Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Introducing The Gluten-Free Chicana Chicano. Review: Human Cargo. Floricanto in Boyle Heights. On-Line Floricanto

* The gluten-free Chicano *

Michael Sedano

The Gluten-Free Chicano appears monthly here at La Bloga to focus on restaurants, gluten-free foodstuffs, and Mexican cooking. Guest reviews, recetas, recollections always welcome.

Gluten is another word for fearful dining. I’ve read some people go to restaurants with cards explaining everything and hand these to waitstaff. My way relies on a canned answer to what’s it gonna be? “I cannot eat anything that has flour or wheat. Can you please alert me if I order anything with flour or wheat?”

People with gluten allergy get sick when they consume wheat, barley, rye, and US-grown oats. Rice, corn, and potatoes are fine food for most people with the gluten bug. Certain gente who eat food contaminated with wheat, their bodies start itching incredibly, maybe they throw up and get horrid stomachs. One time a restaurant served me champurrado—that’s supposed to be safe--and my throat swelled up just enough to distract my attention from the maddening itch.

Gluten intolerance—the worst is celiac disease--appears to be a growing condition in America. The gluten-free foods industry, inclusive of magazines, runs strong from Canada to Argentina. I was delighted when an Italian restaurant in Montréal on a visit in 2010 served gluten-free pasta. The newsstand on Soto sells at least one Argentine celiaco magazine. 

Foodstuffs & Mexican Cooking
Everything a chicano cooks is chicano food. When I make a baloney sandwich, for example, I slather Best Foods mayonnaise on a leaf of lettuce, lay down two slices of Oscar Mayer and a sliced tomato, slather Morehouse mustard on a second leaf of lettuce, and that’s a Gluten-free chicano baloney sandwich.

La Bloga won’t practice culinary nationalism. Note, however, among the many beauties of chicanexican cooking is its naturally gluten-free ingredients. The Gluten-Free Chicano cooks traditional preparations as well as gluten-free adaptations of fare such as chiles rellenos, soufflé, pankekis.

Restaurants & Eateries

Restaurants & Eateries fall into four groups of gluten awareness:
Never Mind, just a salad.
Bad Dog!
Right Attitude…
Please, May I Have Some More?

Never Mind, just a salad.
 These are noodle houses, pizza parlors, bakeries, places featuring deep fried breaded entrées. A green salad or such is likely to be uncontaminated. Eat elsewhere is usually the better choice.

Bad dog!
A significant majority of restaurants and food workers handle food questions with professionalism. Establishments who employ eye-rollers or exasperated tipas tipos are bad dog! places, as are those who ought to do better but fail.

The price of dining at Disney Hall shouldn't include allergic reactions, but this was the possibility at St. Valentine's dinner at Patina. One ingredient looks like black pearl barley to me, so I ask the order taker, who informs me most snottily, "Sir, that is a 'legume.'" That's not information, so I request he ask the chef what kind of 'legume' this might be. The waiter instead repeats his know-nothing response, this time more forcefully. "Sir, as I said, it is a 'legume.'" Please ask, I insist. The fellow disappears for a moment, returns exasperatedly and repeats the legume tale again. I doubt the fellow asks the chef. Diners should not be paying a hundred bolas to be poisoned by ignorant staff. Bad dog!, Patina.

Egregious surprise was in store the final time I visited the trop chèr Ruth’s Cris Steak House in Pasadena. I’d enjoyed Ruth’s Cris meals in Vegas, Houston, and Phoenix and welcomed the chain to the neighborhood. I was especially encouraged that the newspaper advertisement touted Ruth Cris' gluten-aware menu and staff.

I compliment the waitstaff on the restaurant’s gluten-adverse advertising, advise the person of my need for gluten-free ingredients and order. The salad arrives with croutons. When the steak arrives it has a pat of butter on top. I ask if that is just butter and the chastened waitstaff checks. He returns to whisk away the steak—the butter has flour. Bad dog!, Ruth's Cris Steak House.

One theme restaurant menu touts a gluten-free version of its double chocolate brownie hot fudge volcano delight dessert. Dang, that sounds pretty tasty until the waitstaff clarifies the gluten-free version is ice cream and a different chocolate sauce. Bad dog!, Claim Jumper.

Maybe these places have improved. I doubt I'll ever return to find out.

Right attitude.
An attitude is a predisposition to act one way rather than another. But attitude is not action.

A restaurant in trendy Eagle Rock emails invitations to come dine on its imaginative Mexican food. The majority of delectables include a wheat ingredient. I complain. The advertiser replies almost immediately with a “you're not the only one so we’ll look into it” reply. A ver, if CaCao Mexicatessen follows through on its right attitude.

