Sunday, May 15, 2011
I just returned from Phoenix, AZ, after attending my niece's graduation from ASU, Arizona State University. My mother and I made a 6 1/2 hour road trip, stopping once outside of Las Cruces, NM at one of those tourist places, like Stuckey's for those who remember those little lovely, sweet rolls of nugget in pecans....ahh, those were the road trip days! It was called Akela Flats, selling the usual cliche tourist item to large, evil cookies packed with nuts, chocolate chips, or raisin-oatmeal or my favorite, white chocolate chip with macadamia nuts. Actually, the reason for stopping was that I needed to visit the little girl's room...that one cup of coffee I had right before I left my house to pick up my mother finally found it's way into my bladder. Will, I didn't want to be rude, so I purchased a couple of really touristy and tacky shot glasses....love that kitsch, and I succumbed to the "cookie!"
Our first destination was Tucson, about an hour and some minutes east of Phoenix. There we did the major "tamale" exchange. Tucson was a crossing place for many Mexicans escaping their country during the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920, especially those from the state of Sonora, my maternal grandparents home state. Of course, many crossed and just stayed, bringing with them their own particular regional cuisine, which, I grew up eating. One in particular are their "tamales de elote." If you recognize the word "elote" meaning corn, and yes, many tamales are corn based, except a few from the southern end of Mexico, wrapped in banana leaves, another story for later and only for those readers of iron stomach status, but these are made with white corn and filled with long green (Anaheim peppers as so many people call them) chile strips and queso blanco or white cheese and in some, cheddar. My mother used to make them when we were children by first shucking the corn kernals, then she would put them all in a large bowl, mix with lard (later, Crisco) and cheese, give the bowl to my Pop or the maid, who ever was around, then took it outside, where the the large heavy metal grinder was attached to an old nursery room table. My Mom would then add the flour, salt, baking powder or soda, don't really recall, then mix all that and began spooning it into the slightly moistened dry husk, adding the Mennonite cheese, my grandmother and mother's preference, chile, close them up, standing them up and lining the huge olla (pronounced, "oya") or pot, then steam them till they were cooked through. DELISH!!
Needless to say, the secret will go to her grave since that's just not going to happen here at the Autrey/Diaz abode or any of my siblings abode either, but we have Joanne in Tucson to retain when we get our cravin'! So we met Joanne at the Fairfield Motel parking lot, she gave us our 8 doz. freshly frozen tamales, plus, I purchased her church ladies cookbook, filled with all sorts of Sonoran recipes, and we went on our way. We arrived in Chandler, one of the many little cities within the Phoenix metro area, and my sister had her roast cooking in the crock pot because that night, we were going to feast on tamales de elote and carne con chile colorado, meat in red chile sauce. Here we can buy the red chile already prepared and packed in plastic bags, so all we had to do was to enhance it with saute garlic and onions and a few chunks of the round brick like disc of Abuelita Mexican Hot Chocolate, used to cut the bitterness of the red chile sauce. My gorgeous niece came over and all 4 of us enjoyed a wonderful Sornoran meal...yummers!!
That night, I slept on the floor of my sister's small living room on a fancy air mattress, never had anything like that when we used to camp as children!! I admit, I'm a mushroom! I prefer to sleep in dark, cool place or is it a vampire, whatever, I like it dark even when it's 8 o'clock a.m. However, her lovely, top-o-da-line mini-blinds just didn't have that "black-out" effect at 5 a.m. when the that warm Arizona sun came streaming in through all the friggin' windows!! Takes the saying, "Good morning sunshine, " to a whole new level!!! So there I was, awaken by the sun and Posha, my sister's adorable feline. She was happy to see someone conscious, or in my case, half-way, that early in the a.m. I tried desperatly to fall back asleep, but the later it got, the brighter the sun, so I lay there, listening to the stereo-snoring coming out of my sister's room and the guest room, where my mother lay slumbering. I gave up, got up and prepared coffee and thankfully, I took my book for bookclub, which is tomorrow evening, and began reading, Posha next to me purring as she slept, the teasing bitch!
Thursday was graduation day, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sun Devil Stadium. So we had all day to just relax or perhaps, sleep in my case. We did nothing, remaining in our night shirts (that sounds so much classier than old, torn, old lady night gowns) and my mother made one of her favorite chicken guisados, kind of like a stir-fry, but not, or a goulash might be the closest thing to that. Anyway, after she was done, she wanted to lay the dish on a bed of rice or noodles, however, as I told her, never assume anything about my sister's kitchen. The woman does not cook nor does she have the usual fair we might have in our kitchens. Her pantry, luckily, had flour, salt (a large box of Kosher salt I purchased for a dinner I made for her back in September when I visited her), packages of raw nuts, beans and "wild hickory nuts," just kidding...how many of you will admit to remembering that Grapenuts commercial with the ol' nature dude?? Anyway, her pantry is full, but not with the good stuff! Well, it is the healthy stuff, but is that necessarily "good?" My mother was appalled and surprised and even more so when she asked her if she had any bread rolls or canned biscuits!! I had to laugh when she asked my sis that question! We ended up eating my mom's delicious dish with a side salad and I will admit, it would have been lots tastier on a bed of rice or egg noodles, but that's just how my sister is. Funny, I have all that good, healthy/unhealthy caca in my pantry and dim sum, and yet, she's fluffy like me!! She doesn't eat out and especially no fast food, she has this top-o-da-line elliptical machine in her office, or rather the guest room, but she had to move it to make room for the blow-up bed for my mom, numerous sets of weights, every friggin' Zumba tape ever made, rubber bands...hell, that place is equip like any 'spensive gym! So what's with the weight thing!! She says it's a metabolism issue...YEA, YA THINK!!! Oh well, I love her anyway!! LOL
In the next installment of my trip, I will discuss, graduations and the administrators that run them, I-10 construction, speed markers, f'n truckers, the Southwest landscape, The Thing, and of course, other stories. Peace out.
Posted by Georgina at 12:03 PM