Letty García's Mexican Salsa & Sun Chips
Saturday, October 02, 2010
For years I have taken pride in my home made Mexican salsa. The original recipe came via my friend Robert Hijar who lives in Memphis. For his recipe I chop up a couple of serrano chiles, half a large bunch of cilantro. I then put the chiles and tomatoes (I almost fill a blender glass) and blend them for a short time. Into the mix I put in some lemon or lime juice and salt (Maldon Salt!) to taste. I then chop up the cilantro and mix it into the blend. I like this salsa on eggs (huevos rancheros) or with chips.
Back in June Rebecca and I traveled to Austin and then we stayed for a week at Michael East’s Santa Fe Ranch. His partner, Letty García is an excellent (and charming) cook. She taught Rebecca how to make corn flour tortillas. But it was her home-made salsa that blew me away.
Now every couple of days I have to make a fresh batch and I then I must buy the Sun Chips. If you have never tried Sun Chips I do recommend them. There is the added bonus that its packaging is surprisingly compostable and because of it the makers of the product warn in their package :
This bag is a little noisy because its made of compostable material.
It is so noisy that if I make it a point to squeeze the bag, both my cats will run out of the room!
I have modified Lety’s recipe (below) by increasing its heat content. I add more chilies.
9 to 10 small white pearl onions, finely chopped.
7 chiles serranos (this is my present escalation of the recipe) finely chopped
If you want to make the salsa less picante remove the seeds and the white inside of the chilies. I suggest you rub you hands with lemon juice after and then wash your hands carefully several times. Avoid rubbing your eyes.
I fill a blender glass with tomatoes. Lately these have been the sweet Camparis.
1 teaspoon sugar and salt (Malden Salt, natch!) to taste.
I put all this in a pan and bring to boil. I simmer for about 15 minutes and then pour the salsa out into a plastic container and I refrigerate.
Rebecca loves this salsa and because of it she has been slowly increasing her tolerance for picante. The salsa is lovely with the Sun Chips and as huevos rancheros. My friendly Safeway cashier informed me today why the chips are called Sun Chips. On a TV food channel he found out that the company bakes the chips in an oven that is powered by electricity that comes from in-house solar panels.
Carole Taylor - A Presence In Spades
Friday, October 01, 2010
My blog posting for yesterday was about that difficult to define quality called presence that some people have and some people do not. My posting was about my granddaughter Rebecca who has it and I mentioned that the only other person that I ever photographed with whom I somehow could communicate silently while looking through my viewfinder was Carole Taylor. I have been lucky to photograph her many times through the years beginning in the very early 80s which is when I took this one which ended up being used not only as a Vancouver Magazine profile but as a b+w it was used to promote her TV show on the CBC. The designer, Ray May won an award for his poster design. My guess is that the judges were simply wowed by the enigmatic eyes and the almost-Mona Lisa-smile. I would have been, too.
By the mid 80s I had arrived at the conclusion that a telephoto lens would flatten perspective and make noses smaller and the human face much more attractive particularly with women’s portraits. But if you got really close what you lost in perspective was gained by the immediacy of being very close to your subject.
I found the style almost by accident by purchasing a second lens for my Mamiya RB 6x7 cm camera. I had used the 65mm wide angle (equivalent to a 35mm wide angle in a 35mm film camera or a full frame digital SLR) for some years as my only lens. Mamiya lenses were expensive because they had the shutter in the lens. Every time you bought a lens you bought a shutter. The second lens was a 140mm floating element lens. This is equivalent to about a 70mm lens. It has a bit of telephoto effect but I am really close to my sitter. The floating element means that I can focus and then re-focus to precisely the distance and the lens will gather all its sharpness for that distance. Most lenses are designed to be sharp at infinity and deteriorate in sharpness as you focus out to get close. The opposite situation is the true macro lens which will be really sharp close and will deteriorate as you focus to infinity. The floating element lens does both. And to top it all the 140mm is a macro lens which means that if you focus on a one inch stamp the one inch stamp will be exactly that size in the viewfinder and in the film.
