J u l y /A u g u s t 2 0 1 7 • I s s u e N o . 2 5
Celebrating the gastronomy of Tucson and the borderlands.
WILD SUMMER STORM SEASON No. 25 July/August 2017
Four Seasons of Byrd Baylor: A Desert Beloved Feeding La Doce • Matriarch of the Baidaj
6 COYOTE TALKING
10 VOICES We asked seventh-grade students: What’s the most memorable meal you’ve eaten? 16 GLEANINGS Heat up with Red’s Roasters; The Curry Pot offers a taste of Sri Lanka; Prest Coffee keeps it fresh. 24 CALENDAR & FARMERS’ MARKETS 28 BAJA EATS 38 THE PLATE
48 EDIBLE INTERVIEW Architects Sonya Sotinsky and Miguel Fuentevilla have designed hundreds of restaurants and created a culinary sense of place. 52 POEM Sonoran Baptism.
78 WHEN A CACTUS BLOOMS For more than 50 years, Byrd Baylor, beloved children’s book author and essayist, has captured the beauty, solitude, and politics of the desert.
54 FOOD JUSTICE The Double Up SNAP program offers low-income patrons up to $20 extra to spend at farmers’ markets. 66 PROFILE Stella Tucker is a Tohono O’odham elder whose family has been harvesting saguaro fruit in Saguaro National Park since long before the park was a park. 111 HOMESTEAD Navigating the maize (all corn was not created equal); Rain to Table part III; Tucson Organic Gardeners has been a trailblazer in sustainable living for 46 years. 122 FARM REPORT 126 SONORAN SKILLET Savor the Southwest. 138 BUZZ Rob and Sarah Hammelman bring a mix of soul and science to both their winery in Willcox and the new Sand-Reckoner tasting room in Tucson. 146 A DAY IN BAJA ARIZONA Skip to Silver City. 150 INK Reviews of Mythical River; The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3; A New Form of Beauty: Glen Canyon Beyond Climate Change. 154 LAST BITE A Linguist Walks Into a Mexican Restaurant.
92 LA DOCE The South 12 th Corridor has long been a resilient, delicious, and vibrant hub of culture and food. Now, community organizers and city officials are working to create new opportunities for the neighborhood without sacrificing flavor.
edible Baja Arizona
HOW MUCH WOULD YOU SAY THAT COLOR IS WORTH?
Let Us Now Praise Megan Kimble
that Megan Kimble was there before the beginning. We first met over coffee at Exo on a late fall afternoon in 2012. Megan, then 26, was a graduate student at the UA, earning her MFA in creative nonfiction, and hard at work on the manuscript that would become her fabulous book, Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food, published by William Morrow/ Harper Collins in the summer of 2015. My longtime friend Gary Nabhan, who was one of her thesis advisers, had recommended we meet, since he told me she shared our notion that Tucson needed a magazine that celebrated and explored what was happening in the region’s local food scene. I knew one thing with certainty after our meeting: If we were going to publish such a magazine, I wanted Megan on the team. As we begin our fifth year of publication with this issue, Megan’s work as a journalist, editor, and local foods advocate during the last four years has contributed immeasurably to the deep sense of community connection that is, perhaps, the defining component of Tucson’s designation as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States and this magazine’s mission. Megan’s reporting and writing prowess, devotion to the craft of storytelling, and solid grasp of the context around issues related to food make her a great editor. As do her relationships with freelance contributors and her facility for managing the many editorial details that go into publishing an award-winning magazine every eight weeks. Megan has been a source of equanimity and good humor as we’ve grown from zero to 200 pages in the last 48 months. And after six years of living in this arid place, her roots are growing deep and wide like those of a desert ironwood tree. She has won a slew of writing awards, her work has been selected for the national anthology Best Food Writing, and she is an accomplished speaker and educator. (And speaking of awards, Edible Baja Arizona just won 11 in June in the 2016 Arizona Press Club competition, shared by Megan and stellar regular contributors Debbie Weingarten and John Washington. Check our blog for details.) Thanks for everything, Megan. Onward! ou might say
ou m ay have seen the reports in mid-June of a high profile Border Patrol raid at a No More Deaths/No Más Muertes camp that resulted in the arrest of four migrants who were being assisted by the Tucson-based humanitarian organization. Known as Byrd Camp, the site has been located since 2004 on the property of beloved Baja Arizona author Byrd Baylor. In her 93 years, Baylor has written nearly 30 books for children that evoke the magic and wonder of the desert. Debbie Weingarten’s wonderful profile of the iconic author, who wrote many of who books from her adobe home near Arivaca “on a manual typewriter surrounded by the desert, or perched in an arroyo, writing longhand on a yellow legal pad” takes you into Byrd’s world. For decades, the stretch of road on Tucson’s south side known as La Doce—the South 12th Avenue Corridor that runs from 44th Street to Drexel—has been a vital locus for the thousands of people who make their lives there. “To outsiders,” writes John Washington in his excellent story about the neighborhood and its central corridor, “the perfunctory view misses the glue that makes a neighborhood a neighborhood. The glue is community, and community sticks more durably when it is faced with adversity and well fed. La Doce has long faced various fronts of adversity and it is certainly well fed …. It is tempting to write that La Doce is coming into its own, but the area has long been its own: boasting a distinctive, resilient, delicious, and vibrant hub of culture and food.” As always, there is a banquet of delicious and diverse content to discover in these pages. We’ll see you around the table. ¡Salud!
—Douglas Biggers, editor and publisher
6 July/August 2017
ONLINE twitter.com/EdibleBajaAZ Congratulations to Chef Travis Peters, 2017’s #IronChefTucson champion!!
We think it’s totally to choose #organic #heirloom #produce simply because it’s prettier. Supporting #plant #diversity and your #local #farmers is just an added bonus. These heirloom #carrots come from @sleepingfrogfarms via #Tucson #CSA.
Follow Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith as he represents our Sonoran cuisine at the annual Gola Gola Festival in Parma!
Newsletter subscribers were treated to Grilled Chop Salad by Kat Davis. Subscribe at bit.ly/SubscribeEBA
Editor and Publisher Douglas Biggers Editor
Business Coordinator Kate Kretschmann Online Editor
Senior Contributing Editor Gary Paul Nabhan Copy Editor
Amy Belk, Kimi Eisle, Autumn Giles, Marguerite Happe, Jane H. Hill, Edie Jarolim, Kathe Lison, Jennifer C. Olson, Karen Peterson, Kate Selby, Lisa Shipek, Erec Toso, John Washington, Rachel Wehr, Debbie Weingarten
Photographers & Artists
Adela Antoinette, Joseph Boldt, Dominic AZ Bonuccelli, Joe Forkan, Autumn Giles, Steven Meckler, Nieves Montaño, Chris Newberg, Julius Scholsburg,Bridget Shanahan, Jeff Smith, Dallas Sotelo
On the cover: Saguaro harvest. Illustration by Chris Newberg Above: Photographer Steven Meckler captures the saguaro fruit harvest with Stella and Tanisha Tucker (see page 68). Photo by Joseph Boldt
Maritza Cruz, Paige Carpenter, Ingrid Eck
Royce Davenport, Gil Mejias, Shiloh Walkosak-Mejias, Steve and Anne Bell Anderson
We’d love to hear from you
307 S. Convent Ave., Barrio Viejo Tucson, Arizona 85701 520.373.5196 info@edibleBajaArizona.com EdibleBajaArizona.com
Say hello on social media
V olume 5, I ssue 1. Edible Baja Arizona (ISSN 2374-345X) is published six times annually by Salt in Pepper Shaker, LLC. Subscriptions are available for $36 annually by phone or at EdibleBajaArizona.com. Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used without the express written permission of the publisher. Member of the Association of Edible Publishers (AEP).
facebook.com/EdibleBajaArizona P r inted in A r izona by C our ier G r aphics C or por ation youtube.com/EdibleBajaArizona twitter.com/EdibleBajaAZ flickr.com/EdibleBajaArizona instagram.com/EdibleBajaAZ pinterest.com/EdibleBA
8 July/August 2017
Edible Baja Arizona teamed up with CommunityShare to ask seventh-grade students at Apollo Middle School: What’s the most memorable meal you’ve eaten? Photography by Dallas Sotelo
an education initiative working to connect schools and communities, matches educators with community partners in Tucson who want to serve as mentors, guest speakers, class project consultants, internship hosts, and field trip sponsors. “The online platform is a like a ‘human library’ that empowers teachers and their students to tap into local ‘human books’ of wisdom and experience,” said Josh Schachter, the founder and director of CommunityShare. According to Schachter, CommunityShare helps students see the real-world application of what they’re learning in school, exposes them to new career possibilities, and helps them to discover their own passions. “As a kid I rarely understood why I was learning things or why things mattered. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school when I apprenticed with a herpetologist that I unearthed a deeper purpose for learning. I found myself knee-deep in mud, researching turtles and alligator nests in South Carolina and Alabama, which ommuni t y S h ar e ,
10 July/August 2017
eventually led me to a career in ecosystem management,” he says. “Today, there are way too many students in my shoes, as 40 to 60 percent of students in the U.S. are chronically disengaged in school.” Edible Baja Arizona worked with two seventh-grade classrooms at Apollo Middle School to help students tell stories about their most memorable food experiences. Students learned basic storytelling techniques, including the five Ws taught in all introductory journalism classes (who, what, when, where, why), character development, and narrative structure (every story has a beginning, middle, and end). Over the course of two classroom visits, Edible Baja Arizona editor Megan Kimble encouraged students to use vivid, specific words to describe taste and smell, to use metaphors and similes, and to explore why a particular food was so memorable. The following essays come from Michelle Sotelo’s classroom.
(Left to right) Dairane Ramirez Mazon, Damanitza Romo, and Melissa Laguan take notes about composition and storytelling.
I ar r i ved home, the whole house smelled like a fish market. As I walked into the kitchen, I saw my nana serving my family. They announced, “Here comes Ms. Picky Eater! Don’t serve her because she won’t like it.” I hated when Nana put fish in food that looked good. I glared at her with a stank face, and she just laughed. However, I was so hungry that I decided to try nana’s taco. The tortilla was warm and soft and filled with tender fish and shrimp. It was drizzled with a creamy, orange sauce with a spicy taste. The variety of flavors made my mouth water and my taste buds tingle. The taco made me drool with delight, and my nana smiled when she realized I loved the taco. Nana said there was fish, shrimp, media crema, butter, garlic salt, and pepper in the taco. She added a can of salsa casera, and a little bit of jalapeño to make it spicy. Although there weren’t many ingredients, the bite filled my mouth with delicious flavors. It made me wonder why I hadn’t tried them before. Now that I do not live with my nana, I don’t eat the delicious fish and shrimp tacos as often. I hope that when I grow up and have children, they can taste the delicious fish and shrimp tacos that I grew up with. hen
t was a cold ,
breezy autumn afternoon in Agua Prieta. I was 7 years old when my whole family reunited at Rugus La Palapa. This was the first time I had been with my whole family from my Dad’s side. My family wanted to eat mariscos, so we ordered a humongous plate of seafood known as a mariscada. The mariscada of a million colors and flavors consisted of huge shrimp, fried shrimp, fried octopus tentacles, fried squid tentacles, and fish fillets. I loved everything on that mariscada, except the octopus and squid. I always thought that their tentacles would get stuck to my throat and I would have to have surgery to get them unstuck. My tata proposed a deal. He said he would give me $5 if I ate one octopus tentacle, so I agreed. I took one bite of that tentacle and it felt as if I was eating a big, green, slimy booger. It tasted raw compared to how the other ones looked. That was the worst thing I have ever tasted. A few years later, in a restaurant in Puerto Peñasco, I ordered a Seven Mares soup. I didn’t know exactly what it had inside at the time, but I ate it anyways. It was delicious. I loved every part of it. Until I bit into something squishy. Rapidly, the memories from eating that octopus came rushing in. As I chewed and chewed, I was actually surprised: It wasn’t disgusting, it was delicious.
edible Baja Arizona
her e it was ,
sitting on the table begging for me to eat it. I placed the fragile buñuelo in my hand and I walked to the pot and drizzled some of the hot sticky syrup on it. The syrup landed on the buñuelo in a perfectly checkered pattern. The buñuelo was hot and had the perfect thickness. I took the first bite. The warm sticky syrup dripped down from the corners of my lips. The music perfectly matched the moment. A delightful aroma entered my nose with the next bite. I observed all the joyful faces around me. It was Christmas Eve and my family was gathered around the fire at my grandmother’s house. We were devouring our buñuelos. My grandmother would make a sweet brown syrup that goes on a fried tortilla. Then she would add powdered sugar, making the perfect flavor for any mouth. The crunchy tortilla drizzled in warm syrup with sugar on top made the perfect combination for a Christmas treat. After my grandmother was done making buñuelos, the kitchen was filled with a lovely aroma. Unfortunately my grandmother passed away, and buñuelos don’t taste the same anymore. Every Christmas my family eats buñuelos in memory of my grandmother. They are a very special food because buñuelos always brought my family together. Every time I eat a buñuelo on Christmas I remember my grandmother.
tío came to visit in Arizona, he made a dish of aguachile with my dad. They set up a table and chairs, played Mexican music, drank a cold beer, and made the dish in the garage. Once they finished making the plate, I eagerly ran to the garage. I was so happy to see the uncooked shrimp with tinted red water and specks of red tajin. I walked over to the table and grabbed a shrimp, sucked the delicious juice out, and put the shrimp back. It was like heaven. I thought that the spicy juice was the best I’d ever tasted. My dad and tío laughed at me. At the time, I thought that you weren’t supposed to eat the shrimp. I saw my dad and tío eat the shrimp, but I thought they were just trying to gross me out. After I went into the house, my dad’s friends came over. He offered his friends aguachile, which they had never tried. They grabbed a toothpick, stabbed the shrimp, and ate. My dad was waiting for their response. He expects everyone to like his dish. Meanwhile, my tío was trying to hold in his laughter. My dad was very confused. He asked my tío why he was laughing. His friends had eaten the shrimp that I sucked the juice out of. hen my
is better than fresh, sweet-tasting strawberries. Once, when my sister and I were l ov e the anticipation of watching a movie, a cartoon the Sunday night tradition strawberry character named with my family. Dad makes Barry appeared on the TV. buffalo wings and slices potatoes Barry wasn’t just any strawberry. for homemade chips. While he’s He was so cute! Barry had big, cooking, my siblings and I set bright green eyes, an infectious up the living room by creating Seventh grader Helianna Jimenez works on smile, and a personality as sweet a giant bed with tons of pillows an essay about her food memories. as frosting on cake. and blankets. Once the f loor My sister, who was 1 year looks like a comfortable bed at a old, saw Barry and suddenly sprinted to the fridge, as fast as department store, we pop a movie into the DVD player. As we her little legs could move, tapped rapidly on it, and asked in watch the previews, I smell the hot sauce and hear the potatoes her adorable laughing voice, “Strawberries?” frying. When the hot oil stops bubbling, I know Dad is straining I grabbed two cartons of ruby red strawberries, rinsed the potatoes. Afterward, I hear the sounds of Dad stirring and them, cut off the stems, and added a pinch of sugar to make mixing the wings in the bowl. When the noises stop, I know Dad them as sweet as they could be. Finally, we were ready to get is bringing the food into the living room, and my mouth waters. our grub on. While my sister ate the strawberry, juice spread Once Dad sets the plate down, I smell the sauces hitting my across her chubby cheeks, and her smile looked cute like nose. While staring down at the juicy chicken wings and seeing Barry. When I sunk my teeth into the strawberry, it tasted the crunchy potato chips, I can’t wait to start eating. I grab the like candy. It felt like time slowed down as I tasted the juicy wing instead of the little drumsticks and my teeth sink in. Flavors droplets sliding down my throat. hit my tongue and I am delighted by Dad’s amazing cooking. Eating strawberries and watching Barry became our tradiMy family watches the movie and our bellies fill up with Dad’s tion. Every time my sister says, “strawberries,” I know what yummy food. Then, we fall asleep on the pillows or the comfy she is craving. Our special tradition makes my day bright. couch. My family’s Sunday night tradition will always be dear When we see the little strawberry named Barry it’s like to my heart. When I grow up, I want to create these wonderful nothing could make our day better. memories for my children.
12 July/August 2017
edible Baja Arizona
The smell of freshly roasted green chiles, bell peppers, garlic, and tomatoes draws customers to Kris Young’s stand at Heirloom Farmers’ Markets.
Heating Up Chile
Follow your nose to Red’s Roasters for freshly roasted chiles and vegetables. Text and photography by Shelby Thompson
of Kris Young’s freshly roasted green chiles, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic wafts through the air. “The smell is like free advertisement,” Young says with a chuckle. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the man with the bright red beard can be found at Heirloom Farmers’ Markets, churning several varieties of fresh produce in a chile roaster. His beard and a large banner display the name of his business loud and clear: Red’s Roasters. Although Young has owned Red’s Roasters since 2014, he’s been in the business of food for most of his career. The Rincon High School alum began working at Tucson grocery stores at 16. He became a produce manager for Bashas’, where he learned skills in distribution, customer service, and leadership, and met Bob Cocuzza, the owner of Bob’s Honeybee Roasters. After buying a few cases of produce from Young, Cocuzza asked for his help roasting vegetables for the St. Philip’s Plaza Farmers’ Market every Sunday. The rest, as they say, is history. For five years, Cocuzza taught Young how to roast a variety of fresh produce, from popular Hatch green chiles to red Roma tomatoes. When Cocuzza became terminally ill in 2014, Young decided to buy the business. He purchased Cocuzza’s chile roasters and truck, agreed to pay his mentor’s family 10 percent of his earnings for the first two years, and legally changed the name of the business to Red’s Roasters. Loyal customers of Bob’s Honeybee Roasters recognized Young from the many years he had spent helping Cocuzza and he smoky scent
16 July/August 2017
continued to support the newly named business. “Those first few months … the customers showed me I could do this,” he said. Young also developed a desire to provide “a local service for local people.” Although not all of the bell peppers, Poblano peppers, garlic, green chiles, eggplants, onions, Anaheim peppers, and squash that Young roasts are grown in Arizona, he tries to source as much as possible from local farms like Larry’s Veggies, Richcrest Farms, and Sleeping Frog Farms. Signs labeled “Arizona Grown” highlight locally sourced produce at Red’s Roasters. While there’s a high demand for local produce, it’s Young’s Hatch green chiles that fly off the farmers’ market stand. Hatch green chiles are available for a limited season: Red’s Roasters carries them in July and August, months when Young’s product and sales increase by about 50 percent. Customers can buy quart- ($5) or gallon- ($12) size bags of roasted Hatch green chiles, but devoted fans of the New Mexico chiles prefer the 30-pound bags offered seasonally. Young recommends that customers who want to reserve large quantities of Hatch green chiles order the goods one week in advance. A few hectic Hatch green chile seasons have taught the relatively new business owner a lot. As his goals for Red’s Roasters become more realistic, Young said, he wants to “continue doing what I’m doing, please my customers, and grow with my community.” Facebook.com/RedsRoasters
From his food truck, Amjaad Jhan serves curries, sambols, and samosas.
The Curry Pot brings a taste of Sri Lanka to Tucson. Text and photography by Shelby Thompson
A mja ad and S huhana J han realized that they couldn’t find Sri Lankan food within 500 miles of Tucson, they didn’t plan a family road trip—the husband and wife duo brought Sri Lankan food to Tucson. The Curry Pot, a food truck specializing in Sri Lankan cuisine, began with a desire to bring their young family and the people of Tucson together around the food of their native country. When Amjaad emigrated to Los Angeles in the mid-’90s, he got a job at Trader Joe’s. Eventually he and Shuhana decided to move to Tucson so that they could be close to her parents, and Amjaar continued working for Trader Joe’s. When their only son, Amir, was born, Amjaad moved into a management position and found himself working 50-60 hours a week, often going more than 24 hours without seeing his son. When his own parents passed away, Amjaad got a wakeup call. “The little time I have, I want to spend with my son,” Amjaad said. While Amir inspired Amjaad to go into business for himself, the small business community in Tucson was also a huge motivating factor behind The Curry Pot. After seeing the success of The Twisted Tandoor, Amjaad realized that there was a market for Indian food in Tucson. When Amjaad’s former Trader Joe’s coworker Scott Safford opened Tap and Bottle with his wife, Rebecca Safford, Amjaad felt ready to take the plunge. “They were one of the inspirations for me to venture out,” Amjaad said of the Saffords. hen
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The Jhans decided to start with a food truck to broaden their impact and enable them to bring Sri Lankan food to people who aren’t familiar with it. Spices differentiate Sri Lankan food from Indian food, and the Jhans use a 10-spice blend consisting of coriander, chiles, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, and curry leaves to personalize the food at The Curry Pot. They also use a lot of coconut. “Coconut is a huge part of Sri Lankan cooking,” Amjaad explained. Their curries, vegetable sides, sambols, and samosas all include coconut, whether it’s in the form of coconut oil, milk, or meat. One satisfied customer described their food as the love child of Thai and Indian cuisines. Although the food at The Curry Pot is distinctive, the Jhans try to cater to all needs. All vegetarian offerings are also vegan and every dish except for the samosas is gluten free. A plate of rice, curry, vegetables, coconut sambol, and papadum costs $8. Add a samosa and a drink and you’re only out $10. “I want prices to be very reasonable because I want people to be able to taste Sri Lankan food and see what it is,” Amjaad said. While the Jhans would love to open a brick and mortar restaurant in the future, for now they’re working to get more people to try Sri Lankan food and build a loyal customer base. Facebook.com/TucsonCurryPot
edible Baja Arizona
Owner Kyle Kacerek (left) and employee Dalamar Ibarra take their coffee cart on the road, offering fresh coffee and juices.
