Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Farm to Fork Feasting. Castillo Workshop. Shoulder to the wheel.

Confluencing Dreams
Michael Sedano

Ancient corn on a farmer's market table catches a tortilla chip-maker's notice. Q leads to A and soon the farmer and chef create a supply chain. Locally-grown, no pesticide, no GMO corn goes directly to the tinas to become Nixtamal, then masa, then the output of a creative chef's skill.

One day diners will fill the chef's own restaurant. For now, as an experiment, the urban farmer and the chef-sans-restaurant hold a Pop-Up Chisme Brunch, at the farm.

The weekend brunch shows what happens when people pursue their dreams to a point they can go public.

The young chef and the urban farmer welcomed four seatings of diners to an alfresco brunch featuring ancient corn masa that included grain that grew last July in a milpa fifty feet from the diners. Also on the plates were McDonald’s Urban Farm citrus, vegetables, and chicken.

Chef Alan Ace cooks on-the-spot, inside a netting tent while guests sip alcoholic beverages paired to each course. Conviviality reigns.

On the bill of fare are tostadas, tacos, ensaladas, aquacate, churro waffle which The Gluten-free Chicano passed on.

The peach jam on that wheat waffle glistened with temptation. The peach tree stands dormant right now, but come Spring she will burst with faery-winged blossoms. And I will dare, when harvest comes.

Chicano kimchee is good stuff. The chile on the camarones hit the spot. I’m not a drinker, but I enjoyed a quaff of the blood orange-valencia orange mimosa. The farmer's grandfather picked valencias for a living. I smile in déjà vu at the aroma of valencias pouring out of my father's picking sack at the end of his workday. Home in the house he built with his own hands.

Maybe one day los McDonald will have a champagne vineyard to go with their citrus for a hyper-local mimosa?

Cauliflower al pastor, ancient grain tortilla

Tostada, McDonald's farm-fresh blanquillo topping bacon avocado, Mexican kimchee, blue corn tortilla
Amelia McDonald, née Sedano, spotted a piece of land and saw possibilities. She inherited her grandfather’s dreams of his own orange grove, and also, a view home. That’s what she and John and Charlotte have on their Altadena tierra. Her grandparents are incredibly satisfied at what they left behind, at the strength of the coming generation.

Chisme Tortilla Brunch shows what self-sustainability looks like. Off to the southwest lies Los Angeles and Catalina Island beyond, a filmy hydrocarbon coating making a hazy line across the distance. Container ships blurry dots out there. GATTland. Dependency and supply chains.

In the immediate foreground happy people eating food harvested here. Up the hill from the diners' forks, fenced from bears and bobcats, McDonald’s chickenada lays multicolored eggs, in another jaula no-name chicks and turkeys fatten. In the corral, the goats will soon wean, then the cheese begins.

Barbara Sedano, Ernie Urlacher, Linda Chaffee, Michael Sedano sip fresh jitomate juice

Chef Ace is a regular at the Altadena Farmers Market (link). You’ll taste the essence of his skill, not the wonders of this one-time pop-up gustatory experience. The market website describes Ace's basic fare:

Chisme Tortilleria makes fresh corn Tortillas, Tortilla Chips and Salsas daily. Using the ancient process of Nixatamal, their masa is made without preservatives. Each tortilla and tortilla chip is hand pressed and made to order. They offer three types of tortilla: Blue Corn, Cactus Corn, and Organic Yellow corn as well as salsa.

The Altadena market specializes in the food that does you good, plus treats, and a few crafts, music, and gente. The Gluten-free Chicano has enjoyed a filbert nut pie here.

It's Altadena. Don’t be upset at the faded Bernie placas on cars, or “immigrants welcome” lawn signs in the area. Altadena was the postwar redlining refuge for people who wanted to live. Today, the large lots, old homes, views, proximity to the hiking trails of the mountains, isolation, and any number of qualities, make the region a dream destination.

Alan Ace looks for his dream in a Covina restaurant-to-be. McDonald’s Urban Farm has set down its roots and lives the dream.

And all those happy diners who got to hug a baby goat, that’s what they said, too.

Ana Castillo Writer Workshop

What does a writer do when she's not selling books? Some sling hash, punch a timeclock, taxi dance, who knows what a person does for a living when they're not creating timeless literature?

