Ode to the Midwest

Full Moon Storm

See and hear! me recite Kevin Young’s poem Ode to the Midwest right here!
I was born in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m proud of that.  Though now I live deep in the heart of Mexico, I lived the first forty years of my life in the Midwest.  When I read this poem by Kevin Young; oh, how I laughed!…and was sooo homesick. I laughed because, when I’m fortunate enough to go to the Iowa State Fair, I make a beeline for the deep fried cheese curds. I have owned, and worn, a Christmas sweater. I have had an overambitious-predawn-driveway -scrapin neighbor. I have cut my own sutures…more than once.
And, I was 22 years old before I knew a black person.
Also, wonderfully, the poem made me realize the moon looks different in different places. Here in the Sierra Huautla the moon rolls and probes like a searchlight, but over the corn stumped fields of Iowa, and in the caverns of the Chicago Loop ; I have seen it “change and shine”… just “like television”.

What does the moon look like in your neck of the woods?

What is in a Name.



I learned Jennifer’s name because she asked for my help with a homework assignment, though I already knew her by sight as I’d been buying homemade pan from her for months. She took over the bread sales after her half-sister Elizabeth ran away to Mexico City with a soldier who was stationed here in La Tigra. The grapevine alleged Jennifer’s father was unkind to Elizabeth because he and her mother divorced, the gossipmongers painted a Cinderella portrait.

Jennifer has earned the respect of the rumor mill because she works hard. She goes to school, helps her mother bake, and walks the village web of gravel roads and paths worn by man and animal, selling pan, every day. It’s a high honor to be spoken of kindly in the town’s foremost information network.

But Jennifer doesn’t seem much happier that her half-sister though she is the daughter of the home’s current Dona. My husband Felipe, also delivered bread in La Tigra as  a child. He says it’s hard to be the only kid who works ever day when all your friends are playing. Or perhaps it’s a contagion; I’ve never seen their father express more than a scowl. Although he does now, after seven years as neighbors, concede to nod when he sees me.
I probably give more significance to a smile than I should; liberal smiling isn’t the custom here. But since I’m from Iowa (Smile You’re in Iowa, was actually considered for the state’s slogan) I crave them, especially from sullen, hardworking twelve year olds. Continue reading

Favorite Forage

The month I was away in the US(aug/sept) both of my favorite foraged foods, hongos azules(blue mushrooms) and ilamas were in season. It was a bummer. I consoled myself with the wide variety of good cheap wine available in the US.

This is a photo of last years’ mushroom harvest. VSVEVGs ’logo is also a photo I took of the spectacular mushrooms, which are so blue they bleed blue when you break them, unfortunately they turn the color of a regular mushroom when cooked.

Blue mushrooms taste like tilth, really good dirt, such as I imagine Iowa farmers are hoping to taste when they sample their fields in the spring.  One might even convince kids to like mushrooms if they were umpa lumpa blue, though a friend of my says they are more pitufo,(smurf) blue.

Wild mushrooms are harvested at a higher altitude than where we live, requiring a day trip up the mountain. Every family has their own secret spot in the oak forests of Cero Frio, just like when I was little girl hunting morels with my Mom and Dad in the Iowa woodlands. Hunting mushrooms is for me, a ritual of nostalgia.

I was lucky with ilamas, my sister- in-law has late fruiting trees, she knows I love them and saved one for me. They come in this pink, which is my favorite, and also a white variety which is good but doesn’t have the complexity the rosas(pinks) do. They taste like raspberry custard. They’re fun to eat, very similar to a bread fruit, you remove the segments each of which has a large seed and suck off the creamy flesh. They really are fantastic, especially if you delight in messy fruit eaten with your fingers as I do.

Finally, this strange and entertaining treat we enjoy  in October, I have no idea what it is, Felipe calls it peineta.

Each of the orange flower sprays sits in a  tiny cup of nectar, you press your face to the stamens and suck out the juice, it tastes like thin, light, fruity honey, and because the flower is pollinating when you’re done your face is covered in bright orange pollen. I never feel more akin to the insect world than when sipping peineta, unless I’m eating one!Don’t miss next month’s forage installment, I will teach you how to eat a live bug! Which is amazingly,  Very Simple, Very Easy and Very Good.

The Radical Plate

“Every minute that you entertain yourself without paying some corporation to entertain you, you’re acting radically. If you grow even one plateful of your own food rather than buy it from the food corporations, you’re acting radically.” Wendell Barry

In Sustain…able I shared some of our less successful ventures with you, but this post is about victories, such as the day we began our harvest.

I cringed at the sight of Iowa’s decimated crops when I was there in July. Though I know the fields are rife with poison and genetic mutants I can’t help but root for the plants. I’m dazzled by the utter vitality the rises from the plains like heat waves off hot asphalt. But I am thrilled to report we have had an awesome season.
Continue reading