Prest offers locally roasted French press coffee and freshly squeezed juice. Text and photography by Shelby Thompson
ometh ing is br ew ing in an old janitorial closet on the first floor of one of Tucson’s largest commercial office buildings. That something is Prest—a small coffee shop that’s bringing locally roasted French press coffee and freshly squeezed juice to Tucson’s office community. Kyle Kacerek started his career in medicine. The University of Arizona alum studied physiology and worked in labs and tissue banks after graduating in 2014. “I liked a lot of the jobs but I really wanted to try something for myself,” Kacerek said. And something was missing. His breaking point came when his request for time off to go on a trip was denied. Kacerek quit his job, went on the trip, and began looking for a new career. “I love coffee—French press coffee in particular,” Kacerek said. The young graduate noticed that there weren’t any places serving French press coffee by the cup, and that it was almost impossible to find freshly squeezed juice like the flavorful orange juice served at street stands in Guatemala, where he’d traveled. An idea was born. “Pressed coffee, pressed juice … Prest!” Kacerek said, explaining the inspiration behind the name of his business. There was only one problem: Kacerek had no business experience. Determined to be his own boss, Kacerek signed up for the free business mentoring program offered through SCORE Southern Arizona. He quickly realized that, before he could open his own coffee and juice cart, he needed experience working in a coffee shop. After a year working at Coffee Time on Speedway, Kacerek decided that it was time to branch off on his own.
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The decision to start Prest as a coffee cart came easy: The cart was easy to establish, allowed him to be mobile, and came with low overhead costs. With the help of his dad, Kacerek transformed an old hot dog cart into Prest’s first rendition. Every day, Kacerek spent hours setting the Prest cart up outside the commercial office building on the northeast corner of Broadway and Rosemont, selling French press coffee from Adventure Coffee Roasting and freshly squeezed orange juice to the building’s employees, tearing the cart down, and returning to his rented commissary space to wash dishes and restock. Two years, a lot of work, and a loyal customer base later, Kacerek began the next phase of Prest: he raised more than $5,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to transform a closet in the building’s lobby into a brick and mortar coffee and juice shop. The seemingly small permanent location allowed Prest to get bigger. Kacerek invested in heavy equipment, like refrigerators and an espresso machine, allowing him to expand Prest’s menu to include five fresh fruit smoothies, frappés, and espresso. Four new employees help him maintain the Prest coffee shop so that he can continue bringing the Prest cart to Tucson’s GEICO offices, weddings, and events. “It’s a nice niche to serve the office working community,” Kacerek said—the young entrepreneur is already dreaming of expansion. BestCoffeeinTucson.com Shelby Thompson is the online editor of Edible Baja Arizona.
edible Baja Arizona
J U LY Wednesday, July 12
Wine Enrichment Series
5-7 p.m. Sierra Bonita Vineyards Tasting Room 6720 E. Camino Principal
Friday, July 28
Friday, August 18
Thursday, July 20
Northern Spain Wine Dinner
Cooking Demo & Pop-up Dinner: Shunde, China
Tucson Water Rebate Class: Rainwater Harvesting
7 p.m Maynards Market & Kitchen 400 N. Toole Ave.
4-7 p.m. Watershed Management Group 1137 N. Dodge Blvd.
Friday, July 28 – Saturday, July 29
Friday, July 21
Monsoon Madness Plant Sale
Cooking Demo & Pop-up Dinner: Florianopolis 6-9 p.m. The Carriage House 125 S. Arizona Ave.
Friday, July 21
Summer Wine Tasting: Southern Spain
6-8 p.m. Maynards Market & Kitchen 400 N. Toole Ave.
Saturday, July 22 – Sunday, July 30
3-7 p.m. (Friday) 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (Saturday) Tohono Chul 7366 Paseo del Norte
Saturday, July 29
HarvestFest & Grape Stomp 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sonoita Vineyards 290 Elgin-Canelo Road, Elgin
AUGUST Friday, August 4
Family Funday at the Farmers’ Market
Silver City Arts & Cultural District Silver City, NM
8 a.m.-12 p.m. Trail Dust Town 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road
Saturday, July 22 – Sunday, July 30
Sunday, August 6
A Spanish Summer Night at Flying Leap 6-10 p.m. Flying Leap Vineyards 342 Elgin Road, Elgin
Saturday, July 22
Tomato Basil Festival – Oro Valley
8 a.m.-12 p.m. Oro Valley Farmers’ Market 10901 N. Oracle Road
Sunday, July 23
Tomato Basil Festival – Rillito Park
8 a.m. -12 p.m. Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park 4502 N. First Ave.
Somali Cooking Class
6-9 p.m. The Carriage House 125 S. Arizona Ave.
Saturday, August 19
Superior AZ Prickly Pear Festival All-day event Downtown Superior
Friday, August 25
Argentina Wine Dinner
7 p.m Maynards Market & Kitchen 400 N. Toole Ave.
Thursday, August 31
Free class: Caring for your rain garden
5-7 p.m. Watershed Management Group 1137 N. Dodge Blvd.
SEPTEMBER Friday, Sept. 8 – Sunday, Sept. 10
Friday, September 29
Eat Drink & Be Giving 6:30.-9:30 p.m. St. Philip’s Plaza 4280 N. Campbell Ave.
R E P E AT I N G Friday
Summer Wine Tasting: Rotating Regions
6-8 p.m. Maynards Market & Kitchen 400 N. Toole Ave.
Distillery Tour and Tasting 3 p.m. Hamilton Distillers 2106 N. Forbes Blvd. Suite 103
Cool Summer Nights at the Desert Museum
5-10 p.m. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 2021 N. Kinney Road
Pints & Poses Yoga
10:30-11:30 a.m. Pueblo Vida Brewing Co. 115 E. Broadway Blvd.
Saturday – Sunday
Sweet Corn Festival & Peach Mania!
Multiple Locations Old Bisbee
8 a.m.-5p.m. Apple Annie’s Produce Farm & Fruit Orchard Willcox
Friday, August 11
Saturday, September 9
Monday – Sunday
Summer Wine Tasting: New Zealand
Ajo Pomegranate Festival
Mesquite Sawmill Tour
5-8 p.m. Tucson JCC 3800 E. River Road
6-8 p.m. Maynards Market & Kitchen 400 N. Toole Ave.
Thursday, August 17
Tucson Water Rebate Class: Rainwater Harvesting 4-7 p.m. Watershed Management Group 1137 N. Dodge Blvd.
Bisbee Blues Festival
9-11 a.m. Many Hands Urban Farm & Learning Center 55 Orilla St., Ajo
Saturday, September 9
Edible Baja Arizona Illustration Show 6-9 p.m. Café Passe 415 N. Fourth Ave.
No appointment needed Tumacacori Mesquite Sawmill 2007 E. Frontage Road, Tumacacori
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
Birds of Tohono Chul Walking Tour 8 a.m. Tohono Chul 7366 N. Paseo del Norte
Submit events by August 18 for our September/October issue.
24 July/August 2017
Heirloom Farmers’ Market
Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market
Heirloom Farmers’ Market
Heirloom Farmers’ Market
FoodInRoot Farmers’ Market
FoodInRoot Farmers’ Market
77 North Marketplace Farmers’ Market
Rincon Valley Farmers’ Market
El Presidio Mercado
Bisbee Farmers’ Market
FoodInRoot Farmers’ Market
St. David Farmers’ Market
8 a.m.-12 p.m. Rillito Park Food Pavilion
FoodInRoot Farmers’ Market 9 a.m.-1 p.m. St. Philip’s Plaza 4280 N Campbell Ave
FoodInRoot Farmers’ Market 9 a.m.-1 p.m. First and Third Tuesdays Northwest Medical Center 6200 N la Cholla Blvd
4-7 p.m. Mercado San Agustín 100 South Avenida del Convento
Sierra Vista Farmers’ Market 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Veterans’ Memorial Park 3105 E Fry Blvd., Sierra Vista
Authentically Ajo Farmers’ Market
5-7 p.m. First and third Thursdays through June 15 W. Plaza, Ajo
Bloom Farm and Art Market Wednesdays
Shorey Family Farms
12-4 p.m. Mirage & Bird Botanicals, 10 Plaza Road, Tubac
4-8 p.m. Continental Ranch Community Center, Marana
8 a.m.-12 p.m. Trail Dust Town 6541 E Tanque Verde Rd
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Banner-UMC
8 a.m.-12 p.m. 16733 N. Oracle Road, Catalina
9 a.m.-2 p.m. Corner of Church and Alameda
4:30-7:30 p.m. Third Fridays Rancho Sahuarita
FoodInRoot Farmers’ Market 5-8 p.m. Fourth Fridays Tucson Botanical Gardens 2150 N Alvernon Way
8 a.m.-12 p.m. Steam Pump Ranch, Oro Valley 10901 N. Oracle Road
9 a.m.-1 p.m. St. Philip’s Plaza 4280 N Campbell Ave
8 a.m.-1 p.m. 12500 E. Old Spanish Trail
8 a.m.-12 p.m. Vista Park, Bisbee
9 a.m.-12 p.m. 70 E. Patton St., St. David
Shorey Family Farms
12-4 p.m. Mirage & Bird Botanicals, 10 Plaza Road, Tubac
Authentically Ajo Farmers’ Market 9 a.m.-12 p.m. 15 W. Plaza, Ajo
26 July/August 2017
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ans of li ve music and local restaurants can satisfy both passions by dining at Monterey Court. With local artisan shops lining the patio and parking lot, musicians performing every week from Tuesday through Sunday, and a menu full of American classics updated with a modern twist, there are plenty of reasons to visit the venue, located on Miracle Mile not far from I-10. If that sounds like an unusual location for a restaurant and live music venue to you, that may be because it wasn’t that long ago that Miracle Mile was more evocative of drugs, crime, and prostitution than the midcentury motor courts and vintage neon signs that line the former northern gateway to Tucson. Things started to change for the better around 2010, with community organizing, local business investment, and a new police station driving the positive shift. In 2012, co-owners Greg Haver and Kelly McLear opened their cafe in the fully renovated 1938 Monterey Court motor court. Haver says he didn’t have a vision in place when he bought the then-abandoned motor court, but decided to take a chance anyway. He credits 30 years of working in the construction industry with giving him
28 July/August 2017
a good sense of how to renovate without destroying the original structure, and points to word of mouth and social media as the primary means for keeping tables full. The evening we visited, a band was playing onstage, misters were bringing the late afternoon heat down to a pleasant temperature, and the patio was full of families and friends. We sat at a table with a view of the stage and settled in to savor two citrusy summer cocktails: the Gin Wicked Monterey Court’s Jalepeño Cucumber Margarita and Gin Wicked.
($8) and the Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita ($7). The Gin Wicked is a tangy, determinedly unsweet cocktail, and similar in taste to a Greyhound thanks to the use of grapefruit juice, with ginger syrup and a “tiny bit of habanero” adding complexity without adding heat. The Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita is much sweeter, though tempered by the cucumbers, jalapeños, and a salt and chile-encrusted rim. We chose two appetizers that have been on the menu since Monterey Court opened: the Smoked Salmon Bruschetta ($13) and the Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates ($13). Both were outstanding examples of simple foods done well. The bruschetta consisted of crisp slices of bread thinly spread with cheese, topped by soft slices of salmon and a fresh tomato, olive, onion, and basil tapenade. The variety of textures combined flavors that built well upon each other. The dates arrived to the table a bit too hot to eat, but after cooling for a couple minutes, revealed themselves as drool-worthy nuggets of melty cooked dates and creamy herbed cheese filling, all wrapped up in perfectly crisped bacon. As with most things I encounter that walk the sweet-and-salty line, this appetizer quickly disappeared from the table.
edible Baja Arizona
Downtown Kitchen’s Baja Gardener’s Tostada.
For our main dishes, we opted for a Reuben sandwich ($12) and the Grilled Salmon ($19). The Reuben came on crispy toast, with thick slices of corned beef, a modest topping of sauerkraut, and enough Russian dressing to add creaminess but not enough to make a mess. A batch of Wedge Fries may have caused me to sigh in bliss after I bit into one thickly cut stick of potato, finding it perfectly flakey on the inside with a nice fried crust on the outside. The Grilled Salmon came with lightly sautéed summer vegetables, some cilantro rice pilaf, and a large piece of fish laid down the middle. While the grill marks looked stunning on the fish, the salmon was slightly overwhelmed by a char flavor. (I recommend taking off the skin before you dig in.) We finished our meal with a piece of Limoncello Mascarpone Cake ($6). This is the kind of cake dreams are made of—light, fluffy, and moist, with decadent little curls of white chocolate dotting the top. Set against a backdrop of a warm summer night in Tucson, with the sound of music carrying from the stage, it was the perfect way to end our night. I asked Haver what he would say to someone who’s never heard of Monterey Court before. His response, “Leave your preconceptions of Miracle Mile at home—it’s totally changed. Come down and have some fun, listen to some music … and have some wonderful food as well.” Monterey Court. 505 W. Miracle Mile. 520.207.2429. MontereyCourtAZ.com
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in a foodie family in Tucson, so Chef Janos Wilder has always been a bit of legend for me. And as visitors to Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails can attest, after 34 years of wowing palates in Tucson, the awardwinning chef is still going strong. Wilder changes the restaurant menu often, both seasonally and as part of Downtown Kitchen’s Cities of Gastronomy summer menu tour. He says that decision is driven by both a desire to stay seasonal with his ingredients and keep current with what people want to eat. “It’s not only the ingredients that are seasonal,” he says, “but the way they’re prepared is going to change.” For example, in a spring-summer menu, he says, “we emphasize freshness and vitality.” While guests may bemoan the loss of a favorite dish, Wilder says, “If I let myself be guided by that principle, I’d never grow and never change.” Instead, he says, “I make a commitment that anything I add to the menu must be as good or better than what came before.” We started off our meal with a Tucson Lemonade and a Cuban Sunset cocktail ($9.50 each). The Tucson Lemonade is a bright pink hibiscus lemonade mixed with whiskey instead of the usual vodka or gin. The result is a drink that is significantly darker and less sweet than you might expect, with the right amount of sipability for hot Tucson afternoons. The Cuban Sunset looks like a fruity frozen margarita that somehow acquired a cilantro leaf, but one sip demonstrates how appearances can be deceiving. Habanero-infused vodka mixed with a passion fruit purée is sipped over a salted rim, the cooling fruit gr ew up
juxtaposed against the heat of the chile. Wilder describes his ideal cocktails as well balanced, tasting “fresh and alive,” without too much emphasis on the spirit. You won’t find technique-intensive cocktails at Downtown Kitchen; Wilder prefers to focus on flavor. Regarding both food and drinks, he says, “I’m not trying to wow you with technique, I’m trying to satisfy you with flavor.” To accompany our drinks, we ordered the calamari appetizer ($11 during happy hour, 4-6 p.m. daily). This is not your normal plate of fried squid: Downtown Kitchen’s version includes fresh watercress, slivered mango, candied ginger, hot roasted Spanish peanuts prepared in a Oaxacan style with red chile and lime, and a green chile vinaigrette. The breading is light and crisp, with just enough salt, and some subtle heat thanks to habanero flour. Our second appetizer came from the dinner menu: the Baja Gardener’s Tostada ($11). Featuring a mix of raw seasonal produce served atop a creamy layer of Peruano beans and a crisp corn tortilla, the tostada is served chilled. Escabeche-pickled cholla buds and a roasted corn vinaigrette add the finishing touch, and the overall experience felt as light and varied as eating a salad, but with greater cohesion thanks to the beans. Wilder says, “I wanted a different way to present raw spring produce,” pointing to the tostada as a dish that says “spring in Tucson” and provides a sense of place. Communicating a sense of place is central to Wilder’s culinary goals at Downtown Kitchen. Part of this goal is accomplished through working with
edible Baja Arizona
Pivot Produce and other suppliers to source local ingredients when possible. A larger part of it, for Wilder, is deliberately crafting dishes that draw on Baja Arizona’s multicultural heritage. “Being representative and honoring who we are is very important to me,” he says. When he opened Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails in 2010, his goal was to create foods that “make a statement about who we are.” He elaborates: “I believe food can be healing. I believe food can make a positive statement about who we are as Americans at our best.” Our diversity “is what makes all the good things about us,” he says. Wilder strives to serve food Hungry Kepuha’s beef ribs entrée. that represents the cuisine of immigrants coming to the United States, creating years of exploring the flavors of Tucson dishes inspired by Mexico and beyond. for giving him the confidence and This inspiration was apparent in our freedom to experiment, but with that, entrée for the evening, the generously he says, came the responsibility to sized Grilled Rib Steak + Chili Colorado. not betray his guests’ trust, to “make Served sliced and stacked on black them smile and give them a delicious beans and calabacitas con queso with a and satisfying meal in a way that they garnish of salsa fresca and green chile might not expect.” The relationships vinaigrette, this steak demonstrated he’s built have helped make Downtown Wilder’s commitment to satisfying, Kitchen an early success story of uncomplicated dishes. The smoke and downtown Tucson’s revitalization, and spice from a blend of Anaheim, ancho, these days he’s “very enthused to see guajillo, and poblano chiles combined what a critical mass of people can do, beautifully with the char from the ” observing Tucson’s growing food grill on the steak, while the calabacitas culture and emphasis on food justice. and black beans added texture and After Tucson was designated as a variety, and the salsa fresca punctuated UNESCO City of Gastronomy in each bite with crisp, spicy onions. 2015, Wilder began featuring We ended our meal with the cuisine from sister a Dark Chocolate Cities of Gastronomy Jalapeño Ice during six week-long Cream Sundae segments throughout ($8). This was the summer. This just as decadent summer’s tour kicks as it sounds: a tall off with a menu inspired old-fashioned sundae by Dénia, Spain, that will be glass, piled high with served from May 30 until July rich chocolate ice cream 10, followed by menus inspired by whose creamy cold belied Florianópolis, Brazil (July 18-Aug. a creeping heat of chile on the 21), Shunde, China (Aug. 22-Oct. tongue, with delicate candied pecan 2), and Zahlé, Lebanon (Oct. 3-Nov. bits scattered throughout and a dark 13). The Dénia menu will feature chocolate ganache drizzled over such mouthwatering treats the top. It was exhilarating. as a melon gazpacho, pork When Wilder opened tenderloin with summer Downtown Kitchen, he cherry compote, and drunken was depending on the orange polenta cake. trust he had built with the community during Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. Downtown Kitchen’s his time at Janos and 135 S. Sixth Ave. 520.623.7700. Cuban Sunset cocktail. J Bar. He credits 30 DowntownKitchen.com 32 July/August 2017
for business in late March, Hungry Kepuha has already earned a few die-hard fans. “When people go out of their way to see me, I know I’m doing something right,” says Anthony Ooka, the owner of the food truck providing Tucson with “a taste of Guam.” I first discovered Ooka’s truck parked outside Borderlands Brewing, and I was immediately impressed by the quality, serving size, and price. Ooka admits that while people are always telling him he’s underpriced, he actually had to be talked into charging what he does, because he tends to view things from a budget-conscious consumer perspective. For him to feel comfortable asking people to spend $10 to $14 for what he terms “food truck food,” Ooka wants them to feel like they received their money’s worth. “I want them to be happy, not want more food,” he says. Having been on the receiving end of Hungry Kepuha’s food truck fare twice now, I’m happy to report that I absolutely got my money’s worth, and then some. While the menu is currently limited to three items (a beef ribs entrée, a chicken breast entrée, or a combo plate featuring one of each), each plate represents what Ooka says is the philosophy of Chamoru food: “simple, amazing food that will fill you up.” (Chamoru is an older name used by the indigenous people for the culture of Guam, which is also called Chamorro. Chamoru is the preferred spelling for Guamanians who have reclaimed the colonially applied title.) He wants f ter opening
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people to have a “true and authentic experience” when they eat at Hungry Kepuha, and part of that is the large serving sizes. “We eat, we are an eating culture. You’re not going to get these skimpy little meals.” Ooka learned to cook on Guam, helping his grandmother, aunts, uncles, and parents with prepping for barbecues and fiestas—any event that required grilling. “I tell people that learning to grill is like a rite of passage on Guam,” he says, though he suspects the old folks teach the young to grill “so that they can sit around, talk and drink.” During his years in the U.S. Army from 2004 through 2010, Ooka further honed his skills; he later worked as a sous chef for a golf resort. The results of his experience show: the chicken and ribs, both marinated for 24 hours, come off the grill with tender, juicy meat and just enough char to evoke the signature barbecue flavor. I can’t pick a favorite between them; both are wonderful. The red rice is well-cooked, with a mild heat to it thanks to the use of ground annatto seed. It’s especially delicious with the addition of the all-purpose finadene sauce that Ooka serves on the side, with its elements of soy sauce and chile oil. To accompany the hot food, Ooka also serves chicken and cucumber salads on the side. He laughs when I ask him about the chicken salad, exclaiming, “Who serves chicken as a side dish?” But it works. The chicken is mixed with bits of coconut, sweet onions, and green onions, and seasoned with lemon and Thai chile peppers. The result is a salad with a good amount of spice and none of the heaviness of a mayonnaise-based chicken salad, and it serves as the heavier counterpart to the light and tangy cucumber 34 July/August 2017
Falora’s Fumo pizza.
salad, which Ooka brines no more than 12 hours in advance of serving in order to preserve crispiness. For Ooka, opening Hungry Kepuha is just the first step in his quest to bring knowledge of Guam and Chamorro culture to the people of Baja Arizona. “It’s part of the U.S., and people don’t even know about it,” he says. “I want people to know Guam. This is only a taste of Guam. There’s so much more that the culture, the island, the people have to offer, and I want to be the person to bring it to them.” Hungry Kepuha. HungryKepuha.com.
