Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Stanford Book Club Reads Corpi's Confessions. Gluten-free Chicano Cooks.

Michael Sedano

Dierdre, Lucha, Concepción / Michael, Carlos, Roberto, Manuel

Members of the southland’s Stanford Latina Latino Alumni Book Club had the immense pleasure of meeting Lucha Corpi in the club’s February quarterly meeting, discussing the author’s Confessions of a Book Burner. The book, and the conversation, were superb. One member calls it "mesmerizing from the start."

The Club enjoys reading contemporary titles, principally novels and memoir. Members welcomed the opportunity to share Corpi’s perspectives on movimiento literature, first in reading Confessions of a Book Burner, and now hearing first-hand stories about the colorful personalities producing art that became important elements of the US and Chicano Literary canon.

Dierdre and Concepción follow Lucha Corpi's reading in the book

Members came excited to meet the grandmother of raza detective fiction. They brought dog-eared books, notes, and questions galore. Corpi gave generously of her time, insight, and point of view, answered every question, and asked her readers to select what she should read.

Lucha Corpi is a story-teller. Any conversation is sure to range widely around and directly into a central idea enhanced with delightful detail, cultural insights, and the author’s intent focus on literary value and historical place.

A lot of the afternoon’s conversation is not in Confessions of a Bookburner. Anecdotes peppered Corpi’s observations both as a Mexicana lyric poet writing in Spanish in a burgeoning non-lyric, English-speaking literary movement, and as a woman in a male-centered milieu.

Corpi explores the heart of the matter: Las mujeres were there from the start, a first generation setting standards, holding tipos accountable, writing and producing art. Faced with benign contempt or aggressive competitiveness, women not only held their own but opened doors and through quality and endurance, kept those doors open.

Corpi points out that the first Premio Aztlán went to Rudolfo Anaya for Bless Me, Ultima. The second Premio Aztlán was awarded to Estela Portillo Trambley for Rain of Scorpions. 

While Lucha Corpi does not make the claim, it’s clear that Chicanas have become the premiere writers of today’s literary movimiento. Indeed, a Chicano Renaissance is underway, and it is led by women writers.

The club invites Stanford alumni in the Los Angeles region to join. Membership is not restricted to Stanfordians. The Confessions of a Book Burner meeting, for example, was held at honorary member Michael Sedano’s home, whose degrees are from UCSB, the US Army, and USC.

The May meeting will discuss Héctor Tobar’s Deep Down Dark. Click here for los datos.

Conversations with authors in someone’s home ordinarily are “you had to have been there” events. In this event, Jesús Treviño joined to interview Lucha Corpi and document the meeting for Latinopia. Latinopia is the definitive resource for historical footage of the movement. Latinopia also features readings and interviews with pioneers like Corpi, as well as emerging and newly-established writers like Reyna Grande and Melinda Palacio.

Read Amelia ML Montes’ interview with Lucha here for a sense of where the conversation headed. La Bloga will share a link when Latinopia showcases the Corpi interview and reading.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Creamed Tuna on Steamed Cauliflower

Some of the ingredients including a golden cauliflower

Eric Bromberger used to joke back at Redlands High School that he had an uncle named “Admiral Tuna, the chicken of the sea.” The leading canned tunafish marketer in the 60s, Starkist brand, popularized the sobriquet to win over reluctant consumers, like today’s “the other white meat” helps earn good repute for pork meat.

Starkist didn’t have to convince me, I always liked tuna, especially as family trips to San Diego often carried us to the tuna pier that today sports a towering plastic Marilyn Monroe, skirt aloft. Or has that changed, too?

This is an inexpensive dish, often served on toasted bread. It's Depression-era food, but elegant as can be and infinitely variable--it's the sauce that makes the difference.

The Gluten-free Chicano’s boyhood enjoyment of Creamed Tuna on Toast went by the wayside hace años. Ni modo. Mashed potatoes provide a delicious alternative to wheat, or, as in today’s The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks segment, a generous portion of steamed cauliflower.

Basic Directions
Start by making a roux. Add milk. Add cheese and stuff. Add tuna, or chipped beef, or hamburger (for deluxe SOS). Steam the vegetable or mash the papas. Serve.

A roux-based sauce can be elegant or down-home basic. Simple, and quick, to prepare, a white sauce requires only constant attention and vigorous stirring for ten minutes or so.

¼ cup gluten-free flour (not pancake mix)
1 cube butter
1 few drops olive oil
2 cups milk
1 whisk
2 cans tuna
salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika

This is worth repeating: Constant stirring produces the only acceptable results.

On a low medium flame melt the butter in a saucepan. Add several drops of olive oil as the cube melts. This controls browning and helps prevent burning. Stir to mix butter solids into the flow. Add the spices

Bring the butter to a boil. A couple of minutes is all it takes.

Add the gf flour and stir vigorously into the agitated butter. Stir the boiling mixture 3 or 4 minutes until the frothy mixture shows a darker color and a tempting toasty aroma wafts up from the saucepan.

Stir in a little milk and observe the mixture seize up into a stiff ball. Quickly keep mixing in the rest of the milk and stir until you discern no solids. Your roux sauce won’t be thick yet. Over time you’ll develop a technique for this stage, preferring adding milk gradually (neater), or dumping all at once (splashy).

You can relax the stirring vigor as the thin liquid begins to thicken. This is the judgment phase, deciding if it’s thick enough. Only a bit thicker than baby spit or the juice from nopales will be close to right.

The sauce will continue to thicken after adding the other ingredients, so don’t hassle the decision. Adjust next time.

Add ¼ cup frozen peas and carrots, and the cheese, cubed or grated.

Aged Gouda, sharp Cheddar, are fabulous. A couple inches sliced from a half-pound brick or gouda round, then cubed into ½ inch bites, melt and blend into the sauce quickly. Stir to dissolve any stringy material. The sauce has a silken appearance that drips slowly from the whisk or tasting spoon.

You can stop here, skip the fish and serve as cheese sauce on baked potatoes. (One day you’ll use camembert and add white wine to make soup).

Add the two cans of tunafish, liquid included, and stir to break up the bigger chunks. Stir until the sauce begins to boil slightly, or the tuna has heated all the way through and the veggies are warmed.

You’re done with the sauce part. Your sauce is quite hot and can sit on the stove some minutes while you prepare the vegetables. If steaming in hot water, do that simultaneously with making the sauce.

Steamed Cauliflower
Plan on at least ¼ head of white, purple, or golden cauliflower per serving.

Trim the leaves and the woody part of the stem. Slice in half then in half again. Wrap what you’re serving in plastic stretch wrap or put into a sealed microwave container and cook on high for two or three minutes. Test to ensure the vegetable is fork tender but not mushy. Remember microwaved food continues to cook when the oven is off, so a bit of crispness probably will be just right by serving time.

Put the ¼ steamed cauliflower on a plate. Cover with two or three ladles of sauce.


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