Please, may I have some more?
P.F. Chang’s is a celiac’s dream restaurant. A separate gluten-free page in the menu, trained staff, gluten-free tamari sauce. For all I know P.F. Chang's kitchen has a space reserved for gluten-free food prep. 

Food4More, aka Whole Foods, sells gluten-free pizza in the comida corrida section and Bard's beer in grocery. Von's and Ralph's now have a gluten-free freezer section for fake breads and cookies.

Domenico's in north Pasadena sells a chewy gluten-free take-out. The restaurant charges up-a-size for a medium gluten-free garbage pizza. So it goes.

DISH in La Cañada deserves special mention for a single experience. After years of waitstaff impatient with questions, or blank stares from dumbfounded food workers unaware of gluten allergies, DISH employed a woman who exclaimed, “My Dad Is gluten-free!” Nonetheless I ask her to alert me if I order anything with wheat and she practically hugs me in reassurance. A hug for the Old Guy.

eBook Review: Des Zamorano. Human Cargo.

Tempus fugit, faster than my to-be-read pile shrinks. In July, Dan Olivas shared the first chapter of Des Zamorano’s novel, Human Cargo. Taking place in Pasadena, my town, I was compelled to seek out the author, who provided a copy via Smashwords. I opened the link just recently to make Human Cargo  the first ebook I’ve read cover-to-cover. I enjoyed the read, not the reading.

Zamarano’s bad guys work out of the Pasadena area’s Russian Armenian community. Smuggling teenage girls out of Russian orphanages to work as prostitutes in the United States makes Human Cargo’s bad guys genuine scum. This depravity beats in the heart of Inez Leon’s desperate search for a nine year old girl delivered to a pedophile.

Inez Leon is one tough cookie. She’s into weight lifting and combat skills. She’s quick and fearless. There’s a grand scene when Leon kicks ass on a corrupt cop in an elevator, then sends his helpless ass back upstairs to his fellow detectives. Regrettably, Zamorano doesn't give us that scene.

Human Cargo has a hard edge to it, despite Leon's wisecracking persona and generally sunny outlook. The deus ex machina role in this novel goes to a giant hairdresser--probably a Russian Mafioso--with a hot body that beguiles Inez. Glendale's cops are either corrupt or indifferent. The mobsters, of course, have no souls.

Des Zamorano creates a varied cast of women, struggling to wring a scintilla of empathy for their lot. A statuesque madam who mocks a sex slave’s moment of truth. The baby’s grandmother is a bitter, low-caste sex worker. Inez’ client is an über rich blonde Mexicana do-gooder who’s coldly pragmatic in the face of Inez’ burning passion to save the girl. Then there’s Inez’ big sister, a breath of fresh air sweetened with a scolding and makeup help when Inez gets her face punched in.

The author keeps readers on a wild trajectory. One moment Inez is up to her nose in depravity or brutality, the next she’s trading nopales recipes with her sister, and telling her nieces it was a car accident.

Now and again Zamorano tosses in allusions to lubricious sex with Leon’s lover, a Cal Tech chemist. Allusions only, however, rule the day. No graphic sex despite frequent talk and one scene on his office floor. Inez says the “F” word, but in one of its other meanings.  Delicate adults need not worry, nor is it enough to rule out a normal teenager’s reading the novel, either. This must be what people call a “bodice ripper.”

I suspect the ICE wouldn’t question Inez Leon’s papers and loyalty, although she’s a welter of contradictions. Second- or third-generation Mexican hypen American—her grandmother never made nopales--she doesn’t handle well verbal sleights to the United States, from Russians or the rich Mexicana.

Then again, Inez likes to toss in the random Spanish phrase like “bien guapo” or call a chicano cop “corazón”. The detective sympathizes with immigrants, understands the Immokalee tomato picker issues--Zamorano draws parallels between sex slaves and stoop labor, and expresses comfortable rapport with her brown side. But Inez Leon, make no mistake about, it is a red white and brown Unitedstatesian.

I’ve held a Kindle and scrolled a few pages—readable. I have Lysistrata on my iPod right now—intolerable. I’ve read beautiful PDF manuscripts on my iMac. Smashwords’ format leaves me ergonomically endangered.

The variant screen page sizes require scrolling via repeated pressing of the Space bar. To advance a page, one must mouseclick the arrow. Maybe it’s me, I do not find a Search function so cannot browse through the manuscript for a particular incident or speech, nor do a global search for selected details. Smashwords has miles to go to provide a comfortable reading session on the computer.