Falora’s Leone Salad.
alor a is one of my favorite pizza places in Tucson. Located on Broadway in the historic Broadway Village shopping center, the self-described “analog neighborhood spot” features pecan wood-fired pizza, artisan salads, four bottled beers, and 14 wines available by the glass or bottle, all served from Falora’s 100-square-foot kitchen. In the spirit of analog, guests receive a coupon if they arrive by foot or bike, and Falora has a daily Vino+Vinyl hour from 5 to 6 p.m.— bring your favorite record to spin on Falora’s vintage stereo and receive a free bottle of Chianti for your trouble. Falora’s patio looks out onto Broadway Boulevard, and it is a great spot to enjoy a warm Tucson evening. We arrived just in time to enjoy the sunset while sipping Willcox-produced Aridus Tank red wine ($7.50). Owner Ari Shapiro says they are “huge fans” of Aridus wines, and “love rotating along with them.” This particular red blend was sweet to taste and the flavor lingered, providing a nice contrast with the Leone Salad ($9.50), which featured roasted purple potatoes and summer squash, ripe, flavorful cherry tomatoes, and zesty arugula dressed in an artichoke and asiago vinaigrette. The potatoes added an unexpected heft to the salad’s texture. Falora’s pizzas come on the small side, so if you plan to skip the salad, I recommend you order at least two pizzas for a table of 2-3 adults. We threw moderation to the wind and ordered three, and I blame this entirely on Falora’s wide variety of delicious-sounding pies. The result was a fresh-from-the-oven range of flavor profiles: the classic Margherita pizza ($13), the NYC bagel and lox shmear-inspired Fumo pizza ($16), and the sweet and leafy Figaro pizza ($16). The Margherita kept things simple, with thick and melty pools of mozzarella cheese, whole basil leaves, and a red sauce made from imported San Marzano tomatoes that was absolutely bursting with flavor. I asked Shapiro what makes the sauce so good, and he credited the growing conditions around Mount Vesuvius for giving the tomatoes their sweet flavor, low acidity, and rich red pigment. The only
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thing he adds is sea salt, saying he prefers to let the volcanic soil “work its magic,” and that it’s “best to leave it alone.” The Fumo’s fishy profile is an homage to Shapiro’s New York roots, and successfully translates the concept of bagel-plus-lox into a delicious pizza. Featuring wild-caught Alaskan salmon, light and fluffy chèvre, heirloom cherry tomatoes, capers, and red onions, the dominant flavors alternate between the ripe, bright punch of tomatoes and the tender, smoky fish, with the capers adding just the right amount of tang. It’s definitely worth the trip outside of the pizza ingredient comfort zone. The Figaro, as the name suggests, features black mission figs sourced from Arizona orchards. First dried, then “slightly re-hydrated” before going on the pie, the fig’s texture was reminiscent of sun-dried tomatoes and played well against the leafy, only slightly cooked Brussels sprouts and crunchy walnuts, with a melty, double-cream French brie cheese tying it all together. A sweet balsamic dressing topped things off. It’s a pizza capable of satisfying both your sweet tooth and one of your vegetable servings for the day. Next time, I’d like to add some soppressata ($3) or beef sausage ($4), to further push the savory/sweet line. No matter what gets piled on top, Falora’s pizzas wouldn’t be such knockouts without their outstanding pizza crust, which is made from Caputo 00, a flour from Naples that’s been milled since 1924. Shapiro says the secret behind Falora’s slow-fermented dough is “being hyperaware of temperature and proofing” and “generally knowing the dough’s behavior—from the minute it comes out of the mixer, to how it feels when we’re stretching it for the pies.” As for the guiding philosophy behind Falora’s menu, Shapiro points to simplicity: “All elements have to be in balance.” He admits to an obsession with ingredients and preparation. He wants to make dining at Falora a “satiating and satisfying experience,” and judging by our full stomachs and smiling faces as we left, I’d say it’s a goal Falora accomplishes with aplomb. Falora. 3000 E. Broadway Blvd. 520.325.9988. Falora.com. 36 July/August 2017
discover ed Tucson Tamale Co. when I was a student at the University of Arizona. Their original location at Broadway and Tucson Boulevard is a quick bike ride away from campus, and once I tasted their Colette salsa, a medium-heat tomatillo salsa with just the right amount of salt, heat, and tang, I was hooked. Luckily, by the time I graduated and moved across town, Tucson Tamale Co.’s eastside location had opened. While their tamales are always tastiest served at the source, fans can also purchase frozen tamales to prepare at home from the nearest Tucson Tamale Co. location or from freezer cases at more than 500 grocery stores and co-ops nationwide.
traditional family recipes as well as a few of his own. New tamale recipes have been inspired by both customer feedback and employee suggestions. “One of our most popular tamales right now is the Chile Relleno Tamale, which came to us during a ‘createyour-own-tamale’ contest,” he says. We settled on two 2-Tamale Plates ($7.69 each) and one Red Chile Beef Burrito plate ($6.99). We chose the Chipotle Beef and Cheese Tamale, the Vegetable Curry Tamale, the Blue Corn, Veggie and Cheese Tamale, and the Red Chile Beef Tamale. Each tamale has its appeal: the jalapeño masa used in the Chipotle Beef and Cheese Tamale satisfies those craving extra spice, while the Vegetable Curry Tamale is the epitome of a fusion food, transplanting the flavors of Indian yellow curry into a warm, moist masa envelope. The Blue Corn, Veggie, and Cheese Tamale is my favorite, with its blue-purple masa and hearty calabacitas interior, though the Red Chile Beef Tamale is a close second, thanks to a filling of tender shredded beef, slowly simmered with red chile powder from Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co. in Tumacacori. Both Tucson Tamale Co. locations feature salsa bars with a variety of Tucson Tamale’s Blue Corn Veggie and Cheese Tamale. pickled and fresh toppings in addition to the three house-made salsas Looking for a quick and casual lunch, on their menu: The Sherry (a mild red), we headed to the eastside location, the Colette (a medium green), and the placed our orders at the counter, and Todd (a spicy red), all named after family settled onto the front patio. Tucson members. My favorite, the Colette, Tamale Co. doesn’t mess around when is named after the owners’ daughter. it comes to the size of their tamales. Martin says, “It’s kind of a Goldilocks Co-owner Todd Martin says they aim to thing; if Sherry’s is too mild, and Todd’s serve a “meal-sized tamale,” and I usually is too hot, Colette’s is just right.” find myself unable to eat more than two While Baja Arizonans have no in one sitting. And they offer more than shortage of quality tamale options to tamales: the menu includes a range of choose from, for me, Tucson Tamale burritos, quesadillas, empanadas, and Co. offers a consistent product with a salads, plus a variety of side options, convenience factor that makes them from the classics like Spanish rice and a must-stop and a must-stock. frijoles to a citrusy Mexican Slaw. There are more than 20 varieties of Tucson Tamale Co. 7159 E. tamales crafted and sold at Tucson Tamale Tanque Verde Road. 520.298.8404. Co.; the choices served hot in-house are TucsonTamale.com limited to an only slightly less impressive Kate Selby is a local-living enthusiast and 17 tamale varieties. Martin says Tucson craft-cocktail chaser. She studied creative Tamale Co. started out with six tamale writing at the University of Arizona. recipes, drawn from a combination of
edible Baja Arizona
The Plate Plate the
The frozen thing they should never take off the menu.
1234 Photography by Shelby Thompson
Chamoy Raspado Oasis Fruit Raspados It’s hard to go wrong at Oasis, but try the Chamoy Raspado: A scoop of shaved ice is flavored by lime, mango, and chamoy juices, and topped with coated peanuts, tamarind candy, and a saladito. $4. 412 S. Sixth Ave.
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Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream Cashew Cow A taste of nostalgia but without the dairy: Creamy cashewbased ice cream is infused with fresh orange zest, then swirled with orange sorbet. $4.25. 16 S. Eastbourne Ave.
Ice Cream Flight The Screamery Sometimes, you have to scream for all the ice cream. From front: Sweet Cream Honeycomb, Cookies and Cream, Blueberry Cheesecake, Triple Play, Cherry Cobbler, Lemonilla. $7.50. 250 E. Congress St.
Ice Cream Sandwich Isabella’s Ice Cream When you can’t decide between cookies and cream: Creamy small batch Sonoran Coffee ice cream is stuffed between two homemade chocolate chip cookies and dotted with local coffee beans. $5. 210 N. Fourth Ave.
edible Baja Arizona
Design Dining Architects Sonya Sotinsky and Miguel Fuentevilla have designed hundreds of restaurants, including a dozen in downtown Tucson, and created a culinary sense of place. Interview by Megan Kimble | Photography by Nieves Montaño
You established FORS Architecture + Interiors in 1997. What attracted you to restaurant design?
Sonya: Like so many things in life, it was accidental. What we were always focused on was creating these rich sensory experiences and being very client specific. I was doing residential architecture and Miguel was drawn into doing a lot of retail work. When we discovered restaurant work, we thought: This is a great match for us. Thinking about what it’s going to feel like when you’re on a date night and sitting in this corner, or when it’s a big group of your friends for happy hour sitting in this area—it’s creating the whole sensory experience. But FORS had been a side project. We moved back to Tucson and opened full-time in January of 2000. Miguel: Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails and Hub were our first two projects in downtown Tucson. Those projects are now staples of the community. You change Hub, and it’s like it’d be changing Cheers. They’re ingrained in the historical, cultural fabric of downtown. Since then, we’ve done Carriage House, Penca, Elvira’s, we did the master plan of the Gibson Market. We reconfigured the whole thing, brought the properties together, and then master-planned it to three restaurants. We did Playground, Bianco, Proper, Diablo Burger, Good Oak, Borderlands. Rival, Scented Leaf, and the AC Hotel Marriott.
How do restaurants fit into successful urban areas?
Sonya: Restaurants are the new anchors. Every time we look at a new restaurant, and particularly when we’re looking at them downtown, we have been very cognizant of building the whole environment. We’ve done signage 48 July/August 2017
sites for all the blocks. We’re looking at the paving. We’re looking at how the restaurant interfaces with the street. How does that restaurant plug in and deal with the street, how do the people interface back and forth, how do you engage people on the street, how does it give back to the street? Miguel: We’ve received historic preservation awards, and yet we’re modernists at heart. And that’s because Tucson’s downtown is old. Old in the broad spectrum of the West. Phoenix’s downtown isn’t even 100 years old. Tucson’s downtown is 300. Most of these projects are iterations of the second or third building on these blocks. There’s a historical effect that we take into account and that is really important. Sonya: For each of the buildings we’ve designed, we’ve gone back and looked at the historical photographs, looked at the maps, to see how it evolves. Every single one of those histories doesn’t manifest itself into the project, but sometimes they do. It seeps into us and shapes our approach to the project regardless. Miguel: At Gibson’s Market, by putting a business in there, what you’re really doing is rehabilitating that building. And you’re preserving that building for the next century, for the next generations. The next generation is going to have to do the same thing we did. We’re not just creating a place; we’re also preserving history. Sonya: And layering new history upon it. Walk into a restaurant downtown—like Hub Ice Cream Factory or Elvira’s—and it’s likely that the husband-andwife team Sonya Sotinsky and Miguel Fuentevilla had something to do with how it looks, feels, and sounds.
edible Baja Arizona
What sets Tucson’s downtown apart from other cities you’ve visited?
Miguel: We visit 10 cities and 500 projects a year. What makes us different in our weather and our cultural history. We always want to connect these restaurants with the indoor/ outdoor. That’s really important. That’s not easy to do in downtown Tucson. We have much narrower spaces, more limited spaces. Something we can tie into is the history of that area. Working on Congress and Fifth is different from working on Sixth south of Broadway. The sense of place is working with the history of the buildings that we’re in. In some ways we’re similar to old, urban downtowns. It’s beyond the desert culture. When you’re downtown, you’re dealing more with the history of downtown, and the families that have been here. The timeline—that’s what makes our downtown really interesting. And then we have three great old neighborhoods surrounding downtown: the Presidio, Armory, and the Barrio.
How do you begin the process of designing a restaurant?
restaurants, erase those from your mind. So that has to do with the materials we use, how we layer them, to create an experience in a different way. Janos is downstairs from the Etherton Gallery. So it was important to have that art component, as part of the history of that building. With other restaurants—how fast do you want people coming in and out, how loud do you want the space to be? Some people say, “Oh, the restaurant is so loud” and it’s like, I know, but that’s part of the design. Miguel: “It’s so loud, I don’t like spending a lot of time in there”—sometimes that’s purposeful. Because of the economics—they’ve got to move the tables. Now we jump to Elvira’s, a restaurant that has the same name of the family restaurant that was built in 1917. So we have to bring part of that history into a new building. Elvira’s was more about the color, bringing in the layers of history from the old restaurants. There are a lot of subtle things that we hope you pick up psychologically. Maybe you don’t know why you love them, but you become a part of them.
Sonya: Who do you envision your clientele to be? What kind of vibe do you want? On You moved your office to downtown Tucson in a Wednesday versus a Friday? 2012. How has downtown What kind of vibe you want changed since then? near the bar, compared to the back of the restaurant? Miguel: I don’t think people What’s going to be new and were willing to pay for parking what’s going to be old? downtown. Now, great, they’ll Miguel: For example, Janos’ pay for parking, because they place [Downtown Kitchen want to be here. You don’t have + Cocktails] was an existing to pay for parking at Target or restaurant. It had three previous Safeway. Here, you have to make restaurants in it before. Janos that commitment. Parking alone had been in downtown and tells you the story of downtown. left downtown. Janos’ food is Depot 2 was empty when it extremely unique. He takes all first opened and today Depot these flavors and infuses them 2 is packed. To see those small together and makes these creative transformations ... it takes time. menus. So the kitchen was really You try to build something in two FORS Architecture + Interiors helped design Elvira’s important. We had a budget. years, it’ll fail. Success comes with downtown. “Elvira’s was more about the color, Every project has a budget. slow growth. It gives businesses bringing in the layers of history,” says Miguel. When we’re developing a brand, a chance to become established, what’s really important? It’s become part of the fabric. We’ve about Janos. In the kitchen, there’s Janos—he’s cooking, the turned into a foodie town, and that wasn’t easy to do. food is fresh, you can see where the food is being prepared. If you want to retain that culture, that intellect, those You can see the layers of the food. We spent quite a lot of people who you want to keep here, who are smart, you’ve money on the kitchen because we thought it was important got to give them that sense of place. We already have to put Janos and the kitchen front and center. And then we the climate. We have the outdoor life cornered. But add on to that. So we do a lot of things that are subtle that what we have to corner is the livability of our city. maybe you wouldn’t think of, but we try to make you part ForsSHOP. 245 E. Congress St. #135. of the story. Make you feel like the restaurant is part of your 520.795.9888. ForsArchitecture.com. family, so you’ll go back to that restaurant once a week. Megan Kimble is the editor of Edible Baja Arizona and the author of Sonya: There’s the element of the building itself, that Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food. specific place. We really wanted to take away those other
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Sonoran Baptism By Erec Toso
Dear Friends in Other Places We are still crispy dry ripe to explode in flame at the first dry lightning or careless butt Even the Gila River normally raftable north of us is just pools and river rock But we keep going pretending water will last forever We found a creek last weekend just off the shore of a sky island a forgotten defile home of trogon source of time and temporality and we slept on its spring-fed banks Morning found us freezing naked in its last deep pool beneath a mossy waterfall
I want to play hot blues and sing songs of redemption blood reunion in a dancing mass for that creosote-soaked waft just now soft as a catâ€™s paw poking at my cheek They will come it said those belly dumpers of hail and sweet rain those barbed and twisted skewers of light ionized violence After staying up all night watching shooting stars and listening to fiddle music I woke to a promise of cloud a bass note a distant concussion the rushing and imminent baptism teasing not yet
Erec Toso watches clouds when he is not teaching English at the University of Arizona. His writing grows out of flinty soil and bouts of longing. His mentor, Simone the cat, admits that his progress is slow, but that he may write something good and true if he learns to pay better attention to the little things.
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Double the Harvest The Double Up SNAP program offers low-income patrons up to $20 extra to spend at farmers’ markets, benefitting both those who need local food and those who produce it. By Kathe Lison | Photography by Jeff Smith
ilantro . Turnips, their tips blushing a rosy pink. Bunches
of spring onions; ruby-red radishes; slim, Japanese eggplants. Bags stuffed with greens, leaves peeking from their tops; fresh eggs; baskets of peaches; baskets of onions; baskets of prickly pear, their pads like overlarge ears for a desert Mickey Mouse. A woman perusing the Community Food Bank’s Abundant Harvest Cooperative booth squeals. “Oooh!” she says, “I love nopales. I fry them, then add a little lemon and salt.” Eric Sandstrom, one of the market workers that day, smiles and agrees. The prickly pear pads and other fresh, beautiful produce are the reason she—and other low-income patrons like her—shop at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market. Since the introduction of the Double Up SNAP program in the summer of 2015, many such patrons have had even more reason to shop at farmers’ markets across Tucson. Currently funded largely by a one-time USDA grant and administered by a network of partners, the Double Up program takes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars, and doubles them, giving recipients up to $20 more per market to spend on Arizona-grown greens and produce. To call this a win-win is an understatement. As local farmer Joe Marlow of SouthWinds Farms explains, he’s seen a distinct uptick in sales all while being able “to put good food into the bellies of people who can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods.” If you’re thinking, “What a great new idea!” you would in fact be wrong. The Food Stamp Program (as SNAP was known
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for most of its existence) began back in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. And its first administrator, Milo Perkins, described the inspiration for the program as follows: “We got a picture of a gorge, with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other. We set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across the chasm.” So the notion of linking farmers with the poor is a return to the program’s roots, while the picture many people have of food stamp recipients using their assistance to buy frozen dinners is of far more recent origin. As farmers’ markets gradually disappeared from our cities, people on food stamps—like everyone else—were left with fewer, if any, ways to shop for local, fresh produce. Over time, frozen and convenience foods took up a greater part of their diets. Not only were such foods available, they were—and are—more affordable than produce, and can be depended upon to last. Certainly this was true for my mother while my younger sister and I were growing up. Like many of her generation, my mom, who married in 1963, believed her husband would take
(Clockwise from top): Abigail Plano hands over a stack of Double Up coupons to Kerrie Wallis, a customer at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market. The Double Up program takes SNAP dollars, and doubles them, giving recipients up to $20 more per market. Erik Sandstrom works at the Community Food Bank’s Abundant Harvest Cooperative booth.
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Reggie Rittenhouse (left) and Jaymie Groom head into the Sunday Heirloom Farmers’ market with twice the purchasing power, thanks to the Double Up program.
care of putting food on the table. When that turned out not to be true, she was left with a high-school education, the mobile home my dad had deemed good enough, and two mouths to feed. Food stamps were how we made ends meet, along with visits to the local food pantry. While we bought some produce at the supermarket, my mother concentrated her dollars on items such as bulk ground chuck, which she divided into chunks and froze at the start of each month. The things I remember best, though, came from the food pantry, which was housed 56 July/August 2017
in a low-slung, windowless building made of cinder blocks. Outside, we waited in line beside a busy street, cars flashing by, feeling every pair of eyes that glanced away. Inside were blocks of plastic-y government-issued cheese, powdered milk, and week-old doughnuts that the grocery stores couldn’t sell. If we got a vegetable, it was okra, which, along with grits, was one of the strange Southern foods the government seemed to think all poor people everywhere must eat, even if they lived in a trailer in Wisconsin like we did.
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Joe Marlow of SouthWinds Farm says that four or five customers have used their Double Up dollars to purchase a CSA share from his farm.
r een though it was , I never did develop a taste for okra. But remembering my food-pantry days makes it even lovelier to visit the Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park on a glorious Sunday morning in May. Growers like Joe Marlow of SouthWinds bustle about with bins of leafy things. Marlow notes that the Double Up dollars can also be used to purchase CSA shares from his farm; he’s had four or five customers do that. From the SouthWinds booth, I walk under the booth-lined metal awnings to the center of the market. To one side is the info booth where market-goers can get their SNAP and Double Up coupons. Nearby, gangs of bikes are tied up to bike stands, mesquite trees, and anything else anyone can tie a bike to; the wind tousles the last of the Palo Verde blossoms and folks sip coffee while two T-shirted guys strum guitars. My mom, who was a farmer’s daughter herself, would have been thrilled to be able to bring her two girls to shop in such a place.
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From the market’s center, I follow the fiery, spicy smell of roasting peppers to Red’s Roasters, where Kris Young and a helper are busy roasting zucchini; they roast all of their veggies on site. Young, possessor of both a large red beard and a pink and blue straw hat, is a big fan of the Double Up program. Before the program, most SNAP recipients gravitated toward the sort of long-lasting foods my mother once bought: eggs, meat. So the Double-Up dollars, good only for fruits and veggies, act as a huge inducement. “Once they did the double thing,” Young says, “people really started asking ‘Well, where can I spend my extra SNAP dollars?’ Once they had more, they were able to explore and see what more things they could buy with it, and there’s a lot more.” Like Marlow, Young has noticed how the program has affected sales—his are up by about $300 a month. “And that’s $300 that would not have been spent on vegetables here.”
Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market on Thursday afternoon, people are equally enthusiastic. Erik Sandstrom, the worker who had been chatting about nopales, is also a SNAP recipient. Sandstrom, whose job at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is part of a year of service work under the Presbyterian Church’s Young Adult Volunteer Program, also does unpaid pastoral care. “It’s great,” he says. “It’s taking basically $200 and turning it into $400. And that just helps me so much when I’m cooking. It gives me fresh food.” Other vendors have also used the program occasionally. Laura Brehm, currently at Maggie’s Farm, depended on SNAP for help when she worked at another farm for less money. “It was only $16,” she explained, though with the Double Up program that became $32. “I was very thankful to have it,” she says. Katherine, a market goer who prefers not to give her last name, agrees. “It’s been a great thing,” she says. “It’s been a way for me to afford to eat healthy while still living in low income. I don’t like to buy my vegetables anywhere else.” “Great,” was a word I heard from nearly everyone. According to Kara Jones of the Community Food Bank, SNAP-related sales have grown from $8,000 per year in 2015 to $42,000 in 2016, including the bump provided by the Double Up funding. “Running this program means that community members with SNAP benefits are participating in the farmers’ market at a higher rate—which is exactly the point,” says Jones. Nick Szumowski of Heirloom Farmers’ Markets reports similarly significant gains, with SNAP-related purchases increasing from $15,000 in 2015 to more than $30,000 in 2016, with the Double Up sales accounting for more than $13,000 of that total. In fact, the only not-great thing about the Double Up Program may be its uncertain future. The federal Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant that provides most of the program’s funding ends in early 2018. For the moment, managers at both the Heirloom Farmers’ Market and the Community Food Bank are committed to keeping the program going for as long as possible and both markets are actively seeking additional funds. The loss of the program would be a huge blow to all of those it’s helped, though perhaps none more so than a disabled woman who prefers that her name not be shared. Though she no longer visits the market (someone from the food bank does her shopping for her), she writes glowingly of the program. She explains that she can’t eat many of the foods found in most supermarkets, and that “healthy food is key to maintaining function.” “Each week,” she says, “when I see those bright, vibrant greens, beets, carrots, fresh fruits and eggs, meat, honey and nuts, I’m filled with gratitude. I get most of my weekly food from the market. And the Double-Up SNAP program makes that possible. Each dollar stretches twice as far, and we don’t need to choose bargain or lesser quality. This program makes health-giving food accessible.” It is, she says, “honestly life-sustaining.” ac k at t h e
Kathe Lison is the author of The Whole Fromage, a book about traditional cheesemaking in France. She lives and eats in Tucson. The Double Up program gives SNAP recipients access to more fresh, local food, like nopales, chiles, or garlic. “It’s been a way for me to afford to eat healthy while still living in low income,” says one participant. 60 July/August 2017
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Camp Baidaj Stella Tucker is a Tohono O’odham elder whose family has been harvesting saguaro fruit in Saguaro National Park since long before the park was a park. By Kimi Eisele | Photography by Steven Meckler
esert dw ellers know that the first sight of saguaro blooms means a shift is coming. Several, actually. In short order, white floral crowns give way to blood-red fruits. Bees and bats give way to doves and woodpeckers that come to feast. And then, with any luck, the skies release the monsoon rains. All the while, we humans stand below, wide-eyed with craned necks, hoping for either a taste of fruit or that first drop of rain. Everyone but Stella Tucker, that is. For Stella, a 70-year-old Tohono O’odham grandmother, this annual ecological unfolding means it’s time to get to work. Every year, in late May or early June, Stella and her daughter, Tanisha Tucker, 35, pack up the essentials and move their household to a two-acre patch of desert within Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain District, where generations have continued a cultural tradition called baidaj, or saguaro fruit harvest. While Stella harvested saguaro fruit as a young girl with her grandfather near Sells, it wasn’t until she visited the camp of her grandmother, Juanita Ahil, in the park, that her devotion began. “I just fell in love out there,” she says.
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She began taking the summers off from work to go help her grandmother pick fruit. “I always loved my grandmother’s place. We slept outside and did things the old way, a whole different way of living.” Located a mile from the park’s visitor center, the camp has a field kitchen complete with pots, ladles, and screens from Stella’s grandmother’s day. Ramadas made with mesquite posts and saguaro ribs shade picnic tables and sleeping cots. “You get to see the sunsets, and the full moon,” says Tanisha. “You can hear the javelinas nearby in the wash. And the cicadas— the indication of summer.” “Oh, yes, the cicadas,” Stella says. “One time they were at it until 10 o’clock. Then they all went to sleep I guess.”
Every summer, Tanisha Tucker (right) and her mother, Stella, set up camp on a two-acre patch of desert within Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain District, to continue a cultural tradition called baidaj, or saguaro fruit harvest.
is unusual because of its location on public lands, where harvesting is otherwise prohibited. When the 25 square miles of desert on the west side of Tucson, which included Stella’s family camp, was added to Saguaro National Monument in 1961 (it was elevated to national park status in 1994), monument officials were concerned about the harvest and initially prohibited it. But, as Stella recounts, friends from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior on behalf of her grandmother, and then-Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall granted permission for the harvest to continue. Today, a special permitting process between the Tohono O’odham Nation and Saguaro National Park allows Stella to uphold the tradition. Stella took over the camp after her grandmother died in 1994. A temporary home during the harvest season, the camp has become something of a mecca for those wanting to understand how ecology, food, culture, ceremony, and stewardship come together. Stella is its benevolent matriarch. Of Stella’s two remaining children —one of her daughters died three years ago—Tanisha is the most committed to continuing the harvest. She has helped her mother consistently with the harvest for the past five years and now takes on the lion’s share of teaching, with her cousin, Maria Francisco. Stella is grateful that her daughter has stepped up to help her. “It’s a dying culture. One day nobody will know how to do it. I want them to learn. It’s really important to me that they learn and keep this culture going,” she says. The harvest begins in late May or early June, depending on when the saguaros flower. Red, ripe fruits used for syrup and jam are picked from the cactus using a kuipad, or harvesting pole, made from saguaro ribs. This season, Tanisha remade all the camp’s poles, a skill she learned from her uncle. “You need a strong rib. You don’t want too much sway, especially for the base. You have to connect two together he camp
Red, ripe fruits are picked from the cactus using a kuipad, or harvesting pole, made from saguaro ribs. 68 July/August 2017
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Stella Tucker, a 70-year-old Tohono O’odham grandmother, has been harvesting saguaro fruit since she was a little girl living in Sells.
with wire because it’s hard to find one rib that’s long enough. But it can’t be too tall or it’s hard to balance.” A short creosote branch is fixed to the top and used as a cross bar for leverage when gently knocking the fruit off the saguaro. Using the hardened calyx of the flower as a knife, Tanisha explains, you open the first fruit you pick and rub some of the pulp or juice on your heart or on your forehead. “That’s to bless you for protection out there when you’re picking and … to say thank you to the saguaro.” Once you remove the fruit from its skin, you place the pod face up to the sky, “to welcome rain for the next season.” This show of respect is essential, Tanisha says, along with ensuring that enough fruit is left for animals and for beauty. “We’d never want to see the day that the syrup is on a Walmart shelf. That would lead to overharvesting and a corporate takeover,” she says. Later in June, any remaining fruit on the saguaros dries and falls to the ground. “Those are the best ones to pick, ‘cause they’re clean and you can take them home with you and have fruit anytime you want during the year,” Stella says. In recent years, bad knees have prevented Stella from harvesting, so she presides over the processing and cooking stage from one of the camp picnic tables. Those who help with the harvest contribute fruit to the processing and cooking, but also get to take some of their harvest home. 70 July/August 2017
“I’ve done it so many times I can’t tell you in measurements, I just see it,” Stella says. “When you’ve doing something for so long you know what you’re doing and you know it’s the right thing.” Once picked, the fruit is soaked in water then transferred to a pot and cooked over a mesquite-wood fire. Debris from the harvest is skimmed off the top, and the fruit is strained through a wire screen to separate the fiber and seed from the juice. The liquid goes through another strainer or cheesecloth and is then cooked for several hours to become syrup or jam. For Tanisha, the smell of saguaro fruit cooking roots her firmly in the tradition. “It makes you feel like, ‘Yes, this is my accomplishment and I worked hard today and this is my prize.’ It’s beautiful, a liquid gold,” she says. Stella sells some of the syrup she makes and also donates it to the annual Tohono O’odham Nation wine ceremony, or jujkida, which is said to “sing down the rain” for summer planting. “You go from house to house, people inviting you over. It lasts the whole weekend and there’s a lot of singing,” she says. Both Stella and Tanisha understand their role as stewards of a cultural tradition, one grounded in a spirit of reciprocity. Every year dozens of groups visit the camp, many of them O’odham, including groups hosted by the poet Ofelia Zepeda and by the San Xavier Co-op Farm. “A lot of them don’t know anything about saguaros,” Stella says.
The bright red saguaro fruit is cooked and processed back at the camp to make syrup or jam.
alentina V avages -A ndr ew , an ancestral ranger with Saguaro National Park and also a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, coordinates trips for native youth to participate in the harvest. “It’s important for the youth to get their hands dirty and take part in the processing,” she says. Vavages-Andrew says the trips also reveal the deeper meaning of the harvest, which signals the O’odham New Year. The actual date of the New Year comes in the first half of July, depending on the end of the harvest and the coming of the rains. For many years the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum brought classes and workshops to Stella’s camp. One year Gary Owens signed up for one. An Akimel O’odham from Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Owens had wanted to learn how to harvest for years, but couldn’t find elders in his district to teach him. “I was so embarrassed that I had to take a class. There I was with a bunch of tourists and white people,” he said. “But I am forever grateful to the Museum because I had no idea where [Stella] was. I’d been looking for her for a long time.” Owens returned to Stella’s camp every summer for 11 years. “She was so giving. But she made it clear, ‘I’m gonna teach you, you’re gonna learn. There’s no halfway. You need to embrace all of it.’ It’s true. Whatever ritual you do, you become a part of it.” Barbara Rose who runs Bean Tree Farm—a desert farm offering hands-on workshops about desert foods, herbs, and earth-building— started helping Stella harvest in the mid-1990s. “There was always
just a real love and attention and welcome and graciousness,” Rose said of the camp. From Stella, Rose learned a stalwart dedication to water conservation. “Stella doesn’t waste a drop of water. Never is anything rinsed and thrown on the ground. You rinse your hands into the water cooking the saguaro syrup,” Rose said. Rose said Stella’s devotion has inspired her own resilience at Bean Tree Farm. “She’s a really good model for me when I think about how many years I’ll be fighting for the watershed in my backyard. She’s had multiple tragedies, personal tragedies, and physical ailments and pains and she just keeps on keeping on.” Not unlike a saguaro. In her 30 years of returning to the camp, Stella has indeed seen her share of new growth and death. “In our stories that we tell, we look at the saguaros as people,” Stella said. “I have my favorite saguaros that I go and talk to and see how they’re doing, see what kind of damage they’ve had. Some of the saguaros are no longer there. They just died and fell to the ground. They gave me so much fruit, you know? I always thank them for that.” Kimi Eisele is a Tucson-based writer and multidisciplinary artist. She did some of the reporting for this article while directing Standing With Saguaros, a three-act, site-responsive performance project in Saguaro National Park, part of which featured Stella’s camp and contributions, in 2016. Visit StandingWithSaguaros.org.
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in May, just as the heat begins to build, the dark lifts earlier and we desert people wake to feel the cool on our shoulders. On my Tucson street, there is the scratch of straw brooms sweeping mesquite flowers from pavement—chh, chh, chh—as the sun comes up. By afternoon, it is nearly 100 degrees, and I bake inside my car as I drive across town to meet Byrd Baylor, perhaps southern Arizona’s most beloved children’s book author. At 93 years old, Byrd is the author of nearly 30 children’s books, including The Desert Is Theirs, The Other Way to Listen, and I’m In Charge of Celebrations, and one novel, Yes Is Better Than No. We sit at a patio table in the side yard of the midtown house she shares with her grandson Jesse. In front of her is a cup of coffee, a pack of Crowns cigarettes, a lighter. Her cane is propped against the table; her button-up shirt is covered with a repeating floral print; her lips, adorned with bright pink lipstick. As she lights a cigarette, her shoulder-length white hair glints in the sunlight. She says, “I’ve always liked to have some pretty good outdoors around me, but I’ve also liked to be where I could cause a little political problem.” n t he v ery ear ly mor ning
When a Cactus Blooms A
s a child , Byrd was Elizabeth Byrd Baylor, called Betty, but early on, she began to be called Byrd—her mother’s maiden name. Her love of words and writing was also passed down from her mother, who recited the poetry of Shelley, Keats, and Byron to her children. “She believed in memorization and in good poetry,” says Byrd, explaining that she had little patience for the singsong rhyming so pervasive in the world of children’s literature. Before Byrd could write or read, she would try to “make a poem” out loud to her mother, who would scribe it and then read it back to her. These first poems were a collaboration, a negotiation of art between mother and daughter. “Take that word out,” little Byrd would instruct her mother. “Put this one in instead.” And then she would close her eyes and listen to her mother read the poem again. Byrd’s early years were spent on her grandparent’s ranch outside of San Antonio, Texas. There, she would hunker in the hayloft of the barn to read and write, her grandfather rearranging the bales so she could climb the stack. These were her first quiet pockets of space, and she found exhilaration in being alone with her thoughts, the light catching pieces of hay in the air all around her. In a 1987 essay in City Magazine, Byrd wrote about seeing a pig slaughtered for the first time as a child on the ranch. “When the knife was drawn and the pig screamed and blood flowed on the ground, I stood there with the others, not saying a word, not even turning my head away. Up to that morning, I had been secure (as only an 8-year-old can be) in the knowledge that I was a good person in a good world.” The pig’s death became a seed for her belief that all creatures, both human and animal, are equally entitled to life. Byrd would go on to become a committed vegetarian in adulthood. At her home in Arivaca, rattlesnakes slithered inside the door to pause on the cold floor, and she would simply go about her business; packrats and mice grew trusting and tame. During the driest times of year, she would put water out for the coyotes.
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For more than 50 years, Byrd Baylor, beloved children’s book author and essayist, has captured the beauty, solitude, and politics of the desert.
By Debbie Weingarten Paintings by Joe Forkan
n 1963, Byrd published her first children’s book, Amigo, about a lonely desert boy who tries to tame a prairie dog. When she was pitching the manuscript, one New York publisher asked her to remove the desert landscape. They said, “I like the way you write and all that, but nobody’s ever heard of a prairie dog. If you could change your whole concept just enough to make it a squirrel at a city park, we would probably be interested.” “I don’t write about squirrels in city parks,” she told the publisher. Eventually, the book was purchased by Scribner, which later became an imprint of Simon & Schuster, launching her children’s book career. Byrd has lived several lives—she attended the University of Arizona for creative writing; just after World War II, she married a Navy engineer, and they moved to pre-Beat Generation San Francisco for a couple of years before having two sons, Dennis and Tony, and eventually divorcing; her second marriage took her to Virginia, where her then-husband Richard Schweitzer worked for Stewart Udall, the Secretary of Interior under President John F. Kennedy. Byrd tried to get used to the East Coast, decorated her house with remnants of the desert, but she never felt at home
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in all of the green. While in Virginia, she marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and became active in the civil rights movement, but when Kennedy was assassinated, Byrd returned to Tucson. She and Schweitzer eventually divorced. Between her two marriages, she worked as a reporter with the Tucson Citizen, where she was hired to write obituaries and art stories, and was one of two women in an otherwise male office. She would go on to write essays—dozens of them, printed in a regular column called Byrd’s Nest in the now-defunct City Magazine, and then later in the Arivaca Connection. In her essays, Byrd took strong stands on a variety of subjects ranging from old trucks (“I highly recommend owning a truck without a motor, because you have no unreasonable expectations, such as that it might run for three weeks without breaking down. You expect absolutely nothing of it except to sit there looking sky blue, and there is very little chance of being disappointed”) to the aerial hunting of coyotes by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“They were shooting coyotes from helicopters out at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, and I thought at least one person who loves coyotes ought to be there, too”).
n the late 1970 s , Byrd purchased 20 acres of desert in Arivaca. She began building an adobe house and moved there permanently in 1982. “We started living there sooner than most people probably would have,” says Byrd, laughing at the long building process—the starts and stops, the many friends who descended for work days, helping to build the adobe walls, the single open room, sleeping loft, and attached greenhouse. Byrd cooked on a wood stove, pulled water by windmill from a well, and used kerosene lamps for light at night. Eventually, a single solar panel brought dim light to one part of the house, and a wood-fired hot water heater brought the luxury of warm showers. “If you’re in bed at night, stay up in the loft. To get out to the bathroom, you have to go downstairs through the greenhouse, and then eventually you get to the composting toilet.” She laughs. “I love every inch of it.” Byrd wrote a slew of books in Arivaca—outside on a manual typewriter so she could be surrounded by the desert, or perched in an arroyo, writing longhand on a yellow legal pad, which she carried in her hiking backpack. She received numerous awards for her work, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award, Caldecott honors for four of her titles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Local Genius Award. In the 1990s, as militarization increased along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Clinton-era Border Patrol embraced a philosophy of “prevention through deterrence.” Migrants were squeezed like thumbs through a ripe fruit, pushed to the very center, the Arizona desert becoming the only corridor. Out her front door, migrant traffic increased—men, women, children crossing through Byrd’s property, dehydrated, unacclimated to the desert, nursing wounds. “An old Yaqui man told me once that there is always one best way to cross a mountain,” says Byrd. “And that best way happened to be close to my home.” She posted a Border Patrol Keep Out sign in the driveway and provided water, food and respite to exhausted desert crossers. On July 4, 2003, Byrd came upon the body of a young man. Three weeks later, she wrote about the experience in the Arivaca Connection. “Face up to the early morning sun, he lay only a foot or so from the road, his few belongings rolled up in a bundle beside him. He had taken off his shirt. His ribs showed, and he was covered with scratches from cat’s claw and mesquite. “Remember,” Byrd wrote, “all this happened on the Fourth of July, the great American holiday. It’s one of those times— between the cookouts and the fireworks and the beer—when we like to give a moment’s thought to the founding of our nation … We know our ancestors were not casual or careful in seeking better lives. They thought that it might be their only chance. I suppose the young man lying by the road was doing the same thing.” In 2004, Byrd began hosting the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths on a piece of her property, an arrangement that continues to this day. The organization set up a camp, which they named Byrd Camp, from which to stock water drops and patrol for migrants in distress.
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B yr d was a child, her father would travel to Mexico to mine for gold. During breaks from school, the family would travel to visit him in the mining camp. Byrd and her brother, David, were each given a burro. “Ride as far as you want, because the burro knows the way home,” their father told them, “When you’re ready to come home, just turn him around and loosen the reins and he’ll take you home.” From the back of the burro, Byrd rode through tiny towns and over hills, the desert landscape stretching out before them. In her children’s books, Byrd’s main characters wander the desert, usually alone. Byrd says she has always valued space to wander, and solitude to think and observe. “We think a little bit differently when we’re alone. It’s a different feeling,” she says. As a parent, she allowed her two sons the freedom to wander and claim those solitary spaces in nature, a value that was also passed to her grandchildren. “A lot of people think that a child should never be alone,” she says to me, “As a parent, you think you need to be with them every second, and I think that hen
“Do you have a rock?” I ask, and she laughs as though it is a ridiculous question. “I have a million.” sometimes, just wandering around in beautiful desert as a little kid—it becomes so magical, and you’re looking so carefully, [listening] to the sounds.” Sitting on the patio in midtown Tucson, she sets down her cigarette and recites a poem, one that has been in the works for a decade, scrawled on a yellow legal pad, called Why I Don’t Have a Poem About Ravens. “I was sitting on a rock at the arroyo edge writing a poem about ravens. Six ravens were flying above me and I wanted to hear the flap of their wings in the lines of my poem. I wanted to play with windy sounding words in the same easy way the ravens were playing with wind. But when they saw that I was watching them, each raven loudly ridiculed my presence. They flew past me, all calling out insults going toward the hills. Of course, I closed my notebook and turned the other way, pretending I was just watching the rain clouds. That’s why I don’t have a poem about ravens.” Her grandson, Jesse, has memories of being a child in Arivaca, unafraid to be alone in the desert. “I was 11, 12 years old and would go out camping overnight by myself,” he remembers. “There’s a black walnut tree that I’d keep a little container with a can of spaghetti or something that I could go and easily get if I wanted it.”
there is Wild Summer Storm Season— not to be confused with Summer Rainy Season even though they come at the
same time. All Desert People look forward to the rains, of
course, for the new green world, for the touch of rain itself on the body, for the cumulus clouds, for the smell of rain on desert earth. But certain people complain if they don’t get enough violent lightning and thunder storms. They wouldn't give up July and August in the desert for anything. Those are the people typing out letters which say: “So sorry not to be able to accept your wonderful invitation to tour Europe during July and August, but it is an incredibly busy time and I am unable to get away.” They are the ones telling the World Literary Prize people who are calling from Moscow or Rio or Athens: “I'd love to be there to accept my award, but I’m really quite ill and the doctor says my only hope is to hang around the desert through July and August.” Translated into Desert Rat, such statements mean, I am seriously addicted to Wild Summer Storm Season. I’ll be busy watching the sky, hoping for one more magnificent flash to remember forever. I’ll be terrified, heart pounding, watching lightning rage, hearing thunder shake the world apart. I’ll be standing at the edge of the arroyo, shivering and drenched, waiting for that surging brown water. — Byrd Baylor, “Four Seasons." City Magazine
Byrd received dozens of letters from child readers every year. They told her about their class projects and their troubles at school. “Dear Arthur,” a child named Henry wrote, “Everybody has to write to an arthur. You are the arthur I have to write to. Please send a lot of interesting things to put on the bulletin board. If anything interesting ever happened to you, please tell what it was. If nothing happened that is okay just so it is two pages long. Send a lot of stuff right away because I only gots one more week to do my report. I forgot to write before.” Byrd says she received countless letters from children after Everybody Needs a Rock was published in 1974. In the book, Byrd reveals 10 rules for finding a rock. “Not just any rock. I mean
n her 1988 essay Four Seasons, Byrd writes about responding to questions from Easterners about the desert’s lack of seasons. She polls her desert friends about the number of seasons of the Southwest and makes a list: Green Corn Tamale Season, White Saguaro Thorn Season, Summer Rainy Season, Wild Summer Storm Season. She describes the way winter coyotes howl in a different way from summer coyotes. “It’s lonelier, sadder, crazier. Now that I think of it, I’m lonelier, sadder, crazier in those months, too … It has to do with early evening darkness which causes a strange terror in the heart.” And the heat of late June—“It is entirely different from heat in late July. To lump them together as ‘summer’ would be an insult to heat. June is that particular kind of heat which has a physical touch. You feel it pressed against you, a solid being, as real as a hand against your face.” On another day, a morning after the saguaros have begun to bloom, Byrd and I sit at the patio table again, and this time my toddler is balanced on my lap. He stares at her with big dark eyes, the way I imagine children have for decades—in awe. She is telling stories, perhaps the thing she knows best how to do. It is midmorning and we are in the shade beneath a big tree. Dangling precariously in the branches over Byrd’s head is—ironically, fittingly?—a bird’s nest. “Arizona golden-crowned warbler,” says Jesse. Across the yard, a wall of prickly pear is blooming yellow-red-orange, and Jesse lifts my son up to see the f lowers. I am thinking of Byrd’s words from The Table Where Rich People Sit. In the book, two parents are attempting to convince their children that money is not everything, that wealth might actually be determined by experiences and proximity to nature. They sit at their homemade wooden table over a plate of spicy ginger cookies, adding up numbers on yellow paper—what is it worth to be able to see the sky while working, to hear coyotes howling in the hills, to pile into a rattletrap truck and go panning for gold in the mountains? The father says, “When a cactus blooms, you should be there to watch it because it might be a color you won’t see again any other day of your life. How much would you say that color is worth?”
