food, history, rural life, and how we connect our cultural past and future
Pardon me, I’ve been a bit distracted from my original blog trajectory but I am now back in the groove of my continuing storyline!
. . . . While being driven down Alabama Street from having given a foodways talk and on the way to give another foodways talk, I spied a chain link fence behind which a man was watering a garden bed in what was clear at a glance must be a community garden. I yelled “Stop” as we sped by and my kind hostess did so on a dime. She then made a dramatic u-eey in the middle of the road and brought us back to the fence. Two men were watering and weeding the beds at the east end of the garden and when I asked if I could take a picture of their beautiful garden they immediately invited us in to see it all.
Here is the entrance to the Alabama Street Community Garden and as you can see in these pictures it is a lovely, well cared for, welcoming space. Over 68 people have plots here and the mellow atmosphere was a delight.
After meeting several more gardeners, Cowboy, David, Bobby, Mr. Jones, and Mrs. Solomon, we sat in the bright early spring sun and talked gardens and food. There has been a garden on that spot since 1985 and everybody described how lovely it is even in the heat of summer to sit under the shade of the big trees on the property.
I noticed a collection of what were either very clever planters or maybe pretty odd junk sculpture over by the garden office. They turned out to be Bobby’s fabulous homemade barbeque cookers. He is a very quiet and shy man, not the type to jump up bragging on himself. So I’m glad everybody else was quite willing to brag on him! If I could have tied one of his cookers onto my car roof I woulda done it! Bobby’s cookers are the best reuse of found items I’ve seen in a very long time. And he sells them for 50 bucks!!
The topic of venison came up and the group mentioned the Texas version of undisciplined wildlife, the wild feral pig. At my wistful mention that I would love to take home some wild pig Mrs. Solomon piped up that she had a piece in her freezer and would be glad to give me some – could I pick it up tomorrow? My jaw dropped as she and Cowboy calmly reorganized their schedules so he could bring it to the garden so I could pick it up the next day! It turned out to be the dressed carcass of a young piglet – weighing maybe 10 lbs. WOW! Since I also bought a big 16 lb bundle of fajita skirt steak at the Fiesta Market to bring home you can imagine me and my road companion Kelly anxiously packing ice into the primitive cooler I rigged in the back of my car several times a day all the way home.
All the meat got home safely! I haven’t cooked it yet. I think sometime in late July there will be a monstrous grilling!
My other desire while in Houston was to find Mexican clay ollas, those traditional brown glazed pots for cooking beans and pozole. Again my hostess put out the word, made calls and ultimately took us to Caninos an incredible Mexican-style market that reminded me of a small version of the Mercado Libertad in Guadalajara (a place I haven’t been since 1968). Small booths piled and hung with every variety of utinsils, chilies, vegetables, spices, plants, candies, dried beans and corn. Knowing I had only so much room in my car I had to be restrained! So I found my ollas first. I am such a liar – I found a booth with four kinds of dried corn first and it was the woman running the booth that told me where to find the ollas. So here are the bags of maize – white, red, and black for masa, and a maize with flat kernels almost the size of a quarter for pozole! I was in heaven. I was good however and only bought two pounds of each type.
(The dealer didn’t know a variety name for this corn – any ideas? )
Then I hit the olla dealer; here you see some of the results. A tall pot with a lid for beans or pozole, a medium pot for some sort of rich chili sauce or to steam tamales, and (not shown) a large clay comal – the slightly concave round surface used over coals to cook tortillas. All the pots will have to be ‘cured’ by boiling them with cal to help make them more waterproof.