Oh Fair New Mexico At The County Fair

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Look! Look! Look!!

My biscochitos (the New Mexico State cookie) won a blue ribbon at the county fair!

Yeah, baby!!





The recipe I use is from the PNM sponsored Cocinas de New Mexico cookbook. It’s the cookbook my mom used for years and now I have my own copy. Order yours here.

Upon seeing my blue ribbon, The Good Man, a city boy through and through said, “hunh….as a kid back in Brooklyn, I never could have imagined I’d be married to girl who won a blue ribbon at the county fair.” Then I reminded him that I was also in a sorority.

He actually had to wander off by himself for a bit to ponder the meaning of his life.


Going Four for Four

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Today, after I get home from work and grab a little snack, I will reach into my special cabinet and remove the 1970’s era KitchenAid mixer waiting there. The mixer will go on the counter next to my battle worn Cocinas de New Mexico cookbook.

It’s time to make biscochitos.

This is my fourth and final entry for my local county fair, which starts this weekend. I decided to enter my biscochitos in the “culinary arts” event under the “ethnic desserts – cookie” category.

I first learned how to make the New Mexico State Cookie on the very same avocado green mixer that I will use tonight. It’s been a part of my life as long as I can remember, churning out bread, tortillas, grinding meat and makes endless batches of cookies. My mom oversaw my first forays into baking, helping make sure I got the measurements right and followed the recipe to the letter.

Baking biscochitos is like a meditation. Mix the dough, an extra pinch of anise seed for luck, roll out the heavy dough on the counter, cut out circles and bake to golden perfection.

This process, these cookies and that green mixer are all a part of my DNA.

I have no idea what sort of competition my cookies will go up against, but I know this: win or lose, The Good Man and I will have a fresh batch of homemade bicochitos to get us through the day.

A little bit of New Mexico in the middle of a very busy work week. That’s a winner!




Note to El Viejo: I will make them both with and without cinnamon sugar on top and then decide which I think the judges would prefer. I tend to think I should go gringo style and turn in the sugared tops to try to curry the favor of the judges.



Dyin’ or Revivin’?

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Last week I received an email by the good folks running the literary competitions at my local county fair. After notifying me that my story won a prize, they invited me to come out to the fair next weekend to read my story aloud on stage as part of their literary event.

Well I was just pleased as punch to say yes. What a wonderful opportunity.

This past Saturday, I had some time on my hands while I sat in a chair waiting for my hair to turn that color that only my hairdresser knows how to make.

I started thinking about this event next weekend and planning. I need to spend some time practicing reading my story aloud. Practice is everything in a public speaking situation.

I wondered if I’d be asked any questions about the story. I thought I should try to think up what I might be asked so I could be ready with good answers.

One of the first questions I thought of was, “what was your inspiration for this story?”

I had to spend some time thinking that through. It’s a story that’s been rambling around in my mind for a while, and I’ve taken several stabs and getting it out, to both greater and lesser success.

Mainly, I was inspired by the fact that upon reading the guidelines for the competition, I noted that there was a “Western” genre available to compete under. This is not something I often see, so that really got my creative juices rolling.

My absolute author-hero is Larry McMurtry. I adore his way with description and dialogue, and his western novels are a cut above.

I have a collection of short stories that McMurtry edited. It’s western stories written only by writers raised in the west.

When I saw that my county fair offered a Western category, I knew there was no doubt that I had to write a western story.

That said, what I wrote isn’t truly a classical western. Technically, the western genre implies a story set in the 1800’s, the so called “Old West.”

If you read any of the literally thousands of short stories that Louis L’Amour wrote, you’ll find within his formula a common theme. The great conflict in his stories is of man against nature which includes cattle grazing the land, the weather and water. In fact, water rights always seem to play a big role in L’Amour’s short stories.

I guess that the western genre has declined so much because these concepts seem hopelessly old fashioned.

But are they?