“When a cactus blooms, you should be there to watch it because it might be a color you won’t see again any other day of your life.” a special rock that you can find and keep for as long as you can—maybe forever.” One letter writer had followed Byrd’s 10 rules for finding a rock—named all of the colors, looked it straight in the eye, chose it when everything was quiet—and then he brought it to school with him. When he began to fidget with it in class, the teacher took it away. “He wanted to know would I please write to the teacher to tell her to give it back,” says Byrd, chuckling. “I wrote him back and said if I was listening to a teacher and you handed me a good rock, I’d play with the rock instead of listening to the teacher. And so we need to work out a way to have both things at the same time.” “Do you have a rock?” I ask, and she laughs as though it is a ridiculous question. “I have a million.” 86 July/August 2017
Debbie Weingarten is a cofounder of the Farm Education Resource Network and a writing partner with the Female Farmer Project. She loves coffee, nectarines, and monsoon season. Visit CactusWrenWriting.com.
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The South 12th Corridor has long been a resilient, delicious, and vibrant hub of culture and food. Now, community organizers and city officials are working to create new opportunities for the neighborhood without sacrificing flavor.
J o h n
W a s h i n g t o n Dominic
Bonuccelli edible Baja Arizona
(Previous page) Left: A delivery of corn is unloaded at Elote El Frida. Right: A plate of perfection at Café Santa Rosa consists of a Red Chile Indian Taco, with red chile and beans on Indian fry bread, topped with lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes.
neighbor hood where banda and hip-hop pumps out of open car windows. Where the scent of carne asada blows in the wind. Where a raspado is the most natural antidote to a baking summer afternoon. Where you can sit to eat an elote and be transfixed by the waves of street traffic, or the fighter jets circling overhead. Where shade and organic fruit are lacking, but green corn tamales and vats of menudo inspire crowds to line up on Sunday mornings and holidays to revel, commiserate, and be neighborly. Will the “redevelopment” of such a neighborhood glitz over these rough and lovely particulars? Will it round the corners of character, flattening it, corporatizing it, raising the rent? Not if the residents have their say. For decades, Tucson’s South 12th Corridor (or—less of a mouthful—La Doce (DOE-say), stretching down South 12th Avenue from 44th to Drexel Road) was known by outsiders as a pot-hole-ridden strip of beauty salons, meat markets, dollar stores, and pop-in/pop-out destinations for tacos or raspados. Midtowners
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might have parachuted in to gorge on carne asada at El Güero Canelo, or, perhaps, to pick up some tortillas and conchitas from La Estrella Bakery. Otherwise, it was seen—wrongly—as a part of town to pass through or skip over. But, of course, the outsider’s perfunctory view misses the glue that makes a neighborhood a neighborhood. The glue is community, and community sticks more durably when it is faced with adversity and is well fed. La Doce has long faced various fronts of adversity, and it is certainly well fed. Now, as Tucson boasts a UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation, and as La Doce becomes one of the central drags in the so-called Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food, it is tempting to write that La Doce is coming into its own, but the area has long been its own: boasting a distinctive, resilient, delicious, and vibrant hub of culture and food. On a recent hot Thursday afternoon, I was talking to Pascual Erunez, one of the family-partners of Los Jarritos (on South 12th between Oklahoma and Irvington), waiting for my chorizo, egg,
Designed by Johanna Martinez and Alex Jimenez, this mural on the north side of Oasis Raspados contains QR codes that can be scanned with a cell phone, linking to interviews with local business owners. Youth working with the La Doce Barrio Foodways Documentation Project helped paint the mural and hosted the unveiling in June.
and potato burro, when in walked Ana (not her real name) with an empty stainless steel cookpot. She ordered a gallon of menudo and two green chile burros. Ana has been coming to Los Jarritos to fill her pot for more than 25 years. I asked her if the taste had changed in all that time. “No,” she chuckled. “And I always get the same thing.” She turned to Erunez: “Don’t expand,” she pleaded, unprompted. “That ruins things. A small little place expands. And then the tastes change.” La Doce, as Ana seemed to synthesize, is facing the existential difficulty of remaining what it is and righting decades of neglect from the City of Tucson: in other words, offering more of its residents opportunities—safety, as well as economic and environmental security and sustainability—without losing its flavor. Over the decades, despite lack of funds and a sometimes adversarial relationship with politicians and the police, the collection of neighborhoods that make up La Doce has banded together to survive. New efforts from both the city government and community organizations are hoping to make it thrive.
elda R uiz —born in Nogales, Arizona, raised in Nogales, Sonora—has been a community organizer on Tucson’s south side for 16 years. Her cross-border personal history parallels the lives of many La Doce residents. Along with the organization Tierra y Libertad (TYLO), Ruiz’s aim in organizing is to create access to both neighborhood sustainability and affordability. TYLO follows the promotora model, in which, traditionally, women are trained in health and nutrition and take what they learn to their communities. “True community organizing,” Ruiz told me, “is just building relationships … It’s letting people know they have power.” Building relationships is especially important today, as the south side neighborhoods deal with the polar forces of immigration arrests (and declining trust in the police) with incoming development money, which could change the population dynamic: pushing some people out, drawing others in.
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repavement). Since the post-recession recovery, Romero has been ost outsiders know La Doce for BK Tacos or El Güero able to work with the city, the county, and now the federal governCanelo, but there is also Tacos Apson, Los Jarritos, Café ment to bring attention to La Doce. In 2013, her efforts first Santa Rosa, El Merendero, Taco Fish, Oasis Raspados, La came to fruition with three new bus shelters—seemingly meager, Estrella, Alejandro’s, Suspiros, Taqueria Porfis, Whataburro, but sorely needed: La Doce has one of the highest rates of bus Sushi de Papá, El Rey de Elote, and many, many other restauridership, and yet was long without a single shelter, forcing riders rants, bakeries, taquerias, tamale shops, elote stands, meat to wait in the punishing markets, and carritos. Tucson sun. After the Visit Tucson recently shelter construction, included La Doce in Romer o pushed f o r their campaign highrelandscaping, business lighting The Best 23 scholarships, pedestrian Miles of Mexican Food improvements, and in the United States. public art, and, recently, The coinage came on has secured a technical the heels of Tucson assistance grant from being named the nation’s the U.S. Department only UNESCO City of of Housing and Urban Gastronomy. Now, the Development (HUD). city wants to envision a The grant is not new development plan an inf low of cash, but for La Doce, which— something like hortatory residents repeatedly development advice. mention—has long HUD subcontracted been overlooked by with the National politicians. According Association for Latino to a study conducted by Community Asset UA’s Drachman Institute, Builders (NALCAB)—a La Doce exhibits lower consulting firm with education levels, lower a mission to advance household incomes, and economic mobility for higher poverty, and yet low- and moderate-init also has higher than come Latino families average home-ownership and neighborhoods—to rates. There are more put together a broad families in La Doce, strategy for redeveloping more intergenerational La Doce. The plan, due living, and when people by August, will include settle, the roots go deep. input from local busiOne major recent victory nesses, residents, and has been the repaving of community organizaSouth 12th Avenue, which tions, including Tierra y used to be so pot-holed Libertad. Romero hopes it could practically crack the strategy will be a way molars and definitely to advocate to the city did shatter suspensions. and county for actual Neighborhood residents, development dollars, however, don’t want the as well as—assuming new pavement to serve success—a pilot to just as a runway for develop other corridors tourists, whether out-oflike Miracle Mile or towners or those coming South Sixth Avenue. She from within Tucson. is looking for answers to Vice Mayor Regina Nelda Ruiz has been a community organizer on Tucson’s south side for 16 years. the question of, as she Romero, who has been a put it, “how the city can member of City Council participate in the economic success” of these neighborhoods. since 2007, described to me her decade-long fight to bring What that success will look like is still uncertain. more attention (and more funding) to La Doce. (A number of residents I spoke with gratefully credited Romero with the recent 96 July/August 2017
hope, would also serve “to enhance cultural awareness and e s i d e n t s , nonprofits, community organizations, and improve social equity.” business owners don’t want La Doce to lose its luster, or At a La Doce project community pachanga in early May turn its authentic flavors into bland profit. They want to be (catered by Santa Rosa Café) I met Eliana Rivera, a Pueblo intimately involved with how the neighborhood is “developed,” freshman proudly wearing a T-shirt printed with the words Food where the money (if there is any) goes, and make sure that those Reporter. She approached me to ask if I wanted her to explain who benefit most are the local residents, not house-flippers, the project. I did, and the conversation quickly turned personal. corporations, out-of-towners, or millennials looking for kicks. “My community is very “The only safe commusmall, and we don’t have nity,” Ruiz told me, “is an green space,” Rivera said. organized community. That’s She explained how she and why we do the work we do. fellow food reporters walked Because we love the people. La Doce’s streets, “literally We want to be the bridge for counting trees,” as well as folks to get resources.” gardens, dilapidated houses, TYLO, working with and empty dirt lots. After the Community Food Bank tabulating their data, as well and the Southwest Folklife as a survey the students were Alliance (SFA)—an affiliate conducting at the pachanga, of the University of Arizona, they will go back to the streets whose mission is to “build to talk to residents, listening more equitable and vibrant and documenting their relacommunities by celebrating tionship to food. The stories the everyday expressions the food reporters collect are of culture, heritage, and meant, Ruiz described, to diversity in the Greater “bring out the richness that Southwest”—has initiated already exists.” the La Doce Barrio Foodways Speaking with me at Documentation Project to the pachanga, Ruiz asked: present the community’s own “What does ‘development’ recommendations to the city look like?” For years, she and HUD. explained, academics have To begin their efforts, been coming to study the TYLO and SFA reached out neighborhoods, have been to the resident youth. extracting information, “Politicians usually look extracting knowledge. She right over their heads,” Ruiz wondered: What do they do said. Funded in part by a with that knowledge? How grant from Partners in Places, does that knowledge benefit, through the La Doce Barrio or even affect, the commuFoodways Documentation nity? And who, exactly, is Project, TYLO and SFA development for? Is develare training Pueblo High opment for a city worried students to become commuabout blight? Businesses nity ethnographers. One of Vice Mayor Regina Romero stops in for a bite at Café Santa looking for enrichment? Or the goals is to teach students Rosa. Romero has been a member of the City Council since 2007, for the residents? to think critically about their working to bring more attention—and funding—to La Doce. Alex Jimenez, an artist environment, prompting and activist who grew up on students to ask themselves, the south side, is one of La Doce project’s mentors, helping among other questions, what food is available around them, what Pueblo High students become community ethnographers. In their relationship is to soda and unhealthy snacks, and where conducting the community mapping project, Jimenez explained their food comes from. to me, students and mentors were surprised by how little life Rebecca Crocker, lead ethnographer at SFA, explained that they found: “So many houses with no trees, no landscaping, the food documentation project is meant to “empower and train just dirt—all dirt lots.” They did find some pockets of green, [community members] who don’t have academic backgrounds and altars of La Virgen were nearly ubiquitous. On a poster to participate in ethnography to view, watch, participate” in at the pachanga, a student named America Sahaguen wrote, “I their community and their history. They want community never saw all the beautiful and bad things in my community members to engage, to speak up, to help strengthen La Doce’s before this project.” local food economy. This sort of engagement, project partners 98 July/August 2017
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Ana Roberts has been working at El Merendero for 30 years. "The food is great here," she says.
ask ed Vice Mayor Romero how the neighborhood could avoid being gentrified as it is redeveloped. She insisted that the concern must be written into any plans that they create. “It has to be intentional,” she said. “The last 40 to 50 years there has been a lack of investment in these neighborhoods.” Now, when (or, really, if) the city does begin a redevelopment project, they have to be careful not simply to be priming the neighborhood for whiter, richer people to move in. A defense against gentrification could include, according to Romero, “building incubator spaces for small businesses,” “giving tax breaks to historic homes,” “property tax alleviation for multiple-generation homes,” “building affordable homes for senior citizens,” and generally “building in affordability.” More than a quarter of La Doce residents live in poverty, according to city statistics. “What I’m asking for,” Romero said, “is the vision, the foresight for South 12th development” that we had for downtown’s development. Downtown, of course, is contending with gentrification issues of its own.
in the neighborhood,” said Ana Roberts, a waitress who’s been working at El Merendero for 30 years. (I heard nearly the exact thing from Pascual Erunez of Los Jarritos and Julie Carrizosa of Oasis Raspados). “And,” Roberts added, “the food is great here.” That is the consensus—camaraderie and good food—the way it is and the way it’s been, and the way residents want to keep it. But there are also needed changes. I sat down with Beki Quintero, lifelong La Doce resident, at Perfecto’s, a small diner and tamale destination at South 12th and Alaska, for breakfast. (I had the chilaquiles; she ordered the huevos con papas, though the green corn tamales are what make this restaurant. For dessert, though I certainly didn’t need it, I picked up a couple of conchitas and a cream empanada from Alejandro’s, the carnicería and bakery next door.) Back in the ’90s, with increased crime and gang activity, Quintero explained, “I hated to see what was going on in the neighborhood.” And so she organized kids to clean up, including painting out gang graffiti. She was trying v e ry b o dy k n ows e v e ry b o dy
“True community organizing is just building relationships … It’s letting people know they have power.”
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to instill in the kids a sense of belonging, of caring. Back then, iesta P ar k , initially planned in the 1970s, became known as she told me, “there were a lot of empty lots, vacant buildings.” Fiesta Dump after the city cleared the lot and didn’t follow Heroin use was on the rise, as well as alcoholism. “There were through on construction, and people started dumping their needles everywhere,” she said. Though the city can help with trash. It is one example, among many, of the city promising to these kinds of issues, true change, she explained, must come from “develop” an area of La Doce, and falling woefully short. But the residents themselves. after decades of lobbying I asked Quintero about and community organizing the UNESCO designation. (and the help, finally, of It didn’t really mean much, the Parks and Recreation she explained. “It’s nice to Department), residents, see a sign go up. But we led by Beki Quintero, know where we like to eat. turned Fiesta Dump back Sunday morning, you’ll into Fiesta Park, where see your neighbors lining Quintero and others have up outside La Estrella for planted a garden—the menudo.” They don’t need Peace Garden—to teach UNESCO to tell them kids how to grow food. what’s delicious. They also host commuWhen the 2010 nity events, such as star anti-immigrant bill gazing parties and movie known as SB1070 became nights. “We,” Quintero law, Quintero said, “We told me, referring to the lost a lot of friends, a whole neighborhood, and lot of neighbors. More echoing the philosophy of grandparents were raising TYLO, “are like a garden, grandkids.” She continued: always growing, planting “People are uncertain now. new ideas, that’s what we TPD was really trying to want to teach our kids.” build the trust, but then Quintero cited a study 1070 came. People don’t showing that the number want to get involved with of trees in a neighborhood the police anymore.” is in inverse relationship It’s a common story in to the amount of crime. the neighborhood. Anselmo Various studies corroborate Navarro, 62, has been the findings: the greener selling elotes on South 12th the city, the safer the city. Shade, smooth roads, and Nevada for 20 years. and sidewalks are a good Business, he says, has been start, but learning to trust bad since January. He hopes city officials, not feeling to leave the elote stand aside discriminated against or and build a restaurant. targeted by police, and “Something small,” he said. economic security are “The restaurants are doing long-term, and perhaps well, but elote stands—not more important, goals. so much.” “The south side has a lot “But I can survive,” of negative connotation,” Navarro said. “Before, Ruiz said, “but people have your mom, everybody’s Luis Abril Antonio Magallanes harvests green onions so much power to change mom, made tamales. Now, from the Fiesta Park Peace Garden. that. There is so much kids want to do other beauty here.” things, eat other things.” One person who certainly sees that beauty is Alex Jimenez, Navarro came to Tucson from Hermosillo more than 40 years the La Doce project mentor and author of Abecedario del Sur, ago. “People who come over now are scared,” he said. “They a photo and design book that began as a typographic study of don’t want to spend their dinerito. They’d rather send it home, hand-painted signs on the south side, and has since blossomed because there’s no security here. There’s more police. More into a broader artistic project documenting the south side’s racism …” He told me that if he sees an accident on the street, history. Jimenez, whose mother’s side of the family has been in he doesn’t call the police anymore, out of fear that somebody Tucson for five generations, started studying these neighborhoods could be deported. 102 July/August 2017
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businesses. She described, as an example, the relationship she because “a lot of stories from the south side haven’t been told.” and many other businesses have with vendors who sell from They are stories, Jimenez explained, of “Mexican entrepreneurial carritos, or the many food trucks. Vendors stroll in to storefront industriousness.” Her own family is a perfect example: she grew businesses to sell fruit, ice cream, burritos, tortillas, jewelry, or up in a multigenerational home. Her grandfather, who built and DVDs, and the business sold houses, worked as a owners let them ply their postman, owned a liquor trade. When I was eating store, a car wash, and an at Taco Fish recently (I accounting business he ran recommend the Taco out of his own home. “We Gordo, which features a weren’t rich, but everyone marlin-stuffed chile on works really hard, and has top of a pile of shrimp their own businesses,” she and fish), a young woman said. This is the industrious came in to try to sell me spirit, “the hustle,” of the a cheesecake. I don’t see south side. People aren’t that anywhere but on wealthy, and the city the south side. I didn’t may have long ignored buy the cheesecake—the them, but the residents Taco Gordo had all my make the most—and it’s attention—but I have a lot—of what they have. bought tamales waiting Jimenez has begun painting for shuttles to Nogales, a new mural depicting the and it’s a minor convehistory of La Doce on the nience that belies a sense side of the Oasis Raspados, of community that isn’t one of the first raspados nearly as apparent in businesses in Tucson. other neighborhoods. Oasis has been serving Many of the buildings juicy, creamy, spicy ice for on South 12th Avenue, nearly 35 years, and Julie Carrizosa has been working Carrizosa noted, are at “the Mexican treat shifting from residential shop,” as she described to business. “We’re glad it to me, along with her people realize that we’re husband, John, “since the a lucrative market, but so beginning.” The business many chains are coming began on the other side of in, we’re also starting to the border, in Hermosillo. worry.” I asked if she’s Carrizosa’s father-in-law seeing business decline. brought the tradition of “We cater to Mexicans,” Mexican flavors, like plum to a specific clientele the or chamoy (along with chains can’t access, she his own industriousness) explained. Though crimes across the border, and on the south side seem to the Carrizosas have been always get in the paper, adapting to changing Carrizosa notes, “We are tastes ever since, adding resilient.” After SB1070, pepihuates, tostilocos, picosito, a lot of people were and all manner of weird and knocking on their back wonderful combinations of door asking for work. corn, peanut, sweetness, Businesses eventually Alex Jimenez is a La Doce project mentor and an artist and spice. “Most of our seemed to rebound, but working on documenting the south side’s history. customers go back and she’s sensing nervousness forth across the border,” Carrizosa told me, and they bring their and “uncertainty” again since the presidential election. changing gustos with them. Talking to Jimenez over a cup of coffee, she described “a “We used to be a very close community,” Carrizosa said. communal memory of consistent failure” of past south side develShe paused, thoughtfully. “We still are close.” There seemed opment projects. The UNESCO designation, Jimenez worried, to be a “but” lingering in her sentence. Corrizosa explained might come off as “patronizing,” or merely a “legitimizing the unity in the Hispanic community, even between competing stamp to make white people more interested in going down 104 July/August 2017
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into the south side.” (Was this the silent “but” in Carrizosa’s sentence: patronizing politics?) What Jimenez hopes for, instead of food-tourists simply descending into La Doce, is that the food documentation project will lead to “a jumping off point … to do community work … going into the streets, knocking on doors, and seeking out the voice of this community.” She added: “I’d like to see more Mexicanas like myself coming back [to the neighborhood] and taking part.” Jimenez further mused on the beauty of her neighborhood, which, she said, “literally smells like beans and carne. If you walk 106 July/August 2017
around these streets you’re inevitably gonna hear a tuba”—from the cumbia and norteño music—“I don’t want that to change.” Part of her motivation, she told me, is that she “wants kids to appreciate the old. The new is cookie-cutter strip malls. Development too often means there is no connection to the past.” As Vice Mayor Romero put it: “Other cities pay millions of dollars to create the atmosphere we have organically … We just want to put a polish on it.”
(From left) Carne asada at Tacos Apson. Honey and powdered sugar popover at Café Santa Rosa. Mangos and corn at Elote El Frida.
cuisine in La Doce, Ruiz explained to me, consists of much more than the sum of the many great restaurants in the corridor. “People have a history of growing food and catching [rain]water, but it’s mostly nanas tossing their dishwater on the plants because they don’t have the resources to buy a cistern or install rainwater catches,” she said. “We’re the people of the sun,” Ruiz said, “but we don’t have solar panels.” TYLO wants the city to direct funds into these exact sorts of campaigns. “We want to make sure that our people and our culture are not appropriated.” he neighbor hood
As Ana quipped while waiting for her pot of menudo in Los Jarritos, La Doce residents don’t want development to mean a loss of flavor. As Ruiz put it: “Our community is busy surviving. We’re trying to be that bridge and help them see what’s possible”—to help them not only survive, but to thrive. John Washington is a writer and translator. Visit jblackburnwashington.com or find him on Twitter at @EndDeportations.