Because I took this picture perhaps around 1984 there was no Photoshop. The only way to clean up Carole Taylor’s hands (perhaps she had been pruning roses or peeling potatoes!) was to make an 11x14 inch colour print and have an expert retourcher use that now ancient device called an airbrush. But the rest of Carole Taylor was perfect as you can see here!
A Presence In Spades
Thursday, September 30, 2010
My granddaughter Rebecca danced for six years. I have watched many dancers in the last 20 years and I have seen the best. One of them was Evelyn Hart. I believe that a dancer must be beautiful (if ballet she or he must have a classically shaped body), must dance well and then there is a third quality which perhaps is the most important. This I call presence. Without presence a dancer is nothing.
I have seen many young violinists and pianists. They have mostly been experts in technique but few have had the real passion that comes with experience. Perhaps the passion in a musical performer could be equated to the presence of a dancer.
When Rebecca stopped dancing, the head of a very good local dance school told me, “What will it take to get Rebecca to stay. If it is a scholarship, I will give her one.” In the end it was determined that Rebecca at a young age was much too young to choose a dancing career. Both the head of the dance school and I knew that Rebecca has that hard to define but so easy to see presence.
I have photographed countless women and men in my life. I have photographed great actresses and actors, directors of note and dancers. I have immediately known which of them had that impalpable quality that I call presence. My forays into fashion photography have been limited but even in that I was faced with models that had it and those that didn’t.
I called up my granddaughter’s home around noon last Saturday to request they bring dresses for some fall photographs. Rebecca chose the one you see here. At around 4 on that day I told her to get dressed. It took her an hour. I looked at her hair and I noted to her that she had somehow flattened it a bit and it did not look as good as it had a few hours before. Rebecca’s hair if she has been swimming and if she allows it to dry slowly will result in a glorious look. She has the hair.
Rebecca came down with hair up in an almost flapper/Penelope waiting for Odysseus look. I could not say anything. Then she casually draped the bottom of her dress over her shoulder and looked stunning by my fall fading hydrangeas in Rosemary’s kitchen bed. By five, light at my Ektachrome’s 100 ISO, had to be exposed at f-8 at ¼ second as my Mamiya’s lenses (and particularly the 140mm and the 90mm that I used here) do not go beyond f-4.5. I hate shooting wide open.
There is only one other woman, besides Rebecca, that I have ever photographed that when I think how she should move, they will do so by some sort of intuition. That other woman has been Carole Taylor. But then Carole Taylor has presence in spades.
It has been exactly one year since I let go of my Robson Street studio with its high ceiling and my boom lights that I could move at will. Shooting my granddaughters at home and in the garden has made me look at simplicity of style almost by necessity. It could also be a little bit of laziness of not wanting to bring out the big boom light and plug in my studio lights to the garden sockets. The light here was late afternoon light. One I would have lit this since it is my formula and style to light just about any picture I take. But thanks to my granddaughter’s and the fact that the younger one might not be as patient, I find I have to work quickly. All this has me working on my toes and I think I am enjoying it very much.
As I look at the pictures here I know that Rebecca has that something that could make her a wonderful stage actress or even a film actress. But we will have to wait for her to be of age so that she can then point herself in a direction that she by then, I hope, will know, is the right direction. Until then I will prevent myself from crying by enjoying every minute of being exposed to her presence with my camera.
Rucio, Sancho Panza & The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quijote De La Mancha
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Cervantes is one of the few Spanish writers that I can imagine. I know, more or less, what a chat with him would be like. I know, for example, that he would beg for forgiveness for some of the things he has written and how he would not take himself seriously. I am sure of it as I would be in the cases of Samuel Butler or Wells; and for that, one of the reasons why I am attracted to Cervantes is that I not only think of him as writer, of the greatest of all novelists, but also as a man. And as Whitman says: “Friend, this is not a book, he who touches it touches a man.”
