Piki bread, poignancy, pride and pottery

SANTA FE, NM – Do you think Mexicans invented the tortilla? If so, you would be mistaken. The native peoples did, long ago, before there was a Mexico! You could have learned that at the FUZE.SW festival, although I picked it up at their closing night celebration party, which was really about the most intellectual gathering I’ve been to since the last Nobel Selection Committee I attended, no kidding! While John Sedlar’s staff served wonderful hors d’oeuvres, such as curried lamb chops, normal people held cocktail conversations about such things as the origins of corn (birds brought the seeds up from South America).

Over your shoulder, they were discussing piki bread, a tradition for the Hopi and New Mexico Pueblo peoples, and how you really have to understand a culture when you’re somewhere because these fellows had been there (where they make the piki bread), and they had offered to get in there and help knead the dough, kindly, as a generous gesture! The community was aghast! Shocked! Outraged! The poor fellows did not know that only special women can make this blessed bread! Major faux pas!

And over there, they’re talking about the Whole Point of the Conference: How, when the Spanish came to New Mexico, they took up a lot of the Native American food traditions they had never known, such as corn and squash, and beans, bison, wild turkey and deer, and how the Spanish introduced new foods to the Native Americans, such as cheese and goat. Hence, the fusion of foods … FUZE!

The conference on Food and Folklore upon Museum Hill benefits both the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, with scintillating classes for two days presented by 60 world experts in culinary and gastronomic arts. It’s the first and only food festival IN New Mexico ABOUT New Mexico.

I am happy to tell you that I missed the part about the proverbial “rat on the stick,” and am comfortable and proud of the part about Meso-America cooking with herbs and spices 3000 BC … in micaceous pottery. We were absolutely fabulous! Very advanced folks over here! Then the Spanish did bring something to the Native American table … . Most poignant quote of the evening, I thought, was: “Easier to raise a cow than keep on chasing deer.”

Everyone at the party plans to go back next year, exuberance overflowing the cups of yellow gazpacho. It is a very fun party when people actually have something to say.

And, as the sun set over the Jemez, I was told that, unlike shallow Iowa corn, for strong enough roots, you must make sure you plant your blue corn seeds 12 inches deep in the soil.

Ashley Margetson has a BA in English from UCLA, is a senior real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty and has a finger on the pulse of philanthropic activities in Santa Fe. To tell us about an upcoming event, email apm@ashleymargetson.com.

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