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Skills for self-sufficient living & eating
Navigating the Maize All corn was not created equal.
By Amy Belk Illustrations by Adela Antoinette
ith monsoon season upon us, Baja Arizona is coming
into its second corn-planting season. Whether corn is planted in a three sisters garden with beans and squash or methodically planted in its own blocks, we go for the fast maturing varieties this time of year to take advantage of the rains and the last bit of warmth before our nights begin to cool down in the fall. Corn (Zea mays, also called maize) has been a prominent part of human culture for a very long time, but if it weren’t for us meddling humans, the crop wouldn’t be around at all. Corn as we know it doesn’t exist anywhere in the wild, and it certainly didn’t first appear as the sweet treat on the cob that we enjoy today. The development of sweetness came fairly recently in our long, intertwining history with this highly variable crop. The most widely accepted theory of corn’s origin is that some astute agriculturalists in southern Mexico first adapted it from a grass called teosinte around 9,000 years ago. Though the vegetative parts of maize and teosinte look somewhat similar, the flowering and fruiting structures appear so unrelated, and corn showed up so suddenly in our agricultural history, that it was difficult to convince the scientific community that corn, the world’s third most important food crop, was likely derived from a wild grass that grows in southern Mexico.
After genetic testing and years of crossing different corn varieties with teosinte and with each other, producing an astonishing array of results, scientists were able to figure out that just a handful of Zea’s genes can make a big difference in the physical properties that it displays. Changes in these genes have drastic results in a short amount of time, which likely explains why corn appeared so suddenly in human culture. The evolutionary process is typically seen as a slow and gradual process but, in the case of Zea mays, significant changes can be made quickly by modifying one of a small number of genes. Maize has plenty of other genes that influence its properties in less striking ways, but this doesn’t mean that they’re insignificant. Slight changes can make all the difference when you’re looking for specific results. When early agriculturists first began selecting corn, certain kernels were chosen, preserved, and planted for qualities that made them more valuable in one way or another. Some might have been easier to grind into flour, stayed attached to the cob better than others, or just tasted better. Those that resisted pests and stored well were more likely to make it to sowing time the next season. The first corn varieties didn’t include the sweet varieties that we know today. Indeed, corn was often ground or popped; it was
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rare that anyone would have eaten it fresh off of the cob. Sweet corn happened spontaneously in a field, much like the first sweet Red Delicious apple (read Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire if you haven’t heard about the origin of sweet apples). Though we typically think of sweet corn as being golden, it turns out that the flavor of corn has very little to do with its color. The first sweet corn varieties had mostly white kernels, and they weren’t available to purchase in seed catalogs until the 1820s. Golden sweet corn didn’t become the preferred color until the early 1900s, when the first all-golden sweet corn, Golden Bantam, was developed. There are many other colors of delicious sweet corn to explore. None of the sweet corn varieties available in the 2017 Native Seeds/SEARCH catalog are all-golden—start here if you want to grow a sweet corn that will do well in our climate. According to the National Corn Growers Association, the largest percentage of corn we produce commercially in the United States is grown to feed livestock; the second largest percentage goes to ethanol production. The corn grown for these purposes is a type often referred to as field corn. Only nine percent of our commercially grown corn includes the sweet corn varieties that are typically eaten fresh. Different types of corn also included in this small percentage are used to make food products such as cornmeal or corn flour, and industrial products like adhesives and varnishes. Thousands of corn varieties are grown around the world to match local needs and individual growing conditions from mountain tops to desert valleys. This crop is so adaptable that just 112 July/August 2017
about everyone can grow it. The Corn Belt in the Midwestern United States is the most productive region in the world, owing partly to the area’s favorable soils and climate, and partly to the types of hybrid varieties that are grown there. Less productive varieties are grown in parts of the world where conditions aren’t as favorable if it means that there will be something to harvest. There are six major groups (or races) of corn typically recognized today, but others exist that are grown for specific purposes. Most of what we grow in the United States are hybrid varieties of dent corn, though hybrid, heirloom, and open pollinated corn of all types are popular with homesteaders. It all depends on what you want to use it for. The most common commercially grown corn in the United States is dent corn, mainly because it is highly productive here. The indicative dent in the crown of each kernel occurs because the kernels have an especially soft, floury interior with hardened sides. These varieties are used primarily for livestock feed, but they can also be used for dry or wet milling to produce tamales, tortillas, syrups, fuels, and corn beer, to name just a few products. In the Southwest dent corn is also roasted to make elote. Flint corn generally has a smooth, hard outer shell and a grainier, less starchy interior, though some varieties are more starchy or floury than others. It can be used in many of the same ways as dent corn, but it isn’t as productive, so it never gained popularity in our commercial market. The hard-as-flint outer shell makes these varieties easier to store and more resistant to pest damage.
Popcorn is possibly the oldest type of maize that we grow to this day. It’s hard outer shell can place it in the category of a flint corn, but it features a smaller kernel with just a modest amount of starchy interior. There are two main types of popcorn; pearl, which has a round shape, and rice, which is more elongated. As the name suggests, we mostly grow this race of corn for humans to eat as popped corn, but it’s also used to make pinole. Another one of the oldest races of corn still grown today is flour corn. These varieties are characterized by a softer shell and a uniformly soft and starchy interior, which makes them particularly easy to grind after they’re dried. As the name suggests, they’re primarily used to make corn flour, though they can also be used to make cornmeal (when ground less finely), hominy, and elote. Arid climates are the best places to grow flour corns since they’re susceptible to molds in higher humidity. They may be better choices for springtime planting in Baja Arizona for this reason. The type of corn that most frequently makes it to your plate in fresh or kernel form is sweet corn. This race is subdivided into three main types: sugary, sugar enhanced, and supersweet (sometimes called shrunken). The genetics in these varieties allow for extra placement of sugars or different types of sugars, or they slow down or prevent the conversion of sugars into starches. Sweet corn is primarily grown for direct human consumption. We grow pod corn mostly for ornamental purposes. Look up a photo and you’ll understand why. Each kernel is encased in a leaf-like structure called a glume, which makes them extremely
interesting to look at but a lot more difficult to process. Although it has long been thought to be a primitive, wild ancestor of today’s edible corn, genetic studies have identified it as a more recent mutation in the genes of corn that was already domesticated. Our region was one of the first in the Americas to grow domesticated corn, so there are quite a few varieties that are well adapted to growing here. Many people prefer growing corn this time of year because heat and dry winds that occur earlier in the year can be detrimental to pollination, resulting in spotty kerneling. Many types of corn must be kept from cross-pollinating if you want to get the expected results at harvesting time. Since our growing season is short this time of year, it may be more difficult to stagger planting/flowering times. Instead choose varieties that won’t cross-pollinate, plant only one type, or separate each type by a buffer zone of at least 150 feet or taller plants that will help block pollen movement. Insects and diseases are more prolific during and after monsoons. A dab of mineral oil on the silks when they’re still green can help keep corn earworm at bay, and well-timed applications of organic pesticides like spinosad can help control stalk borers. Local, heirloom varieties are often more resistant to the pests that are known to occur here, so shop local when you can. Amy Belk is a garden writer and photographer, a certified arborist, and a certified nursery professional who has been learning from her garden for 16 years. She and her husband homestead on a little piece of the desert in the heart of Tucson.
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Rain to Table The sky’s the limit with rain tanks. Part 3 of a 3-part series. By Lisa Shipek | Illustrations by Adela Antoinette
y husband and I bought a home in May and we were thrilled the house was already outfitted with gutters and a 1,300-gallon rainwater harvesting tank. When we moved in, the tank sat full of water, while the desert-adapted vegetation in the backyard was receiving daily irrigation from the municipal supply. There were no apparent vegetable garden or fruit trees in the yard. This left me wondering: How did the previous owners use their rain tank, if at all? All too often I have come across rain tanks either underutilized or not used at all. Rain tanks should be our pride and joy—an investment in our water future— and fundamental infrastructure of every household in Baja Arizona. So how do we make this shift? Rain tanks should be designed for convenience and their best use. The best uses for rain tanks are: one, to grow a vegetable garden; two, to irrigate fruit trees (supplementing graywater); and three, for drinking or indoor use.
All of these are best uses because rain tanks can provide a water source during our dry season for plants that need regular irrigation, and rainwater is high quality water, great for plants and humans. If your storage system is large enough, you can use your rain tanks to supply your daily indoor water needs for drinking, bathing, and washing. In other words, don’t bother installing a rain tank to grow native vegetation, which can survive on local rainfall. And don’t use tanks for watering high-water-demand, non-native, nonedible plants, which can be watered by graywater or reclaimed water. To learn more about all of these systems, consider attending a rainwater harvesting rebate class with Watershed Management Group (WMG) or Pima County Cooperative Extension’s SmartScape Program. By attending this class you also qualify to receive Tucson Water’s rainwater rebate, up to $2,000 for rain tanks. edible Baja Arizona
How to size your veggie garden based on potential rain tank storage Let’s assume 12 inches of rain a year (1 foot) and a 2,000-square-foot home. A veggie garden requires 40 gallons/foot2/year. 2,000 feet2 (roof) x 1 foot of rain x 7.48 gallon rain/foot3 = 14,960 gallons of rain/year
14,960 gallons or rain/year ÷ 40 gallons/foot2/ year = 374 square feet garden plot To give some wiggle room, plan for a 300-squarefoot garden and pair it with a 5,000 gallon rain tank so all your veggies can be grown with rainwater.
If you have an herb garden, container garden, or small veggie garden, then a tank with a garden hose will likely work for you. Place your tank as close to your garden as possible or vice versa. You will have pressure in your hose, simply from the gravity based on the height of the column of water in your tank. Use your hose directly or fill up a simple watering can to hand-water your garden.
If you’re growing veggies or fruit trees in your yard, then you’ll probably want tanks with an irrigation system. The most affordable system is connecting low-pressure irrigation tubing (like drip tape or olla balls) to your tank and using gravity and a timer to distribute the water. If you don’t want a system that requires daily attention, choose a pump-based system with a programmable irrigation controller.
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How to calculate rainfall capture from your roof Let’s assume you have a 2,000-square-foot home and six inches of rainfall (0.5 foot). 2,000 feet2 (roof) x 0.5 foot of rain x 7.48 gal rain/foot3 = 7,480 gallons of rain/ year. If you wanted to capture most of that rain, you might consider installing several tanks in the 2,000- to 3,000-gallon range.
Take some time to consider what size tank you need. The size of your tank will be determined by several factors including your water needs, the size of your roof, and your financial budget. The best way to figure this out is to create a water budget (Visit EdibleBajaArizona.com/rain-to-table to learn how). You’ll be surprised not only at how much water you can capture off your roof but also by how much water vegetable gardens and fruit trees need. And to make it through our dry seasons—which last three to five months—you will need substantial storage. If you don’t have the financial resources for large tanks, plan your system to add more tanks in the future. Some basic principles to keep in mind when planning a rain tank: 1. Maximize your storage to make it through the dry season. If possible, size your tank to capture a full rainy season. For example, during the summer monsoon, we’ll get five to six inches of rain over several months. Much of that rain will come in large storms, ranging from one to three inches. A large tank allows you to capture back-to-back large storm events or all the storm events over a rainy season. 2. Plan a distribution system with your tank to ensure it will be convenient to use the water, ideally just as convenient as using your municipal water supply. 3. Ensure that your tank follows best practices, including prefiltration and a first flush; prevention of algal growth and mosquitoes; and overflow to a rain garden. 4. Use potable-rated tanks, parts, and sealants, to ensure that your tank water could be potable if desired.
Local Water Producer If you love the idea of using rainwater for all your needs, you’ll want to maximize your tank and pair it with a pump and filtration system. Develop a water budget to ensure you can meet both your indoor and outdoor needs with rainwater. Visit WMG’s Living Lab and Learning Center to see a residential scale underground tank and filtration system that supplies water for all indoor consumption and a variety of native and edible gardens.
This is the third and final article of the Rain to Table series. Read about local water budgets and rain gardens at EdibleBajaArizona.com and join the Rain to Table campaign at WatershedMG.org/RainToTable. Sign up and use a simple local water budget calculator to determine how much rain you can harvest at your home and start planning your own rain garden and tanks. Lisa Shipek is the executive director of Watershed Management Group.
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Homegrown and Healthy For 46 years, Tucson Organic Gardeners has been a trailblazer in sustainable living. By Karen Peterson | Photography by Nieves Montaño
orty-six years ago, growing food organically, in Tucson
and elsewhere in the country, was seen as something that hippies did, when they weren’t twirling to the music of the Grateful Dead in their signature tie-dye and Birkenstocks. What was wrong, their shocked elders countered, with processed and packaged food, like those tidy aluminum-encased frozen TV dinners? In other words, being green in 1971 was to be an outlier—and pioneer—in a society that celebrated “better living through chemistry,” the message DuPont had promulgated since 1935. Tucson Organic Gardeners was born in 1971. Still going strong, its founders not only bucked the system, their flower child blossomed and thrived without a drop of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers made from petroleum by-products. The nonprofit group’s mission never wavered: homegrown healthy food is available to anyone willing to get their hands pristinely dirty. All that is needed to succeed is what Tucson Organic Gardeners has steadfastly provided—knowledge through education, notably through its speaker series. Held monthly between September and April at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in midtown Tucson, the free, open-to-thepublic series “is the backbone of what we do,” says the group’s outgoing president, Bridget Barber. Experts in green gardening are a mainstay of the roster and include bug experts (not all insects are bad for the garden), soil scientists, composting and sustainability gurus, local urban farmers, and representatives from such groups as the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and Native Seeds/SEARCH. The incoming board, led by Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, is solidifying the 2017-2018 program; visit TucsonOrganicGardeners.org for the schedule. 118 July/August 2017
“There is something for everyone,” says Barber. “Local experts are introducing even longtime gardeners to innovative new methods.” The group’s education effort is about best practices, shared by speakers and also attendees, who spend the first 30 minutes of the evening in rousing give-and-take Q&A sessions. Problems with pests? Bring in a bug on a plant cutting and someone will no doubt identify it. Looking for the best manure? Ditto, a fellow gardener comes to the rescue. “Joining the group has provided great discoveries, a new family, and most beneficially the chance to learn from people’s successes,” says Abdulaziz, a member for six years and an organic gardener before he joined. “You can trust what they tell you.” Now numbering 90, members pay $15 annually to help fund the speaker series and other educational efforts, including spring and fall garden fairs and downloadable information posted online. As is true of most members, Abdulaziz is not from Tucson originally, which means he was faced with the realities and eccentricities of gardening in the Sonoran Desert. In his case, home is Palestine. “The climates are completely different,” he says. “There, the climate is more moderate. Here, there are extremes of heat and winter freezes.” A sense of our place—and how to adapt to it—is what Tucson Organic Gardeners cultivates. Some, like Abdulaziz, turn to container gardening, rather than digging into our hardscrabble soil; others use raised beds.
Mohyeddin Abdulaziz is the incoming board president of Tucson Organic Gardeners, a nonprofit group that provides support and education to novice and expert desert gardeners.
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Abdulaziz’s youngest grandson, Jacob, goes for food from the earth rather than off the shelf.
Whatever ground suits you best, Tucson Organic Gardeners is there to advise, particularly on the crucial questions of what to plant and when. “Interest in our planting guide is huge,” says five-year member Charlotte Weltjen. “I grew up in the South and it’s been an experience learning to garden here,” she says. It can be done, of course, with adaptations, including the use of shade cloths that filter the summer sun. What gardeners here do discover, with glee: multiple growing seasons. Abdulaziz was enjoying tomatoes in late spring from a crop planted in the fall and coaxed into a false dormancy over the winter. “They didn’t freeze and die, they became more vigorous,” he proudly reports. Tucson Organic Gardeners is a trailblazer in sustainable living, down to its long-standing advocacy for composting. In the 1980s, with funds from a state grant, the group worked with Tucson Botanical Gardens to create a compost site on the botanical garden grounds. It remains a linchpin in the group’s mission to advocate for people and the environment. Composting adds nutrients to the soil and helps retain precious moisture. Healthy soil is a carbon sink of sorts, because it more efficiently captures and stores atmospheric carbon dioxide. 120 July/August 2017
“We’re providing an important link in sustainability,” says Mary Jane Schumacher, a 25-year member who has seen the increased interest in the group’s work. “People are more focused and determined to protect the environment.” Moving forward, Tucson Organic Gardeners is nurturing a third generation of healthy Tucsonans through a scholarship fund to encourage more gardening programs at local schools. The scholarship and information on how to apply will be announced on Sept. 20. For Abdulaziz, gardening is not just a personal pleasure; it is one he shares with his grandchildren. “It’s nice to see them appreciate what they’re eating,” he says. Case in point: his youngest, Jacob, 18 months, wasn’t fooled when confronted with the choice between organic strawberries from the store and tomatoes still on the vine. He went straight for the tomatoes. “He likes to pick his own,” explains the charmed Abdulaziz. Visit TucsonOrganicGardeners.org for more information on programs and membership and to download guides on planting and compost. Tucson-based writer Karen Peterson has written extensively on issues of sustainability and climate change adaptations.
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Farm Farm Report Report By Rachel Wehr By Rachel Wehr
Photo by Steven Meckler.
idsummer in B aja A rizona is the season of abundant tomatoes and chiles, sky-high temperatures, and the ever-anticipated monsoon storm. While these two months can be some of the hottest, they certainly are not the driest. Farmers face challenges in the area of balance: balancing sunlight, heat, and moisture. Shade cloth is a must for vegetable farmers in July and August. Some crops like chiles and zucchinis will still produce fruit without it, while others like tomatoes demand sun protection. “Tomato plant pollen is not viable above 105 to 110 degrees,” says Chris Lowen, the farm operations coordinator of Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Community Farm. “Tomatoes dive in production in July,” he says. In June, when temperatures are the hottest of the year, flowers unable to be pollinated will fall to the ground and fail to produce fruit. Production will pick back up in August when flowers are successfully producing ripe fruit pollinated in July’s cooler temperatures. Heat also diminishes gardeners’ ability to work outside midday. “We need to be on our communication game,” says Lowen, noting that gardeners miss harvesting ripe zucchini, chiles, and tomatoes due to overwhelming heat. In a matter of a day in the hot sun, a tomato can turn from perfectly ripe to nearly rotting.
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Late summer is a time of preparation for the rapidly approaching September planting season. In August, Lowen and the Las Milpitas staff will be ordering seeds and planning for fall crops. August also brings the ripening of fruits such as figs, pomegranates, quince, and apples. Many of the fruit trees at Las Milpitas are watered by way of 1,200-gallon cisterns, which will be filled with a series of large monsoon storms. Excess produce from farmers at Las Milpitas is sold at the Community Food Bank’s consignment table at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market on Thursdays. For Freddie Terry of Terry’s Apiaries, heat is essential to summer production. “The honey doesn’t flow well without the heat,” says Terry, who manages 12 sites of bee colonies in Oracle. Throughout July and August, each bee colony—a group of 20,000 to 80,000 worker bees, drones, and one single queen—will be producing honey, beeswax, and royal jelly from mainly mesquite nectar. Each of Terry’s colonies produces about 100 pounds of honey a year. “If the weather is right in July and August, I can really make a lot of honey,” says Terry. If there are substantial monsoon rains, the mesquite will bloom both in spring and again in August or September. Summer wildf lowers, which contain more nectar than pollen, will also be blooming
throughout the season. Bees will utilize nectar as an energy source, which will be converted to honey, and pollen as a protein source, which will be converted mainly into beeswax. Because one type of flower usually dominates during a specific season, the flavor profile of the honey produced at any given time reflects that of the nectar and pollen collected during a species’ bloom season. “I really try to take off my honey in a hurry so that it doesn’t get mixed,” says Terry. One of the most demanding duties in July and August includes maintaining a constant water supply for the bees. Terry hauls water to large barrels placed near each colony, which will be collected by bees leaving the hive and used to quench thirst and keep the bee box cool. “I use a 325-gallon tank,” says Terry. “That’s about 3,000 pounds of water.” Other farm duties include raising queens and harvesting honey. Terry’s Apiaries sells skin cream, candles, honey and comb on Sundays at the Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park. Midsummer and monsoon season are a busy time for most farmers. The season requires paying close attention to the amount and frequency of precipitation in order to balance soil moisture during heavy rains and dry spells. “We’re monitoring everything, harvesting, and planning for the next season,” says Anne Loftfield of High Energy Agriculture in Marana. In flatter, wider floodplains of Baja Arizona, high winds during monsoon season pose a threat to crop fields. “With more wind, we have to water more because it dries out the land,” says Loftfield. “We’ve learned to assess it and do daily adjustments, even without monsoons.” “When monsoons arrive, too much water can be a problem as well,” says Loftfield. Floods can damage plants and leave them vulnerable to other issues, such as blossom-end rot in tomatoes. Blossom-end rot is caused by a calcium imbalance in the plant, often explained by inconsistent water availability in the soil. Preventing this requires ensuring that soil is not drying out for long periods of time before flooding throughout the summer. In July and August, High Energy Agriculture will be harvesting summer squash, like pattypan and varieties of zucchini, melons, many varieties of tomatoes, and bell peppers. High Energy Agriculture will be selling produce throughout the summer on Thursdays at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market, Sundays at the Heirloom Farmers’ Markets at Rillito Park, and Saturdays at Steam Pump Ranch. Rachel Wehr is a Tucson-based freelance journalist. She spends her free time in nature among cacti and pines.
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Photo by Shelby Thompson.
