Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Building Memories: La Pelada This Year

La Pelada - Fashioning Cultural Traditions One Bag At A Time

Michael Sedano

When a person gets invited to their first La Pelada, the name of the pachanga evokes an insult. It's also an obligatory joke among gente pelando their Hatch chiles to fill zip-lock bags with handsful of succulent, thick-fleshed, live-fire roasted capsicum pods. It goes like this.

A few weeks earlier, Alfredo "Frito" Lascano, calls friends and lets them know. How many bags and what kind? Super Hot. Hot. Medium. Mild. Experienced hands arrive within a few minutes of one another. They want to get those peeled chiles on ice and let the good times roulez.
Facebook:Foto: Oscar Castillo
Mario "West Coast Chicanos" Guerrero, Alfredo "Frito" Lascano, Michael "The Gluten-free Chicano" Sedano

It's a typical Chicano party so friends of friends start showing up, exchanging names and exploring "do you know..." connectas. What was a total trip to me was the young couple, Magon and April, who rode up the next afternoon looking to help clean up. Órale, some people raise their kids right.

Excited chatter fills the air as old acquaintances shout greetings.
"What you get this year?"
"We got hot. What about you?"
"Medium. Last year the 'hot' burned the skin off the inside of my mouth!"
"Ay, tan delicado!"

La Pelada elders nod and smile at the bautismo of another La Pelada regular. That joke never gets old and if you don't like it, peel a chile for me. That loses something in translation, que no?

Several visitors made their first visit to Casa Sedano. "Your house is so beautiful" visitors remark, even our close friends. It is. Barbara did that and I tell them "this is Barbara's house." 

I was travelling a lot in those years, and one day on a trip to D.C. I called home and Barbara said, "I found a house!" and all by herself, she bought the place and sold our Eagle Rock chante. All I had to do was sign. 

2010 La Pelada. Michael and Barbara Sedano. Site: Casa Garcia in Covina
Barbara attended this year's La Pelada for an hour. It was her first visit to the house since mid-June. Barbara and I are living with Alzheimer's Dementia, I live here in Barbara's house, she lives in a Memory Care facility a few blocks away. She doesn't remember specific Peladas but she remembers that there were Peladas and she loved them. That's why she's here. No one can miss a Pelada.

Alzheimer's Dementia is what's called a progressive disease. The bad stuff doesn't come all at once, and some comes and goes until it sets in. The brain is dying.

We're at a plateau right now after a dramatic onset that devastated me and our family. The two of us went through most of the onset symptoms published in medical literature and web-based legend, she living them, me watching helplessly, but not without a montón of guilt at my helplessness. 

Onset of Alzheimer's Dementia strikes a mortal blow to a couple's future. That's an enormously punishing period of appointments in crowded neurologist offices, scans and ultrasounds and phlebotomies and meetings. You devour what you can read to learn about cognitive deficits and injuries, symptoms, causes, there is no cure. It's the end. Cue the Doors. 

For hours of the day, Alzheimer's isn't pounding on someone's soul emptying out the spirit. Barbara holds on to a lot of her Self. We go places, Jones Coffee Roasters and get live music some days. I take her to lunch--I usually choose for her because choice-making is one of those abilities that recently sputtered out. Her ambulatory abilities wane so we're good for twenty minutes at the Arboretum or the food place at Huntington Library, if she can walk that far today.

There are numerous medicines available for at the end of the day. It gets bad without medication. With the pills she eventually sleeps through it. The next day, she's great in the morning; that's those pills. If you're interested, talk to your neurologist. 

Barbara rarely remembers new facts and possesses no time. Everything happens and doesn't leave much of a trace. The old Barbara loved a big party--the Perle Mesta of Pasadena--and that shows in her spirit at La Pelada. Wednesday, I told her she was joining the party on Saturday and she held on to the knowledge for two days, bringing it up in dementia fashion: what's today? When's La Pelada? what's today? When's La Pelada? ask, answer, ask again, answer again, ask, answer and change the subject. I breathe deeply and exhale at such interactions, gratified she has this kernel of awareness and can express herself. 