All in all, Human Cargo is an enjoyable confection of a detective story if one willingly gives in to the too-facile fantasy of this character’s antisocial attitude, averred suddenly discovered rage, and skin-of-her-neck escapes. Give in, it’s a fun piece. Pasadena gente will enjoy seeing the Athenaeum, the arroyo, bungalow heaven, and the rarely raging LA River.

Unless you’re a stickler for editing. Ay de mi, so many typo issues I worry that the book was rushed to the internet before its time. A reader expects and tolerates one or two misspellings or syntax issues, even those rare careless errors when a character gets lost or misnamed. But dang, Desirée Zamorano, within two paragraphs near the end (235) there’s a vato named “McDaniel”, “McDaniels”, then “McDaniel’s”. This reminds me of something bestselling author Alisa Valdes recently Facebooked: she’s pulling her latest sucias novel off the market to correct the errors, then getting it back out there with better respect for her readers.

Corazón del Pueblo Hosts A Dreamer Floricanto: Poetry in Honor of the New Student Struggle

  graphic: magú. collection msedano.

Wednesday, September 28 at 8:00pm - September 30 at 10:00pm
Corazon del Pueblo - 2003 E. 1st Street, Boyle Heights, CA 90033

Join us at the first-ever Corazon del Pueblo Flowers of Fire in solidarity with the Dreamers & the first-ever Calacas Florianto: Poets Responding to Social Causes in honor of our Dreamers. 

($5 donation suggested but no one turned away for lack of funds). 

Friday September 30, 7:00 – 9:00PM – FREE!
Calacas - 324 W. 4th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701

Event is in honor & support of the Orange County Dream Team! They will graciously be taking donations & their famous t-shirts will also be available! Come to share & wear their pride!

Visit the floricanto's website for current updates plus details on Open Mic sessions.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto · September's Final  Tuesday

Francisco Alarcón along with co-moderators of the Facebook group, Poets Responding to SB 1070, this week recommend La Cosecha Series, harvesting the work from seven tillers of poetry's richly-loamed tierra. Today's lineup includes Hedy Garcia Treviño, Flora Gamez Grateron, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Mari Herreras, José Hernández Díaz, Francisco X. Alarcón.

Hedy Garcia Treviño introduces La Cosecha Series:

Stop, and you will hear Summer as she disrobes and gives way to Fall
A time for gathering,
A time to take inventory
A time to let go.
A time for sadness and departure.
A time to reap
A time to store the harvest.
La Cosecha (the harvest has begun)

“Seven Ears of Maize I Do Bring" by Hedy Garcia Treviño
"Nopalitos" by Flora Gamez Grateron
"Bellota Harvest" by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
"Harvesting the Future" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"A Prayer to Santa Cebolla" by Mari Herreras
"The Silent Corn Seed" by José Hernández Díaz
"Cosecha haikús / Harvest Haikus" by Francisco X. Alarcón

Seven Ears of Maize I Do Bring

by Hedy Garcia Trevino

There between the sounds of sorrow
 On red hilltops far from the Sea

Bring forth the bells and the rattles
 evoke the rain from the clouds

Harvest the songs of Chicomecoatl
 walk in the river of time

Seven ears of maize
 I do bring

Harvesting memories
 whispering melodies

There between the rows of Maize
 I hear the song of the Corn Goddess

Seven ears of maize I do bring

There with bare feet planted
 in soft warm earth

There in 'la milpa' with arms stretched toward the sun
 under ocher clouds

Seven ears of maize I do bring

Adorned in your glory Chicomecoatl
 Sustain me oh Corn Goddess

I am maize
 I am the dew on a cool morning

Growing roots
 and waiting for the harvest.

Seven ears of maize I do bring.

*image: Chicomecoatl - "Seven Snake" - The Goddess of Corn.  Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City.


by Flora Gamez Grateron

It’s time to pick some she announced,
excited at the prospect of entering wilderness
a piece of land by the bay, close to the gulf of Mexico
la laguna she calls it, with thorny brush
untamed grass, uncultivated earth,

She in apron and gloves, ready at the door
hair up with bobby pins, drops of sweat
already sprouting on her nose,
five gallon bucket in hand,
gathering the family for the feast

of picking together, a fiesta on the field
of wild cactus pads and prickly pears,
succulent green and juicy redness
awaiting our return in the crowded
Chevy station wagon, heads bobbing

like wild rabbits

Small hands gathered wildflowers
tucked behind ears on the ride home
arms and legs a-jumble in back seat,
no seat belts to constrain

 the heap of bodies of

our childhood
our past
our future.