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Savor the Southwest
Text and photography by Autumn Giles
V a l d é s S c h w e m m says that her favorite way of exposing people to the wild and native foods of the desert is the least pretentious one: a potluck in the yard, the kind with paper plates piled high with food from big pots on the stove. Valdés Schwemm, founder of Tucson-based Mano Y Metate Mole, is one-fifth of the blog Savor the Southwest. Tucson wild foods writer Carolyn Niethammer (author of The Prickly Pear Cookbook and Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, among other books) assembled the blog’s contributors: Valdés Schwemm, Linda McKittrick, Martha Ames Burgess, and Jacqueline Soule. In a food blogging landscape that is increasingly populated with hyper-stylized photos and a just-out-of reach sense of perfection, Savor the Southwest is refreshingly approachable. It feels like that potluck in the yard or a notebook passed between friends, albeit brilliant friends with numerous years of experience raising, foraging, growing, and cooking wild foods in Tucson and the borderlands. They create recipes like White Sonoran Wheat and Mesquite Pie Crust, Purslane Tostadas, and Sweet and Sour I’itoi onions that put potentially unfamiliar ingredients in highly approachable contexts. my
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The group has a fierce ethic of meeting people where they are, at times quite literally. “I was at Kohl’s the other day and there were barrel cactus planted all the way around the parking lot,” says Soule, author of Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening. She grabbed a shopping bag from her car and started to harvest the fruit, which are filled with tiny black seeds that she uses like poppy seeds as an addition to baked goods. “Two people stopped and asked what I was doing and I told them,” she says. “I split one open and fed them the seed and they said, ‘Wow, this is crunchy! This is good.’ If we could just get people to think about eating out of their front yard because there are a lot of barrels in front yards!” McKittrick, who spent time as a social worker and now ranches in the foothills of the Sierra Madres in northern Mexico and keeps bees in Tucson, highlights the accessibility of these foods: “Go out into your yard and most likely, no matter where you live in Tucson, you’ll have a mesquite tree, prickly pear, or cholla. It’s there for all.” Valdés Schwemm talks about helping folks who may not be entirely comfortable in the kitchen find “accessible starting points” to wild and native foods. “I really know you don’t cook,” she says. “And so what I’m going to do is, I’m going to tell you
to put these cholla buds on top of the pizza that you bought. We’re talking about baby steps here.” She encourages people to identify small but worthwhile amounts of time and effort that can help open the door to eating from the overgrown prickly pear they pass on their walk to work or the mesquite tree in their yard. Burgess, an ethnobotanist who was mentored by Tohono O’odham elders, tells people to put heirloom beans, such as tepary beans, in a crockpot and go to work. When they’re done cooking, she suggests portioning them out, freezing them, and getting to know the ingredient by making something different with each portion. A big part of the “why” at the heart of these practical steps to incorporating desert foods into everyday meals is largely ineffable. “There’s something deeply soul satisfying to walk up a wash and pick hackberries and pop them into my mouth,” says Niethammer. “I mean, it’s such a simple thing, but I just like it so much. It’s somehow so meaningful.” There’s a sense of relentless joy at what’s in front of you that’s apparent not only when the women talk about eating from the desert, but also eating seasonally. “It’s a matter of being so overwhelmed and excited and inspired by the produce that we have right now that we forgot about lettuce,” says Valdés Schwemm.
“It’s bigger than just the act of eating” says Burgess. “I’ve been hit with a vision of the landscape when I eat something. It sounds hokey to say this, but I’ve had times when I not only felt like I was eating the landscape, but I was ingesting tradition or time.” Burgess recalls teaching classes about edible plants at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and encouraging students to use all of their senses, but especially taste. She calls it “assimilating the desert” and says that enjoying food from the desert helped open the students up to seeing other things like ecological relationships. One of the ways McKittrick talks about eating wild foods is in terms of engagement. “Our awareness is hijacked a lot, so it’s wonderful to really taste what’s going on in your food,” she says. “It’s just a different way of waking up.” There’s also the potential for a large-scale, tangible impact in noticing the nuances in food across geography and the seasons. “We’ll take care of what we feel connected to,” she says. Like Burgess, she suggests that eating from the desert is a profound means of engaging with time and tradition. “Every time I put my hand on a chiltepin, I think of hands that—roughly 9,000 years ago—picked chiltepin,” says McKittrick. “Every time.”
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Chiltepin Yogurt Cheese A beautiful thing about this recipe of McKittrick’s is that it encourages variety. It’s an unaged, fresh cheese that is simply yogurt strained overnight. It ends up about the thickness of soft goat cheese or cream cheese and is good all the places those cheeses are. When I spoke to the women, Soule had just used this recipe in a class she had taught on cooking with fresh herbs. On the blog, McKittrick writes about incorporating arugula flowers in the cheese. When I made this in my kitchen, a call to my gardener friend Mary yielded some beautiful pink rose geranium flowers and Chinese chives. I stirred the rose geranium flowers in with the chiltepin and made another batch with chopped fresh Chinese chives. I’m looking forward to making this throughout the year, incorporating different herbs as they are in season and trying goat and sheep’s milk yogurt, as McKittrick suggests.
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Ingredients: 1 1 1
32-ounce container full-fat yogurt tablespoon culinary rock salt teaspoon dried, crushed chiltepin Olive oil
Line a colander with a clean dish towel and place the colander over a bowl. Combine the yogurt and salt in the dish towel and make sure the salt is mixed in well. Stir in the chiltepin. Remove the colander, bundle up the towel, and hang it over the bowl for 24 hours. Suspending the bundle from a kitchen cabinet over a bowl generally works well. If you’d prefer, bundle up the towel and place the whole set-up—colander resting in the bowl—in the fridge for 24 hours. After 24 hours, McKittrick places the finished cheese in a glass container so she can enjoy it visually and adds a layer of olive oil to the top to seal it. Cover the cheese and store in the fridge.
Gluten-free Mesquite Muffin A Sonoran Desert version of the popular microwave mug recipes, this recipe of Soule’s is a great accessible starting point for experimenting with mesquite flour. Soule discovered by accident that aluminum-free baking powder worked best here to help make the finished product less bitter. You could stir in barrel cactus seeds for added crunch. Soule points out that, just like different tomatoes taste different, mesquite trees taste different. She suggests sampling and finding one that you like. I found this recipe to be not very sweet, so I think it works well as a savory bread, too, alongside soup, for example. Soule notes that you can easily quadruple this recipe and cook it for 3½ minutes in a microwave safe loaf pan for a loaf cake.
Ingredients: 1/8 1/8 1/2 1
cup mesquite flour cup flax seed meal teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder pinch of salt tablespoon sweetening to taste (stevia, honey, molasses, sugar) 1 teaspoon oil (olive oil, coconut oil, or butter) 1 egg
Spray a microwave-safe mug or Pyrex measuring cup with cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients in the cup. Add the wet ingredients and stir well. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove from the cooking dish right away.
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Enmoladas Filled with Quelites “My mom’s dad was a great forager,” says Valdés Schwemm. He taught her to harvest “things like the wild amaranth greens—we call them quelites—or the verdolagas, the purslane.” She grew up in Arizona eating mesquite beans right off the tree, but during the summers her grandfather would take the family to where he grew up in northern New Mexico to pick chokecherries. If quelites aren’t in season, any kind of green will work here. This recipe features Valdés Schwemm’s Mole Dulce, which is available in Tucson at Native Seeds/ SEARCH and the Food Conspiracy Co-op.
1 tin Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder 2 tablespoons oil 1-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth 1 bunch tender amaranth greens (quelites) 2 cloves garlic 8 thin corn tortillas Crumbled queso fresco (or feta cheese or chopped pecans) Oil for frying
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Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the mole: In a saucepan, cook 2 tablespoons oil and the mole powder for few minutes on medium heat, until fragrant and a shade darker in color. Add 1½ cups broth and bring to a simmer. Adjust for salt and add more broth if the sauce becomes too thick. Allow to cool slightly. Prepare the filling: Chop the greens and mince the garlic. Sauté in a splash of oil and salt to taste until tender. Prepare the tortillas: Heat ½ inch of frying oil in a skillet on medium heat. Cook each tortilla for a few seconds, just until the tortilla becomes pliable. Then flip and heat for another minute. If left for a few seconds too long, it will crisp and be difficult to roll. Assemble the dish: Dip a tortilla in the sauce, coating both sides. Then place it in a casserole dish, put about two tablespoons of greens and a little cheese in a thin line across the tortilla, roll, and place seam side down. Continue, placing each enchilada side by side. Pour any remaining sauce over all and cover the dish with a lid or foil. Or leave uncovered if you like crispy edges. Bake at 375 degrees until heated through, about 20 minutes. They can be kept warm in the oven. Serve with rice and beans and plenty of cabbage or lettuce dressed with lime juice and cilantro. Reheat leftovers in a skillet with oil until very crispy.
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Best Mesquite Brownies Niethammer says she’s never sure how many people cook her recipes, but “whether they do it or not is kind of irrelevant.” She explains, “If you went on a hike and you saw a mesquite tree, you would say, ‘Oh, this could make bread.’ It gives you a relationship to that plant whether or not you were actually cooking it.” Niethammer is quick to point out that although you can certainly buy mesquite flour, it’s terribly cheap and easy to mill your own. “There’s no reason that any one person in Tucson can’t gather a fivegallon paint bucket of mesquite pods and take it to be ground for $7,” she says. “So you get a gallon of mesquite flour for $7.” I added the optional chocolate chips here and because I can’t eat gluten, substituted a gluten-free all-purpose flour for the regular flour with great success.
2/3 cup melted butter 1/4 cup vegetable oil 3/4 cup mesquite meal 2 cups brown sugar 4 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 11/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter) 1/2 cup pepitas or chopped pecans 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine mesquite meal, flour, baking powder, and salt if using. Set aside. Combine melted butter and oil in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and add eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Stir in mesquite and flour mixture. Add chocolate chips if using. Spread batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the pepitas on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. When cool, cut into squares.
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Perfect Wheat Berry Pilaf with Heirloom White Sonora Wheat Just as Burgess suggests making a large batch of heirloom beans in the crockpot and freezing small batches for future experimentation, this recipe of Burgess’ encourages the cook to adapt it for their own kitchen. In the warmer months, or when you want leftovers, she suggests refrigerating the salad. This is one of those recipes that would be ideal to have in your arsenal to dispatch with whatever is still in the crisper at the end of the week, before the next CSA pickup.
Ingredients: 1 3 ¼ 4 1-2
cup dry White Sonora wheat berries cups drinking water teaspoon sea salt tablespoons olive oil (flavored if you have it) cups chopped fresh vegetables, such as red onion, yellow or winter squash, red sweet pepper, carrots, celery, or greens 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional) 1 tablespoon chopped I’itoi onion tops or chives Salt, pepper, and other spices to taste
For wheat berries: Rinse the wheat berries to remove any chaff or grit. Drain. In saucepan cook washed wheat berries with the water and sea salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to low simmer. Check berries after 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary to cover. Taste for doneness every 5-10 minutes thereafter. When done, berries should be round, fully plump, softly chewy (beyond al dente) with no white starch remaining. It may take 45 minutes to an hour to finish taking up water, i.e. to be fully cooked. One cup dry wheat berries yields about four cups of cooked wheat berries. For wheat berry pilaf: Sauté the vegetables in two tablespoons olive oil, flavored if you have it. When veggies are al dente in the pan, add 2 cups cooked wheat berries to the mix and two more tablespoons olive oil. Stir-fry until heated through. Add the pine nuts, if using, and chopped tops of I’itoi onion. Dress with salt, pepper, and spices, such as a spice mix from Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company. Serves 3-4 generously. Autumn Giles is a freelance writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Modern Farmer and Punch. She’s the author of Beyond Canning: New Techniques, Ingredients, and Flavors to Preserve, Pickle, and Ferment Like Never Before.
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Sand Calculator Rob and Sarah Hammelman bring a mix of soul and science to both their winery in Willcox and the new Sand-Reckoner tasting room in Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District. By Edie Jarolim | Photography by Julius Scholsburg
Sand-Reckoner’s stylish new tasting room in Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District and one of the first things you’ll see is an encaustic-and-fabric wall piece of evocative organic shapes in shades of green. This untitled abstract by Miles Conrad—co-owner of the Conrad Wilde Gallery, which shares space with the tasting room—is not only riveting in its own right but also captures the marriage between art and science that defines Sand-Reckoner’s wines. The name of the Willcox-based winery, opened in 2010 by Rob and Sarah Hammelman, foregrounds the science partner of the match. It’s an allusion to “The Sand Reckoner,” a treatise by Archimedes, the Greek philosopher and mathematician who attempted to reckon—calculate—the grains of sand in the universe. The concept resonated with Rob, bringing to mind “the sandy loam soils in which our grapes grow, our connection to the cosmos, and the infinite calculations required to create the wines that express this soil on a root level.” Sarah can attest to the myriad calculations that Rob brings to bear on the winemaking process. She says, “Rob will puzzle out the precise components of a blend over a month and a half. I don’t know how he keeps it all straight in his head.” The names—or lack thereof—of the first wines produced by Sand-Reckoner emphasize science, too; they’re designations more likely to be found on graphs or in equations than on wine bottles. The letter “X” was assigned to the Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon-Cabernet Franc-Tempranillo-Petit Verdot blend, for example, while the number “5” identifies the winery’s Sangiovese. Sarah explains, “We’re keeping it simple and in the same realm of science as the sand calculator.” alk into
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At the same time, Sarah says, “You can’t make a wine solely on the basis of math and chemistry, or at least not a good one. There has to be an art to it, a soul, an essence that lies outside the numbers.” She elaborates, “Our goal is to make wine that is true to itself and the place where it was grown. We’re not looking to impose on the wine, maybe just to nudge it in a certain direction with barrel aging or stainless steel aging. Mostly, we’re looking for the wine to express itself.” Having spent the summer of 2000 working in Sonoita at the pioneering Callaghan Vineyards, Rob was already familiar with the terroir of southern Arizona. It was a circuitous journey back to the area, however, one that took him first to southern Australia, where he got an advanced degree in oenology at the University of Adelaide; to Colorado, where he was the winemaker at Two Rivers Winery; and to Gigondas, France, where he was brought to the 2,000-year-old cellars of Château de St. Cosme by Louis Barruol, a 14th-generation winemaker in the Rhône Valley. Sarah was working the harvest at Two Rivers when her path intersected with Rob’s. She left for Etude Wines in Napa to learn how to make Pinot Noir, but when Rob got the job in France she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to accompany him. After their stay in Europe, they went to Napa to find work together, but discovered that a bad economy had caused the usually fluid winemaking industry to batten down. There were no jobs available. That’s when they had their “aha”—or, to bring it back to Archimedes, “Eureka!”—moment. Rob and Sarah Hammelman founded Sand-Reckoner in Willcox in 2010 after traveling around the world in pursuit of wine.
Sand-Reckoner’s stylish new tasting room in Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District opened in February of 2017.
Sarah explains, “We always travel with wine, and the case we had with us then had a bottle of Callaghan wine in it. We realized how different it was from what we were drinking in California—how interesting. We both got really excited about it.” Seeking a vineyard that was already planted so they could immediately start making their own wine, they found Sweet Sunrise, a large farm on the Willcox Bench that sits between the Chiricahua and Dragoon mountains at 4,300 feet. Malvasia Bianca, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Syrah, and Zinfandel grapes were already planted in the three-acre vineyard. The Hammelmans added Sagrantino, Montepulciano, and Petit Verdot grapes. Rob describes the process of getting to know their vineyard: “As we refined the winemaking style over the years, we began focusing on each specific varietal and picking times. We’re picking our whites and our Sangioveses a little earlier, for example,
to emphasize their acidity, their freshness.” Not only do the Hammelmans hash out the final taste of the wine together before they bottle it—“Happily, we have similar palates, so there’s very little clashing,” Sarah says—but they also work through every stage of getting it to market themselves. “We’re old school,” Rob says. “All the whites and rosés don’t even go through a crusher machine. They’re crushed by foot and hand-raked into the ratchet basket press by hand, then barrel fermented and left on the yeast—the lees—just for a little added complexity and structure.” The first two years, the Hammelmans produced 400 to 450 cases of wine using only fruit from their vineyards. Now, about 2,000 cases are bottled under the Sand-Reckoner label, several incorporating grapes from other southern Arizona vineyards—which are now being highlighted in a new smallbatch vineyard series.
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The Hammelmans started their vineyard at Sweet Sunrise, a large farm on the Willcox Bench, which sits between the Chiricahua and Dragoon mountains at 4,300 feet.
The first of the series, introduced this summer at the Willcox Wine Festival, is a Syrah from the one-acre Red Tree Ranch vineyard—a “passion project” as Sarah describes it. The fruit produced at this 5,000-foot-high vineyard is very different from that grown at Sand-Reckoner. Sarah says, “You might describe their Syrahs as northern Rhône, with a bit more acidity because it’s cooler, and ours as southern Rhône, a little fuller and rounder.” Another difference between this wine and those previously produced by Sand-Reckoner: It’s called Red Tree Ranch Syrah rather than being identified by a letter or number. “We wanted to pay homage to the sites in the new series because they’re so 142 July/August 2017
spectacular and the growers that we work with are so wonderful,” Sarah says. “We thought they should have their names on the front.” Also new at Sand-Reckoner is the switch over to screw caps, even on most of the high-end reds. Rob says, “About 90 percent of New Zealand and Australian businesses have embraced them. In the U.S. there’s still the perception that a screw cap means it’s going to be a cheap wine, because those are the first wines that were bottled that way.” The Hammelmans did a little in-house experiment on their “R” blend (Zinfandel-Petite Sirah-SyrahMourvedre), bottling half with a screw cap, half with cork. “We found we’re enjoying the screw cap version better,” Rob says.
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“We’re liking the fresh herbal characteristics that go along with the screw caps as opposed to the sweeter vanilla that we’re finding under the cork. Both are good wines, but they’re definitely different from one another.” Because Rob and Sarah are so hands-on with their Willcox vineyard—and because they have two small children—they only manage to get to Tucson about once a week. That’s not a problem. The tasting room is in the very capable hands of Tana Fryer, best known around town for Blu A Wine and Cheese Stop, a gourmet retail shop she had at the Mercado San Agustín. “I was selling Sand-Reckoner wine at Blu, so I had a long-standing relationship with Rob and Sarah, and I really know and love their wine,” Fryer says. She also really knows and loves cheese and other wine complements, and the tasting room is the perfect outlet for her catering skills. Among her creations is a Plant Plate for vegans that includes dried fruit, olives, pickled vegetables, and double-cream cashew chive cheese. That is not to suggest that the Hammelmans were not as hands-on in the creation of the tasting room as they are in crafting their wines. They pored over every detail, from deciding to host a microgallery in the space—it’s now on the First Saturday Art Walk—to commissioning the striking piece that greets visitors. “It was inspired by an illustration in one of our anatomy-of-grapevines books,” Rob says. “It suggests the cellular structure of the vines, and the nerve impulses that give them their energetic nature.” Rob and Sarah also gave artist Miles Conrad grape leaves from their vineyard to work with. “It’s neat hearing people come in and talk about the artwork,” says Sarah. “A lot of them think it looks like a cactus, maybe a cross-section of a saguaro, or other things.” Perhaps it’s a kind of Rorschach test for SandReckoner’s patrons, with the guessing getting more creative as the evening and the wine tastings progress. Sand-Reckoner Tasting Room. 510 N. Seventh Ave. 303.931.8472. Sand-Reckoner.com. Edie Jarolim is a freelancer who writes mainly about food, travel, and dogs. Her latest book is a memoir, Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.
This untitled abstract by Miles Conrad—co-owner of the Conrad Wilde Gallery, which shares space with the tasting room—captures the marriage between art and science that defines Sand-Reckoner’s wines. 144 July/August 2017
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A Day in
Silver City By Jennifer C. Olson | Photography Courtesy of the Silver City Arts & Cultural District
of work in time to catch some live music in the Buckhorn Saloon should be priority No. 1 when planning a trip to Silver City, New Mexico. After that, let your curiosity—and your taste buds—guide you. Head straight for the historic mining village of Pinos Altos, seven miles north of Silver City on NM Highway 15, where the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House (32 Main St.) is the mountain folks’ social hub. From a barstool in this Old West joint, you can imagine life as a gold prospector and taste what ranch hands and outlaws alike might once have enjoyed beside a crackling campfire. The two-dimensional ladies gazing at you through their posts on the wall wear red clothing—and not much of it—while the bison mounted over the bar holds court with the regulars. From k ipping out
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the froth on your IPA to the cream in your green chile stew, everything about the Buckhorn’s sensual offerings prepares you for the weekend ahead. Turn in at Bear Mountain Lodge (2251 Cottage San Road), a gallery and bed-andbreakfast in one. Sitting on 178 acres and bordering the Gila National Forest, this funky getaway is a 10-minute drive from town. Artwork adorns the lodge’s 11 guest rooms and comfortable common areas, its bountiful library and laidback dining room (open for breakfast and dinner), and even its 3.7 miles of private trails connecting the wild to the colorful front porch. In the morning, you may stick around the property or opt to explore elsewhere, perhaps starting the day with a sunrise summit hike. Of the endless hiking options in the Gila’s 3.3 million acres, a trek to the top of Gomez Peak proves most
rewarding. Using the wellmarked Little Walnut Trail System, you can safely find your way to the top before breakfast. Take advantage of the 360-degree views to get your bearings; you’ll be able to see the mountainous wilderness to the north and Silver City to the south. Mountain bikers can ride directly from the lodge to the Little Walnut Trails on an almost-entirely single-track route that includes the Continental Divide Trail. Contact the Silver City Ranger District (575.388.8201) with questions. After the morning’s nature fix, head downtown and plan to spend the rest of the day exploring Silver City’s colorful streets and shops. Eat brunch at Revel (304 N. Bullard St.), a restaurant that encourages its patrons to play with their food and that sources ingredients from local farmers whenever possible. Its seasonally rotated
menu may include Big Ditch Scrambled Eggs boasting bacon, mushrooms, scallions, cream cheese, and home fries or the Truck-Stop Biscuit topped with spinach, poached eggs, cheddar fondue, and pickled red onion—dishes dreamed up by owners and chefs Brian Patterson and Jesse Westenberger. Revel’s cocktail menu includes a.m.-appropriate libations, such as the strawberry alarm clock—a drink Revel co-owner and manager Kelsey Patterson personally swears by on lazy Saturdays. By 11 a.m., the town wakes up. Shops open and artists welcome visitors to their galleries for shopping and conversation. If it’s a Saturday, wander the farmers’ market held from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Silver City Main Street Plaza (between Seventh and Eighth Streets off Bullard Street). On any other day, begin a gallery tour at the growing arts district of Yankie and Texas Streets.