Some share their art with others via interview or workshop. If Literature were an industry I'd say Ana Castillo is out looking for her replacement. You're out there. You don't apply for the job. You write. You workshop with other writers. You hone your skills with help from a professional.

La Bloga is happy seeing Castillo plans a 2018 workshop tour to include Pasadena in her "Face Your Fears" workshop series. She launched in Harlem on January 21. The workshop comes to Denver on March 2, and my neigborhood branch of the Pasadena Public Library on March 31.

Spring is in full swing on March 31, so I invited Castillo to consider Casa Sedano as a worksite for a small group. Casa Sedano has never hosted a writer workshop, but we've had Mental Menudos, Back Yard Floricantos, Living Room Floricantos, Book Launches, a Post-Louies Reception, author receptions. Later this year, a quiet 50th Anniversary pachanga. Órale.

The offer to Castillo is open and an "a ver" pending sign-ups via email at anacastilloworkshops@gmail.com. We'll for sure throw an open house to the workshoppers since they're only two blocks from Casa Sedano and they'll be hungry after burning all that energy writing. There will be floricanto, too.

Castillo's "Face Your Fears" workshop is scheduled for the Santa Catalina Library from 10 to 1. One hundred fifty dollars per opportunity. For more information and to sign up--only 15 will enroll--use this email link. 

Shoulder Under Construction. Possible Interruption Here.

I cannot remember when I stopped believing in the sanctity of the body, like the nuns and priests drummed into my fellow catechists. No tattoos. No drugs. No sex. (That screwed up high school). It wasn't after the first surgery, the one on my hand. There was that time a team of women threw me onto a cold stainless steel table and came at my waist with scalpels.

Just cut me was my attitude that time a perforated abdomen got all complicated and I crossed over only to return. The nuns were wrong. The purity of a body depends on circumstance and not morality.

So it’s the luck of the draw that this week I go into a sixth surgery. I'll be one-handed for a while.

Three months, the surgeon tells me, I will not have effective use of my right arm as it recovers from rotator cuff surgery. You know, the doctor said, you don’t have to have that done. That’s what the other surgeon said about the bag he installed.

Doc, I replied, I can’t play piano any more, I can’t hold my hands over the keyboard because it hurts so darn much and I'm not that tough any more.

Nor can I garden, split wood for the fireplace, wheel out the trash. Danged if I can type with any comfort at all, even with the Bluetooth keyboard on my lap.  So punch that hole in my shoulder, Doc. In and out same day. But for the next three months, we shall see what we shall see.

Technology to the rescue. My Macintosh laptop computer has speech-to-text capability. As I speak words at a slow pace, text gradually populates the screen, approximating what I say.

My articulation is adequate to produce 90% accuracy. "'Blah blah god Tuesday' is what the computer beers when I say law blog Tuesday." That’s what 25% looks like when I say “La Bloga Tuesday is what the computer hears when I say La Bloga Tuesday.”

Speech recognition has a way to go.

Ravel composed a concerto for left-handed pianist Paul Wittgenstein. Ana Castillo’s character Carmen La Coja is a flamenco dancer. The devil walks with a limp. Lots of things can get done on one limb, and no Eileen jokes.

The night before that last surgery in January 2015, I drafted a farewell letter because I was convinced that was the one with my name on it; the pain was going to kill me. I scheduled the note for delivery two days after the surgery, saying something like "shucks, I didn’t make it". I was feeling maudlin. A couple surgeries back, I’d crossed to the other side and been sent back by the ancestors, I had no fear of dying. It’s everything I was going to miss that made me sad. Makes me sad.

So here I go again. One more time under anesthetic. This time I am going to concentrate on the last moment of reality. Not the part where I feel the veins boil and my body thinks it’s curling up as the sensation sweeps up my arm to flow across my face and every nerve trembles and you're out but you don't know it.

Not that moment. There’s a moment, I look at the vinyl tube going out of sight into my arm, a hand brings a black needle into view. It's amazingly puny the potent needle. A sparkle of eye contact with the anesthesiologist, “ready?”

And that's the moment. “Yes,” I say. She slides in the plunger, a last glimpse of the solid world.

See you next Tuesday. Or, as my grampa said in the face of uncertainties big or small, a ver.

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