried red peppers and taste sweet. Because they’re not hot, I added a couple of tiny dried hot cayenne peppers from my pepper plant in my windowsill herb garden to give my chili some heat. In the end I was lucky to find mirasol chiles. I read that they are known as Guajillo in their dried form, which are one of the main chiles used in traditional mole sauces. I also added about five sun dried tomatoes to this chili paste to give it more intensity, seeing as I didn’t have Hector’s blend at hand.

Getting ready to make Life’s Famous Veggie Chili in Spain

Below is a version of the actual Life Café Veggie Chili Recipe that I revamped last year with the help of Hector, the head cook at Life Café Bushwick.

Hector and his Bushwick kitchen gang. (Illustration by John Sunderland)

I told Hector I wanted a chili that was less tomato-based and built more around beans, legumes and veggies. Hector enhanced the chili spice component wonderfully with his blend of spices in the chile paste. It’s rich, flavorful and warming.

My favorite way to eat Life Chili is for breakfast with a poached egg, short grain organic brown rice and a sprinkle of sharp cheese. It satisfies my craving for Life’s Breakfast Burrito. What a great way to start your day! For me, it’s also an antidote to missing Life Café!

Life’s Famous Veggie Chili made in Spain with grated cheese on top

This recipe makes about 5 quarts, or around 10 hearty bowls. It keeps well in the fridge for several days, and it gets better over time. If you don’t think you can use it up within a week, freeze it in 8 to 16 ounce portions in freezer bags to thaw and use whenever you need it – for a Life Chili Omelet, chili topped with melted cheese as a dip for crispy tortilla chips or in a bowl over brown rice topped with melted cheddar and jack cheeses, the Life Chili Deluxe. At Life Café, we used Life’s Veggie Chili as an ingredient in many of our classic dishes, including quesadillas and in the early days, stuffed potato skins topped with melted cheese. Yumm.

What Life Café Veggie Chili-enhanced dish can you astonish your friends with??

Note: you can get even more creative. Just make the chili paste and use it for other chile-based recipes, like enchilada sauce, or a sauce for Chicken with Red Chile Sauce and Sausage (Pollo con Salsa Rojo y Chorizo). I can’t wait to try it myself, only I’m going to use turkey chorizo.

Some of the Good Old Staff in the Good Old East Village Life Cafe






Make about 5 quarts

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup Spanish onion, diced

4 cloves chopped fresh garlic, minced

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1 medium red pepper, chopped

3 cups chile paste (recipe below)

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup celery, sliced

1-14 oz can black beans

1-14 oz can cooked pinto beans

1-14 oz can cooked kidney beans

1-14 oz can cooked lima beans

1-14 oz can cooked chickpeas

1-14 oz can cooked lentils

1 cup frozen corn

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican if you can find it)

1/2 zucchini, diced

1/2 yellow squash, diced

1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)

2 cups vegetable stock or water

Sauté the onions, garlic, peppers, carrots and celery in oil for 5 minutes until the onions turn translucent. Add chile paste and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans. Bring to a boil. After 10 minutes add the corn, cumin and oregano. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, TVP and vegetable stock. Cook for another 30-35 minutes on low heat. As the TVP absorbs the liquid it will soften and expand.



2 garlic cloves

1 medium Spanish onion

5 whole dried Guajillo chiles

2 whole dried Pasilla chiles

1 whole dried Ancho chiles

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon white vinegar

2 teaspoon dried oregano, Mexican if you can find it

2-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


Boil all ingredients for 3 minutes or until the chiles are soft in 3 cups water. Cool and blend in small portions in a blender until smooth.

Makes about 3 cups

life. more than a cafe.

A lovely response from my last newsletter from an old regular from East Village Life Cafe. Must share this YouTube video with you!

He said in an email to me:

“from a life regular, with no where to go.
you’ve seen it before, but enjoy it again.

life. more than a cafe. If this link doesn’t work, go to and type in the title. That’ll get you there.

Thank you Rob.