© 2011 Flora Gamez Grateron

Bellota Harvest

Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Abuelita invites us, her familia.
All the family, tías, tíos, primos,
Abuelita, abuelito,
Run to pack cars and trucks
With the necessary goods
For a road trip followed
By a picnic.

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Pots of frijoles y nopales
and chile colorado con carne,
Ice chests packed with soda and beer
Thermoses full of rich, thick coffee
Old cochas folded into squares
Ready to spread on the ground
To capture the harvest
Of shiny brown nuts stuffed
With sweet golden kernals
And an occasional gusano,
Canvas botas heavy with water
Hang from radiator caps.

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
We pile into vehicles
For a caravan to Nuevo Mexico
Where the oak forest
Near Silver City
Bears the sweetest bellotas.

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Primos, primas cheer as we
Chase each other among the oaks
Tías, tíos, shake the oak trees,
Shower their bounty
On the colorful cochas beneath.
A season’s harvest of bellotas
Poured into flower printed flour sacks
Tied with a knot on top.

“¡Vengan a comer!”
My oldest tía calls out.
Tías load paper plates
With fat burritos
Filled with frijoles y nopales
Or chili colorado con carne
Warmed over an open fire.
Family seeks shade under oaks,
Sit on cochas now empty of bellotas.
Abuelita sits on the running board
Of my papa’s old Chevy truck
With her youngest granddaughter
Relishing huge slices
Of watermelon
Grown in family gardens.

Sunburned, tired, full
Of good food and memorias
La familia heads back
To Morenci chasing
A glorious sunset,
Snacking on bellotas.

Darkness falls before
La familia gets home
Cars, trucks part to go
To their homes
In different parts of town.
Tías, Tíos, unload leftover comida,
Sleeping niños, and precious bellotas.

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Una memoria of an autumn picnic
With la familia, to be enjoyed
on cold winter days as we
snack on the harvest of bellotas.

Harvesting the Future

by Andrea Hernandez Holm 2011

I could have been born
from my Abuelita's garden,
the one at el Rancho
where the whole family
till the soil
plant the seeds
pull worms off leaves
and lecture the ants away;
They would have nurtured me
like they watered,
like they talked quietly to the sprouts
like they encouraged even the tiniest
spark of green to flourish.
I could have been
the fresh young life
they praised God for delivering
to sustain them.

© 2011 Andrea Hernandez Holm

A prayer to Santa Cebolla
by Mari Herreras

Remember when your roots

tended our soil, and your

tendrils caressed our hearts?

Santa Cebolla,

remember when we sat patiently,

waiting at the corner of your fields,

offering you our tears at harvest

pétalo a pétalo?

Today the soil has dried back into the caliche,

These tears are real as we sit together

and recall how we carried you with us

In hands

In baskets

Through mountains, deserts, mesas

River banks, villages, cities

Pétalo a pétalo

we tell your stories to our children

of how you showed us true love,

protected us from sickness,

sent evil back to the fires

Pétalo a pétalo

Now we pray to you

around kitchen tables where you sit

heaped on platters, a grilled offering

to remind us laughter and love are

reflected in each other’s faces

despite how you left us behind to sing

Our country, not our country

Our history, not our history

Our love, not our love

-- Mari Herreras

The Silent Corn Seed

José Hernández Díaz

…para los braceros

At tender dawn,
When the proud gallos
Begin to sing,
We rise like spring flowers,
And walk
To the hungry corn stalks
To cultivate the ancient land.

We follow the river's bend,
To the land,
And cross ourselves,
Before entering
The rustling stalks.

The immortal ritual of
The sun's rays

Never fully conquers our resilient backs.

The consistency of
The cool breeze,
Like the ox,
Reassures our
Arduous resolve,
And gently guides
Our calm
The field's fluid
Atmospheric charm.

It is Sunday,
And tomorrow
Fall shall rise
In the silver thoughts of
Humble sense of pride:

Mexico's strength,
He used to say,
Lies at the center of
The ancient universe,

In the heart of
The silent corn seed.

Note: Please click on the image below to read "Cosecha haikús Harvest Haikus" in large type.

“Seven Ears of Maize I Do Bring" by Hedy Garcia Trevino
"Nopalitos" by Flora Gamez Grateron
"Bellota Harvest" by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
"Harvesting the Future" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"A Prayer to Santa Cebolla" by Mari Herreras
"The Silent Corn Seed" by José Hernández Díaz
"Cosecha haikús / Harvest Haikus" by Francisco X. Alarcón

Hedy M. Garcia Treviño
Hedy M. Garcia Treviño has written poetry since the age of eight. Her first poem came as a result of being punished for speaking Spanish in school. Her poetry has been published in numerous journal's and other publications. She has performed her poetry at numerous cultural events. She continues to write poetry, and inspires others to use the written word as a form of self discovery and personal healing.