She sat at her spot in the midst of her guests and had merry, substantive conversations with people. No hallucinations this time of day. She remembers the people who hug her, and if she doesn't remember she covers up brilliantly. She's a smart woman, Alzheimer's doesn't change that.

Go ahead and ask her. One friend shows reluctance to ask about our  memory care apartment until another person asks. Then the reluctant one lets fly with interrogation. We're all getting old and it's a good time to ask questions. Go ahead, ask. We know we're sick, though contemporary people say we're totally something-elsed up.

Facebook:Foto: Oscar Castillo
2019 La Pelada. Michael and Barbara Sedano. Site: Casa Sedano in Pasadena
Barbara and I didn't get an opportunity to pelar some peppers though I ordered a peck of roasted peppers. Being the semi-anfitrion I needed to bounce around the property. (Frito threw the pachanga, I provided the space.)

In our past, Barbara had high standards for a finished chile and my work usually fell short. (See Norma and Pete's work in the video below). I'm sure if we'd done any pelando this year, Barbara would have pointed out the flaws in my work then shoo me off, to finish with our daughter's and granddaughter's skilled help.

Barbara taught her daughter the skill, then together, the mothers taught Charlotte, whose first pelada came at 11 months. This year, off she went to a soccer game and into her teenager's world. That's good.

"el chile es cultura" Frito's tee-shirts read. Culture, a dictionary might explain, encompasses the total way of life of a people, language, physical and material adaptations, a sense of Peoplehood handed down through generations.

Our daughter grows flint corn on her urban farm to make her own masa, enough for a couple of meals. Keeping alive many of the old ways, sustainable, local, defines cultura. My mom remembers la matanza in East Highlands--it was a place, the squealing going for hours.  I remember la matanza in the back yard--the sound of that pig. Afterward gramma at the metate, amasando, tortillas, tamales, and soap. Some of the old ways have changed forever.

La Bloga friend, Latinopia.com, shares the following record of a La Pelada. Viewers will find links to Latinopia's cooking videos using pelada chiles, featuring one of the world's foremost cooks.

No, I'm not on the video, nor is The Gluten-free Chicano. Here, however, is an excellent recipe by The Gluten-free Chicano for fresh or canned green chiles. (link).


Cecelia Barrera said...

Here in Santa Fe the stores hire roasters and set them up with benches so people can select their crates of Hatch, Chimayo, Las Cruces, locally grow or (not commenly... Colorado). Patience is not much of a stretch due to the anticipation and the scent that permeates the air. Then the real work begins. Abuelas, mamas, hitas, granddaughters, sweating the chili and peeling. Attention paid to bagging and labeling with a sharpie the hot - medium - mild that will serve us through the winter.
Mild chile was watered well, medium less, hot somewhat deprived and extra hot extracts it's revenge for being seriously deprived (what chile growers have told me).
Shopping for seeds Lorenzo and I found Hatch rattle snake chile but the plants froze. Try as hard as I could I never located seeds to grow red chile but I had fun asking for them.

Kat T said...

Wow, I learned a lot! I also loved seeing Barbara enjoying herself in her home!

Kat T said...

Wow, I learned a lot! I also loved seeing Barbara enjoying herself in her home!

sramosobriant said...

An engrossing piece, Em, descriptive, fun and affectionate - for both the chile, your friends and Barbara. You're dealing with a lot. I'm grateful your surrounded by family. Wish I'd been there.

sramosobriant said...

Cecilia Barrera, I'm from Santa Fe, too! Just got back from a visit w/mi familia. Did you know that the name Hatch Chile is trademarked? The Chinese apparently started growing it and using the Hatch name. When I was a kid a guy w/a truckbed full of green chile drove around the neighborhood and we roasted it ourselves. Now, you can get it at Ralph's. Wrote a story about it: Chile Tales: The Green Addiction http://www.pocho.com/sandra-ramos-obriants-chile-tales-green-addiction/

Elizabeth Marino said...

You DO have a beautiful home. Thank you, Barbara, for its grace.

Anonymous said...

Hello Michael & La Bloga Readers,
Thank You for hosting Pelada 2019, every Pelada brings memories with good friends & the Hatch addiction.
Time flies, was this Pelada # 25? Your home is lovely with warm vibes. Thank You Barbara & Michael. Thank you Frito!