Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Nina and the Third Grade

She had just come from Mexico and I sat at a small desk behind her. She was not at all like the girls from Las Vegas, New Mexico where I lived before we moved to El Paso. Even her name seemed exotic. 

Nina had long, dark brown hair. It draped her shoulders like a shawl and she did not slouch.  She sat upright and was more possessed than the rest of the kids. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Postlude in Two, Maybe a Dessert

David Knowlton

To cook is to immerse yourself in sound.There are the sounds of peeling, slicing, mincing, and chopping; those of bubbling, frying, and baking; blenders and mixers; microwaves and clocks.Those sounds open paths that help us grasp much beyond food.  

Do you know the sound of breaking open a crab’s legs to pull the hidden flesh out?  It is a crack like no other.  

Have you ever broken open a bone, heard it splinter, in order to suck the marrow out from inside? 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Me-Food-Eat, A Story of Storm and Burn

David Knowlton

To eat.  Such a simple proposition—without eating there is no life.  Yet, so complex. 

Canoeing among stones and rapids while you know somewhere ahead there is a cliff.

If only it were me, food, eat.  Such a troubled sequence, but the middle, food, that is the flow among boulders and quick descents. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Taco Wars and Erasing the Barrio

David Knowlton

Two fetishes of origin excite the food world more than they should: who and where. They ignite wars of thinly repressed erotic power as someone or somewhere claims a given food.

The questions seem historical but answers must prop up the preening ego and erotic thrust of the one making the claim. We could paraphrase Walter Benjamin, the past appears mid stroke and creates a paroxysm of self-love.  

Such a war burns between the press of Central Texas’ sister cities. Like webcamers they preen and parade to make both San Antonio and Austin claim to be the home of breakfast tacos. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Tlayuda Is Not a Pizza, Oaxacan Cuisine in Salt Lake

“Mexican pizza,” she scribed

Pizza Hut in Mexico City danced before me. I dreamed them putting pickled jalapeños or even al pastor meat on a pie. Maybe she meant spreading the enchilada sauce on the bread before adding cheese, veggies, and meats. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bubble, Turn, Soak: Carnival and Cosmos in Cusco

David Knowlton

Couples dance around trees covered with gifts and planted for the occasion in Cusco’s neighborhoods these days. The pairs turn and spin and they chop with an axe.  Turn, turn, chop. Turn, turn, chop. A band, contracted for the occasion plays and a beat marks the way. Turn, turn, chop.

After a long time the tree falls, creaking and moaning. The couple striking the last blow gets a new task, one filled with responsibility and obligations. They sponsor next year's feast. They find and organize to put up the tree. They coordinate the people of the neighborhood who bring drink and ingredients for a meal boiled in a single, very large pot.  It is a feast in a pot and on many plates.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Contacts and Layers, Dinner at Cancun Cafe

           “Autoethnography, transculturation, critique, collaboration, bilingualism, mediation, parody, denunciation, imaginary dialogue, vernacular expression -- these are some of the literate arts of the contact zone. Miscomprehension, incomprehension, dead letters, unread masterpieces, absolute heterogeneity of meaning -- these are some of the perils of writing in the contact zone.”

                                                                      —Mary Louise Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone”

Uxmal, I have never visited you. I have not seen first hand your stone pyramids and palaces, nor have I heard near you the whoosh of Yucatecan nor smelled the spicy depths of achiote, a seed that seasons the food of your people. It not only imparts flavor to the meals people eat near you, known also as annatto or bixa it once colored people to make them attractive, to make them social. 

Though you stand stolidly in Yucatan a monument to a once and maybe, your name escaped and I found it on a gray, smoggy, Salt Lake January in a brick building, near the city’s center, with federalist doors and windows. You were in a place called Cancun, as if the resort on the opposite side of Yucatan where blue waters and gleaming, tall hotels meet, where pyramids from Chichen Itza, not you, stand out on the wall.