Happy New Year



Shamus the Christmas Elf at Life Cafe 983

Celebratory Drink at Life Cafe 983

Mark at Life Cafe 983 at Christmas

A real good Christmas Party at Life Cafe 983

Shamus and Kathy at Life Cafe 983 for Christmas

Seasonal Pick, Menu Picture Riddle by John Sunderland

Santas at East Village Life Cafe

Kathy Life and Chris Baker at Life Cafe 983

Christmas Brunch at East Village Life Cafe

Torello and Nada at East Village Life Cafe

At the East Village Life Cafe at Christmas Time

Life Cafe East Village Staff at Christmas

Patrick McDonald photo shoot at Life Cafe East Village

Christmas Lights, Life Cafe East Village

Life Cafe 983 at Christmas from outside

CHEERS! At Life Cafe 983 Bushwick, Brooklyn

East Village Life Cafe 1995

A Bushwick, Brooklyn Snowman


Life Café NYC on Tour

Turning Chili Under the Sun in Mazarron, Spain, October 2012

The rays of the midday sun still burned hot on my skin, but the usual breeze across the campo felt much colder. Autumn is in the air and on this particular day I got a hankering for the warming taste sensation of Life’s Veggie Chili.

Cool breeze, hot sun. It’s autumn on the Campo

Life’s Veggie Chili was the first hot menu item I served at Life Cafe in 1982 on the corner of 10th Street and Avenue B in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. Chili was cheap to make, warming and healthy. The local bohemians got a cup for 50 cents. And if they had an extra buck, they got it served over short grain brown rice and topped with grated cheddar cheese. The dish was a full protein meal for vegetarians like me and David Life, my husband at the time. I made sure I got the most nutritional buck out of my food staples.

Now in southeast Spain, I examined the list of ingredients for the Chili Paste in the Life Cafe recipe, a vibrant blend of dried chilies and spices. Garlic, Spanish onions, salt, vinegar, oregano, dried thyme – check, check and double check; I had them all. Nada on the whole dried guajillo, puila and ancho peppers. I no longer had the Mexican delis on Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn to raid. Instead I travelled to the nearby towns of Totana and Mazarron during market days with John’s sister Ann and Terry his brother-in-law, local residents. Thank heaven for them and their car. And they knew the roads.

Ann and Kathy Life at Market

Big healthy radishes

John checks out the dried fish at Totana Market, Murcia

Lady locals gossip in front of the olive vendor’s stall

The Moroccan Vegetable Vendor

There is a lot of this fresh and exotic squash

Just picked tangerines, Totana Market

I found the Nora chili, round, fat, glossy dark red. From the Internet I found it’s not hot at all, rather it has a mild, sweet flavor that gives a deep red color to dishes. It’s grown right here in the Murcia region. Now that’s real locavore!

Nora chili on far left

Discovering the Nora chili lead me to Romesco sauce, a classic Catalan condiment originating from Tarragona in Northeastern Spain. Made with roasted tomatoes, nuts, olive oil, vinegar and toasted bread, it’s an accompaniment to all types of dishes, like fire roasted or grilled seafood and vegetables. It also works as a sandwich spread on fresh baguette. I thought how  great it would be on Life’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich in place of chipotle mayonnaise.


During Springtime in Catalonia entire towns gather in the public square for a calçotada, an annual flame-licked ritual of grilling calçots (a large spring onion) over an open fire. The sweet alliums are served blackened from the ashes of vine-fed flames. Revelers slide off the charred outside layers and dip the silken centers into Romesco sauce. The Spanish appreciate the life in their food. Take tomatoes for example; slice open a fresh tomato here and the aroma can be orgasmic. So it’s not surprising that tomatoes can drive Spaniards a little crazy. Have a look at this link — it’s enough to put you off your ketchup, or spread it on all over! La Tomatina Festival 2012 

Wiping off the tomatoes and putting them back safely into the fridge, I refocused on the Romesco sauce. I just had to make some. The bit of work was worth it. The end product is thick like pesto with the color of rust. The nuts lend it texture and the bread gives body. John couldn’t stop raving about it, saying it was Moorish; spicy and original, a new taste. Try this recipe. It’s one of many variations, and all are good.

Tune in to the next blog to find out what happened to the Spanish version of Life’s Famous Veggie Chili!