Flora Gamez Grateron
Flora Gamez Grateron, a Texas native, has been writing most of her life. Born the seventh child of nine, her stories and poems reflect the complexity and rewards of living amongst a Mexican-American family rich in culture and tradition. Flora’s work has been published in The Blue Guitar, an arts and literary magazine of the Arizona Consortium for the Arts and in La Bloga, a Flor y Canto out of Los Angeles speaking out on Immigration issues. Her Corrido on her 89 year old dad was one of the winners at the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival in 2010. Flora has also been published in the Oasis Journal 2010. She belongs to Sowing the Seeds, a women’s writers group working on an anthology, soon to be published. She teaches English/Language Arts in the Sunnyside School District with a mostly Hispanic population in Tucson, Arizona. She enjoys watching her students discover their identity through poetry, stories, and creating digital stories of their family lives and traditions. She is the proud mother of 4 amazing college students.

Elena Díaz Björkquist
Elena Díaz Björkquist, a writer, historian, and artist from Tucson, writes about Morenci, Arizona where she was born. She is the author of two books, Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon. She is nearing completion of another collection of Morenci stories entitled Albóndiga Soup. Elena has been on the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Speakers Bureau for ten years performing as Teresa Urrea in a Chautauqua living history presentation, and doing presentations about Morenci, Arizona and also the 1880’s Schoolhouse in Tubac. AHC recently selected her to do a presentation on El Día de los Muertos.

Elena is co-editor of Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos, an anthology written by her writers group. The project was funded by AHC. She co-edited a new anthology entitled Our Spirit, Our Reality; our life experiences in stories and poems that will be out in late October of 2011.

A SIROW Scholar at the University of Arizona, Elena conducted an oral history project funded by AHC; “In the Shadow of the Smokestack.” A website she created contains the oral history interviews and photographs of Chicano elders living in Morenci during the Depression and World War II. Another project funded by AHC and the Stocker Foundation is “Tubac 1880’s Schoolhouse Living History Program.” Her website is www.elenadiazbjorkquist.net/.

Elena is one of the poet moderators for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB1070.

Andrea Hernandez Holm
Andrea Hernandez Holm is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070, a student, an instructor, a mother and wife, and most happy  in the cool, quiet evenings in the desert.

Mari Herreras
Mari Herreras, a fifth generation Tucsonan, is an award-winning writer
with the Tucson Weekly, and has been working in journalism for more
than 18 years. When she’s not writing about the ugly and beautiful
that makes Tucson weird and wonderful, she writes with the women's
writing collective, Sowing the Seeds. An anthology of their poetry and
essays will be published next month.

When Mari’s not writing, she and her husband explore the city with
their super-hero and musical-theater obsessed 10-year-old son, remind
each other to feed the dogs and cats, and work around their old house.

This is her second poem published on La Bloga through Poets Responding
to SB 1070. Her first was "I am Waiting," in the Oct. 31, 2010 issue.

José Hernández Díaz
José Hernández Díaz is from Los Angeles, Ca, and his parents are from Guanajuato, Mexico. He is a UC Berkeley graduate with a BA in English Literature. He plans on applying to MFA Programs throughout Los Angeles and California. Jose’s favorite poets are those of the Chicano Renaissance and the poets of the Beat Generation. José has been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011, La Gente Newsmagazine of UCLA, Bombay Gin Literary Journal of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, ABCTales, Indigenous Writers and Artists Collective, Hinchas de Poesia, and he has had eight poems in La Bloga, including: The Border Within, In My Barrio (An Improvised Tune), I Haver Never Left, We Call It Work, An Ode to Los Jornaleros, Panadería Revolución (I Am Floating Gardens), The Jaguar Moon Has Risen and The Silent Corn Seed. Jose has had poetry readings in Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley, at The Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco, and at The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, Ca.

Francisco X. Alarcón
Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, is author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992)  His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His book of bilingual poetry for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008), was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. He has been a finalist nominated for Poet Laureate of California in two occasions.  He teaches at the University of California, Davis.  He is the creator of the Facebook page POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 that you can visit at:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Gluten-aware, you had me rolling. Love to see an article on vegan cooking.
I pulled out a notepad to write down "Human Cargo," but dropped my pen when I read that the format and typos made for difficult reading. No time for that.
Loved the haiku's. Thank you for post.