2 Stop in at the refined Seedboat Center for the Arts (214 W. Yankie St.), the funky Blue Dome Gallery (307 N. Texas St.), and the fascinating Wild West Weaving (211 N. Texas St., Suite D). If you have a minute, chat with Bill and Pat of Moonstruck Art (110 W. Yankie St.), a one-stop-shop for earthy pottery, hip handmade jewelry, and wearable fiber arts. There’s much more to Silver City’s art scene, so give yourself flexibility to spend as much or as little time in each storefront as you’d like before moving on to a nearby gallery or a farther-flung studio listed in one of the Red Dot Art Guides available at the Visitor Center (201 N. Hudson St.). Break for lunch when your stomach starts rumbling again and check out The Hub at Bullard and Sixth streets, where a variety of restaurants share a groomed courtyard. Order up a Thai noodle bowl or a Vietnamese pork crêpe from Tapas Tree Grill (601
5 N. Bullard St., Suite E), which celebrates its two-year anniversary in September. Owners Kevin Hubbs and David Chapman added more plates with guacamole for the summer and are already inventing their new dish for Main Street’s upcoming Taste of Downtown event. When you stop in, make sure to say hi. “We love meeting visitors,” Chapman says. “I enjoy talking to people from other places and love showing off Silver City.” Continuing your art walk, check out Leyba & Ingalls Arts (315 Bullard St.), which shows larger-than-life paintings by Diana Ingalls Leyba, provocative clay pieces by Zoe Wolfe, and intricate wood-cut prints by Phillip Parotti, among other Southwest-inspired works by Silver City artists. Also pop into Power and Light Press (108 E. College Ave.), an old-school print shop specializing in snarky greeting cards.
6 Dinner at 1zero6 (106 N. Texas St.) is a must. Chef Jake Politte changes the menu weekly and draws inspiration from his travels, serving “Pacific Rim, Southeast Asian, Oaxacan, Italian, Traditional, and Fusion” fare. Only the strong-willed can resist 1zero6’s appetizers, but even so, its entrées with globally sourced ingredients disappear before you can say, “black squid ink spaghetti.” Read up on the weekend’s choices, then call ahead to reserve your seats and your food, as every dish in this six-table restaurant is made to order three days a week. After sunset, hop to The Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery (200 N. Bullard St.), which hosts a band every Friday and Saturday night, or its recently opened brewing facility and taproom. Be ready to groove with the music while tipping back a locally crafted beer or cocktail.
After another restful night at the base of Bear Mountain but before drifting west, eat at the lodge in the company of the owners’ cattle, horses, and sculptures. Jennifer C. Olson, editor of the Silver City Independent, is a hobby farmer and bicyclist who eats local and drinks up every foodie experience she can from her home base in Pinos Altos, New Mexico.
1. La Capilla and Boston Hill offer stunning views of downtown Silver City. 2. The Gila River is the last free-flowing river in New Mexico. 3. The Harmaleighs perform at the historic Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House. 4. The Silver City Museum stands tall on Broadway Street downtown. 5. Nature speaks on the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. 6. Explore Silver City’s growing arts and cultural district. edible Baja Arizona
Clay Festival, July 22-30 During the Silver City Clay Festival, artists from Mexico and all over the U.S. flock to town, offering lectures and workshops or selling their goods to in-the-know buyers. Many events are free, and some—including an al fresco farm-to-table banquet—celebrate clay’s ties to agriculture and native cooking. Local galleries exhibit clay artists, and Bear Mountain Lodge has a Bede Clark exhibit hanging through Labor Day. ClayFestival.com
Copper County Cruizers Run to Copper Country Car Show, Aug. 19 The annual Run to Copper Country Car Show has attracted car clubs and hot rod owners from near and far to Silver City’s Gough Park each August for more than 25 years. The show’s claim to fame is its handmade trophies—creatively designed and assembled by Copper Country Cruizers members. CopperCountryCruizers.com
Taste of Downtown, Sept. 2 Main Street eateries serve up scrumptious samples to ticket-holding foodies. It’s a strategic way to decide where to grab a bite next time you’re in town and the best way to discover the Silver City historic district’s friendly vibe. SilverCityMainStreet.com
Gila River Festival, Sept. 21-24 In celebration and support of the free-flowing Gila, this festival showcases the river’s recreational, educational, and historical values. This year’s Gathering the Gila theme explores the intersection of native foods, plants, and medicines with the history of the Gila and its watershed through, among other things, a native food brunch, an acorn-processing workshop, and a foraging field trip. GilaRiverFestival.org
2 1 5
3 7 4 1. Silver City gears up for its annual Clay Festival.
2. The Copper Country Cruizers
Car Show has classic car fans covered. 3. Browse Silver City’s one-of-a-kind boutiques. 4. Get hooked on the Gila and its expansive 3.3 million acres. 5. Many artists call Silver City home. 6. Tour of the Gila takes place in April. 7. Celebrating the community’s culture.
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Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of New Water in the American Southwest By Melissa L. Sevigny
University of Iowa Press 2016
Review by Marguerite Happe
elissa L. S evign y ’s Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of New Water in the American Southwest oscillates between personal memoir and biological monograph, travel narrative and scientific treatise to construct an archive of the Southwestern water crisis. The crisis, Sevigny argues, is actually just the most modern term for America’s protracted history of misunderstanding the environment in which we live. As Sevigny writes, “What westerners call a regional water crisis is really a chronic water illusion. The condition of the Colorado River Basin illuminates the two great myths Americans have always built up around water: we can create it if we need it, and we are always running out.” Sevigny sets modern-day efforts to squeeze water from the desert via dams, canals, and aquifers alongside the tumultuous history of erroneous Southwestern cartography, both of which evince the human desire to create a “comforting illusion of constancy.” The book is framed with the mythos of the Rio de San Buenaventura, an imaginary river drawn onto a map presented to Thomas Jefferson by German botanist Alexander von Humboldt in 1804. The delusion of an abundant river in the heart of the Southwest was drawn onto maps throughout the world, leading fur trappers and pioneers astray for the following 75 years in search of water where none existed. Is this historical mirage so very different from our own?, Sevigny asks. The Tucson native visits locations along the Colorado Water Basin from the San Pedro River to the Mogollon Rim’s Fossil Creek to the Tres Rios Wastewater Reclamation Facility on Ina Road, employing each location as the impetus for a detailed exploration of a stage in the history of Western water. Sevigny begins the journey by tracing the history of geopolitics in the Southwest via the lens of her personal relationship with the South African aquatic ecologist Jackie King. As Sevigny investigates the demonization of water-gulping saltcedar trees along the Bill Williams and reveals the outdated ethics of the
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1922 Colorado River Compact, she continually advocates for a revised attitude centered on community morality, in which water ethics are woven into the very fabric of a local society. For Sevigny, designing market systems that recognize water’s worth and redesigning the infrastructure of farms and cities must be not only a commercial and logistical effort but also an existential one. After all, “What purpose do we serve if we extinguish the life around us?” Interspersed throughout the book are excerpts from historical travel narratives by cartographers, explorers, and pioneers who laid the foundation for America’s attitude toward water rights. Sevigny writes, “The ruin of our rivers ... began with a love of fashionable hats,” a truth that is simultaneously pithy and heartbreaking. The plunge of explorers into North America’s waterways to carve the beaver population from our ecosystems, for example, set the stage for the “dam-and-canal building craze of the 20th century,” the embodiment of a “misguided manifest destiny.” She devotes pages not only to her beloved Bill Williams River but also to the region’s more creative attempts to create water when we need it. She explores the modern-day pluviculturist, or cloud-farming, enterprises that currently function in six of the seven states surrounding the Colorado River Basin, as today’s iteration of American “rainmaker” Charles Mallory Hatfield, an early 20th-century con artist cum folk hero who charged the city of San Diego $1,000 for each inch of rain he drew from the sky. Each juxtaposition of history and 21st-century water practices reveals a darkly fundamental truth: The water crisis showcases humanity’s penchant to make the same mistakes, over and over again. The book, though starkly realistic and investigative, is an optimistic one. Sevigny’s deeply rooted love for the Sonoran Desert pulses through every page, appearing in retellings of childhood memories and her own travel experiences. Her prose is abundantly graceful. Her research and historical evidence exemplify what it means to blend creative writing and impeccable scholarship. And as she traces the history of an issue that many Baja Arizona residents are all-too-familiar with, she exposes the necessity and the urgency of acknowledging the fact that, in fact, “deserts do not lack water: they have exactly the amount of water they require.” The humans, on the other hand? Well, it’s our turn to learn to live with a little more lack.
The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3 Edited by Greenhorns
Chelsea Green Publishing 2017
Review by Marguerite Happe
n alm anac is an homage to time,” writes Nina Pick, the editor of the New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3. While this certainly rings true, Pick notes that many of her conversations about the Almanac were received with some confusion. What is an almanac, anyway? Did my grandfather read this book? Why am I suddenly thinking about Benjamin Franklin? The history of almanacs is long and storied. The almanac, a loose term for annual texts constructed around natural events and chronologies, dates back to ancient Greek and Egyptian societies. The Middle Babylonian Almanac, for example, is currently held in the private collection of Martin Schøyen. Written on black stone between 1,100-800 B.C., the cuneiform tablet lists the 12 months of the Babylonian calendar in conjunction with “favorable days on which one can hope for a successful outcome of any activity undertaken.” More contemporaneously, most Americans associate the almanac genre with Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732-1758), Benjamin Franklin’s annual pamphlet featuring weather forecasts, thrifty aphorisms, and witty household hints. Still today, the Farmer’s Almanac preserves the tradition by offering “knowledge on weather, gardening, cooking, home remedies, managing your household, preserving the earth,” and more in each publication. The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3, is not only aware of, but relies upon the long-established practice of the almanac in order to most accurately represent the community of modern farmers, authors, poets, and artists within its pages. The book opens with illustrated precipitation maps, dates of notable astrological phenomena, and descriptions of lunar and solar events. The chapters are more aptly referred to as sections, organized and titled topically by month. In January, the text focuses on water. The months continue, spotlighting dry land, wetland, genetics, faith basics, supply chains, land and ownership genetics, and more. From fromager to student to graphic novelist to yard artist or ecotheologian, the index of contributors presents a taste of the variety and multiplicity within the almanac’s pages. This almanac is the third in a series, and it intends to engage thoughtfully with the concept of a “commons”: “Farmers hold space in many interwoven commons, and possibilities for our shared future would seem to rest on how these intersecting commons are governed ... in re-visiting the Almanac format, we assert our vision of American and equip ourselves for the challenges of rebuilding the food system and restoring a more democratic, more diverse, and more resilient foundation for society.” The “we” in the first-person description refers to the
Greenhorns, a grassroots organization based in the Champlain Valley of New York with the mission to “recruit, promote, and support the rising generation of new farmers in America.” The book not only expands upon the tradition of the almanac as a farmer’s resource, but sensibly notes the reading experience for many members of its audience: For farmers with a quick moment to span the pages of a book over a hot cup of coffee before heading out to the fields, brevity is essential. Each chapter is populated with anecdotes, poetry, essays, drawings, comics, stories, photos, manifestos, recipes, and short-form journalism, but no entry reads longer than four to five pages. As editor-inchief and Greenhorns founder Severine von Tscharner Fleming writes, “welcome to our open miscellany of rambling, lyrical, opinionated and unacademic riffs on land theory and political economy; welcome to a format with room for many opinions.” Von Tscharner Fleming does not exit the conversation after her editor’s note. In fact, her commentary weaves throughout the rest of the collection, noting and engaging with many of the articles: sometimes in a footnote, sometimes in an opening, sometimes in the midst of an essay. Her constancy feels comforting. Another voice reads alongside you, revealing that the texts are meant to be a dialogue rather than a monologue. After all, the concept of the commons itself is really one of dialogue. How can humans maintain their shared resources in a reasonable way? “The commons describes both the fabric of natural wealth relations that predates human contrivance and the systems we humans employ to govern our use of it ... In case you think these systems are long gone, still today, 21 million acres in Europe are managed as a commons, mostly for grazing.” Several essays approach like a freezing rush of air, shocking and pleasing if not particularly comfortable. “Falling in Love Outward,” a conversation between Derrick Jensen and David Abram, examines the ways in which humans manipulate language to establish dominance over the world, rather than to make contact with it, leading to increasing distance between ourselves and our environments: “Once the language is carried in books, it no longer needs to be carried by the land, and we no longer need to consult the intelligent earth in order to think clearly ourselves.” “Goat Onion Soup: A Recipe” by Jason Benton lyrically examines the trajectory of ingredients, timing, and environment as they make their way onto our plates, equating the recipe with existentialism: “When does a good soup, a good life, begin and end?” Almanacs function on the basis of time, and they expect time from their readers. They do not allow the reader to fly through them without care, and they provide constantly shifting lenses through which to view the world. Moreover, after the credits, the almanac provides space for notes, inviting individual, handwritten contributions to the already existing multitude of voices within. For readers interested in disrupting the traditional chronology and practice of their reading habits, the New Farmer’s Almanac remains an invaluable exemplar of honest literature with the power to induce purposeful conversation.
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A New Form of Beauty: Glen Canyon Beyond Climate Change By Peter Friederici and Peter Goin University of Arizona Press 2016
Review by Marguerite Happe
h is is a book that is betwixt and between forms. It is an experiment in what photographer Peter Goin terms a “new genre of engagement”: Visual limnology. Limnology, the study of inland waters such as lakes, reservoirs, rivers, streams, and groundwater, interprets ecological systems that “interact with their drainage basins and the atmosphere.” In A New Form of Beauty, Goin and essayist Peter Friederici alternate between photo galleries and essays to craft a scientific elegy to Arizona’s most compelling limnological subjects: Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. By pairing the “lyric photographic investigation” with objective scientific inquiry, the authors complicate our understanding of the relationship between science and the fine arts and in turn, the ability of photography to function as “plain, prosaic fact.” A book that dances along the borders of photojournalism and scientific essay fits the distinct character of Lake Powell, an extraordinary form of water that is indeed a study in liminality. The reservoir, created by the flooding of Glen Canyon by the Glen Canyon Dam, is both human and natural, a commercial recreation respite and aquatic ecosystem. Having visited the canyon every year from 1987 to 2014, Goin and Friederici have witnessed the vanishing of the second-largest official lake in America from a front-row seat. Goin’s full-color photographs alternate with Friederici’s essays on the history, background, and identity of the reservoir. However, the resulting document comments not only on Glen Canyon but also on all of our known landscapes under the umbrella of climate change. Furthermore, the study in chronology and new forms functions on a deeply personal level for the authors, who have literally aged along with their subject. For them, as for the lake, “it is all happening faster than we’d bargained for.” The beginning and ending of the book each feature foldout landscape photographs of Lake Powell. The opening gallery presents images of what Goin deems “artifacts.” The artifacts span plastic chairs sunk beneath the water to fishing lures lodged in trees to grounded boats. A vertical photograph reveals a rusty, silt-covered ladder, and the adjacent photo showcases a dusty
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rope swirling down a rock face into sand. A shoe is grown into the sediment; a chain dangles over branches. Each artifact, which would have touched water in the reservoir, depicts how low the water levels in the lake have fallen. Friederici’s following essay tells of their experience as they navigate the hidden canyons and waterways of the reservoir, each year witnessing slightly less water than was there before: “We were there on the hilariously grandiose premise that we might explore this landscape as John Wesley Powell did in 1869 ... yes, that John Wesley Powell, the decorated Civil War veteran turned explorer turned interpreter of the new American West to the curious East.” The following essays and galleries fall into a similar rhythm. Goin’s photographs capture the dissonance of an environment evaporating before his eyes. The photos are infallibly stunning yet haunting, because they capture the recesses of the reservoir that were never meant to be seen without water. The experience of viewing the fossil-impressed dry bed or dead fish entombed in silt is almost voyeuristic— the lake is exposed, forced to reveal its secrets. Friederici’s following essays trace the history of the reservoir’s creation and functionality, outlining the ways in which the man-made lake feeds on gravity and engineering to remain full. However, as the photographs gradually unveil the increasingly recessed water level, the essayist explains that “when you try to corral water in a dry place, the shimmering dance between gravity and evaporation becomes a war.” During an average summer, an estimated 163 billion gallons of water steams off the reservoir’s surface into the desert air. As the global temperatures increase, so does the evapotranspiration. As such, Friederici concludes, “there is at least a one-in-four chance that Lake Powell and Lake Mead will, within decades, be at levels too low to allow any generation of electricity.” Is it possible to age gracefully? “How do we reimagine a landscape—every landscape—that is changing to something new?” Friederici asks. The book attempts to envision, as the title suggests, a new form of beauty in which aging and loss are inherent. The lake is a microcosm of the process of becoming. However, neither author suggests that we should remain complicit, or complacent in this process. Rather, A New Form of Beauty is a paper-and-photograph embodiment of Dylan Thomas’s famous words: “Do not go gentle into that good night, ⁄ Old age should burn and rave at close of day; ⁄ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Marguerite Happe is a writer, English teacher, and editor. Follow her on Instagram @MargueriteHappe.
A Linguist Walks Into a Mexican Restaurant By Jane H. Hill
in Baja Arizona serve up southern Arizona-style Mexican-themed food— burritos, chimis, tacos, chiles rellenos, cheese crisps (be still, my heart—and make it with rajas of green chile), and combination plates without end. My neighborhood spot offers 18 of these combinations, meaning that we eat the whole cheese crisp and ruin our appetites before we can decide what to order. What with helping my companions with the tough decisions, and worrying that it would look bad if I grabbed the last triangle of cheese crisp, I don’t usually pay much attention to the language of the menus, even though I’m a linguist. But for this essay, I’ve studied the online menus from every Mexican joint south of the Gila that has a web presence (a hungry-making exercise, I can tell you). I’ve noticed once again the unusual mixtures of Spanish and English that show up on many of these menus. Here’s my first stab at answering the question, Why? In my academic work I’ve found that Spanish is a resource even for deeply monolingual English speakers. They can claim an authentic regional identity by saying “adiós” and “gracias.” By using Mock Spanish expressions like “no problemo” and “el cheapo,” they adopt a desirable colloquial persona—easy-going, with a good sense of humor, and a little bit cosmopolitan (but not too much), because they “know a little Spanish.” But these very same people are likely to see real Spanish as a threat to “America.” They get angry when they hear Spanish spoken in public, or when Spanish-language text—even health and safety directives and legally required bilingual voter guides—appear in spaces that they define as “American.” So menus in Mexicanthemed restaurants have to balance on a tightrope, with just enough Spanish to make these folks feel like they are enjoying an authentic experience, but not so much that they feel threatened. A short list of strategies that authors of these menus use to stay on the tightrope includes “minimal Spanish”—only use little words—as in “Green corn tamale y Cheese Enchilada.” (All these examples are from real menus.) The words can be a bit bigger: “A deliciously grande ½ pound portion,” and it is helpful if these bigger words look almost exactly like English words, as in “Elegante style” and “Ultimo Fajita Skillet! The ultimate fajita treat” (this restaurant apparently thought it was safer to u n d r e d s o f r e s tau r a n t s
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translate even that obvious item). “Mucho,” since it is just English with an O on the end, is useful, as in the “Mucho Very Good Chimichanga.” There is also the roller coaster option: “Large con pollo or carne.” And the “La Brea Tar Pits/Rillito River” strategy: “Smoked ‘Costillas’ Ribs.” Avoiding Spanish that is unfamiliar to English speakers (in this case, “rico,” meaning tasty) yields grammatical oddities like the “Más Bueno Burger.” Hardy perennials from the Mock Spanish lexicon apparently make diners feel safe: the “Burrito Loco,” the “Macho Burrito,” the “Gordo Burrito,” the “Horchata Borracha” (with rum), and the “Smoky Señorita” cocktail. Inevitably there are “banditos,” years after Frito-Lay had to give up their little guy: the “‘Tres Banditos’ Combo” and the “Chimi Platter for Hungry Banditos.” And of course there are amigos: the “Dos Amigos Caddy” (with two tequilas) and, in full-out Mock Spanish, the “Adiós Amigo” cocktail (“You will have to get a ride home”). One unfortunate problem is that the mixed register of Mexican restaurant menus may leave critics feeling justified in thinking that “border Spanish” is a degenerate variety that isn’t “real Castilian Spanish,” (which makes about as much sense as worrying that Arizona English isn’t “real British English”). Indeed, a purist can find much that is objectionable: Since it is practically impossible to become biliterate in Arizona’s schools, accent marks turn up somewhat at random, and sometimes in unexpected places, like “pozolé” for pozole. Since the symbol ñ is hidden behind several clicks in North American word processors, “jalapeno” (instead of “jalapeño”) is ubiquitous. And I cannot resist mentioning an obvious case of Google Translate Spanish: “lados” for “sides” (anybody back in the kitchen would have had a better idea). But I’m suggesting that Mexican restaurant menus are hardly degenerate. Instead, they do a lot of delicate work in a dangerous linguistic environment. Around their colorful margins, there be dragons. Jane H. Hill, Regents’ Professor emerita of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Arizona, has lived in Tucson for 34 years. When she is not dreaming of the next green chile cheese crisp, she continues her research on American Indian languages.
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