Until his untimely death last year, my dear friend who farmed cotton and chile on his family’s farm in La Mesa was fighting with the state of New Mexico over water rights. This problem was such a vital aspect of his life that it was mentioned in his eulogy.

Yesterday I watched a televised show where renowned French chef Eric Ripert spoke passionately about the “farm to table” movement, and visited a Virginia farm where the owner was doing something revolutionary.

He was not overgrazing his land.

He spends time calculating how many head of cattle his land can bear and then actively rotates pastures to be sure that his cattle never overgraze. His land flourishes, his cattle are healthy and he’s seen as an innovator.

This is not innovation. Louis L’Amour wrote stories about this very idea over 70 years ago. This concept is also something they taught me in my collegiate FFA organization**. It’s called “being a good steward of the land.”

And so, to bring this back to my point…

I wanted to write a western story because although I keep hearing that the western fiction genre is dying, I’m seeing that the topics driving most true western stories are still essential and vital to today’s world.

And so maybe Westerns aren’t dying. Maybe, much like the land, if tended to and nourished, the genre can continue to flourish with a modern sensibility.

Writing a western story set in modern times that won an award at my local county fair is so deeply satisfying to me. It’s my affirmation that the Western genre is alive and well inside at least one little girl who was born and raised in the west.

_______________________


Further proof: The Western genre gets back in the saddle





**”I believe in the future of farming…”


Craft Catatonia

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Hoo boy….I am beat down to a nub. I have been arts and crafting my ass off in preparation for the upcoming local county fair.

While the term “county fair” may imply something small and hick-ish, my local fair is anything but. It’s a huge event

Back in February, I visited with my godkids in Las Cruces, and they were all fired up about their own county fair coming up in September.

My niƱos are all about 4H and have decided to raise pigs this year to show at the fair. Their excitement was contagious, so I came back to Northern California fired up and ready to participate in my own fair.

In fact, I was so excited that when the guidebook arrived, I decided to sign up for four events. Four. Which means I’m either stupid or sadistic. I, uh, have a full time job.

Since the fair kicks off June 11, my four entries are due, oh, NOW.

The events I’m doing are: short story, photography, visual art, and baking.

Yes. I said baking.

The short story had to be turned in over a month ago so the judges had plenty of time to read and evaluate the stories. Last week I got the smoking hot news that my story won my genre category, which was Western.

Whoo hoo! The fair hasn’t even started and I’m liking this already!

The story will be published in an anthology of stories put out by the Fair and sold to benefit charity.

Pretty damn excited, I can tell you that!

The photography entry has gone fairly well, too. I knew which photo I wanted to use and it was a matter of getting a good print made (harder than it sounds) and then cutting the mat and framing the piece. I got that done mid-last week. Boom!

The visual art piece is a Dia de los Muertos inspired craft. Oh, how this work has vexed me. I had a *very* ambitious idea and have spent the last couple months constructing tons and tons of tiny details and figures and touches. The work, just finished this morning, doesn’t include all of the aspects I’d hoped to accomplish, but I have to say, I’m very proud. This project really pushed the bounds of my abilities as both crafter and storyteller.

Yesterday evening I slumped back in my chair, catatonic. I had nothing left. I had glue and paint all over my hands, sweat on my brow and an ache in my lower back that defies superlatives.

But yet I was still compelled to keep going and finish this piece on deadline, for no other reason than the pure satisfaction of having completed something so very boundary testing.

I did it. I DID it. I’ll be damned…I actually did it. Whoa.

Today I’ll turn in the framed photo and the art work and then I’ll do a little “I made it by the deadline” dance.

Then I’ll collapse.

But wait, there’s more! The deadline for the fourth event comes up next week. I entered the “ethnic desserts” category and I’ll be whipping up a batch of Biscochitos.

New Mexico! Representin’!

And then I will eat my fill of anise seed treats, slip into a sugar coma, and sleep for a very long time…or at least until The Muse taps me on the psyche again.