Jorge Luís Borges
I have read El Ingenioso Don Quijote de la Mancha
three times in my life. In all three instances I read the novel in its original Castilian. Throughout my life my grandmother, who had been born in Seville in the 19th century never told me to not to do this or that. She was far more modern that met the eye. She would say stuff like, "Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo
." She always seemed to have some sort of proverb that would predict terrible consequences if I persisted with my ill ways. I do not remember that she ever punished me or raised her voice. It was only years later that I finally realized that she knew most of Sancho Panza’s proverbs from Don Quijote de la Mancha.
One of the games we often played was the naming of historical horses. She would ask me the name of El Cid Campeador’s. That was easy, Babieca. I would counter asking her the name of Alexander’s horse. This she knew – Bucéfalo (in Spanish). From there we would go to Rocinante and in later years we knew of Ulysses S. Grant (Cincinnati), Robert E. Lee (Traveler) and the Duke of Wellington (Copenhagen). She never did ask me to name Sancho Panza’s donkey. This leads to my third reading of Don Quijote de la Mancha.
It was a few years ago before the advent of Google
that people I knew would ask me for the name of Sancho’s donkey. I was always rendered speechless in not knowing.
When my neighbour, Clare Smith moved out of his house (he was in his late 90s) I inherited a 100 year-old Chickering baby grand, a first edition of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
and a 1950 Editorial Juventud
–Barcelona edition of Don Quijote de la Mancha
with text and notes by Martín De Riquer.
It is to this edition that I sat down to read in search of the name of Sancho Panza’s donkey. I soon found it. The name, el rucio
, is not technically the donkey’s name but more of a description, a diferenciation from other beasts.
My on line diccionario de la Real Academia Española defines rucio:
(Del lat. roscĭdus, de ros, rocío).
1. adj. Dicho de una bestia: De color pardo claro, blanquecino o canoso. U. t. c. s.
This translates as a beast of light “pardo” colour, whitish and gray as in the gray of gray hair. The word pardo is vague. The dictionary defines pardo as:
(Del lat. pardus, leopardo, por el color; cf. pardal).
1. adj. Del color de la tierra, o de la piel del oso común, intermedio entre blanco y negro, con tinte rojo amarillento, y más oscuro que el gris.
This means that pardo (as in leopard-like) is earth-coloured or the colour of a common bear.
In English translations Sancho Panza’s donkey has been rendered as the dappled one
or simply as dappled
in tonight’s Arts Club Theatre Company premiere (a co-production with Centaur Theatre Company, Montreal in association with Axis Theatre) of Don Quixote –An Epic Comedy of Love and Delusion
at the Granville Island Stage.
The play, a world premiere, was written by Colin Heath
(in future productions of this play we may hope he gets fat so that he would become the ultimate Sancho Panza) and Peter Anderson (who also plays the ingenious hidalgo) and adapted from the novel by Miguel Cervantes Saavedra.
I attended the opening night performance today with severe trepidation. Don Quijote (the Spaniards, particularly the contemporary ones insist on that j while Mexicans stick to their ancient x!) de La Mancha as a novel is as misunderstood by non Castilians as much as bullfighting is. In good Spanish newspapers, the corrida
(bullfighting reviews) are in the arts section of the paper not in the sports, Equally, while Don Quijote (and I insist on that j) is funny in parts we of Castilian origins take the novel most seriously. For most their introduction to the novel has been the musical The Man of La Mancha
or an excerpt here and there from the novel.
Few might suspect that the Spanish novel was one of the first to be translated into other languages and that Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio
was based on a character in Don Quijote. The play was performed in 1613 almost certifying that Shakespeare had read the novel. In short El Quijote
(as we sometimes call the novel in brief) is not to be taken lightly.
I could not understand in tonight’s play the use of masks covering in many instances the lovely face of my ever favourite Sasa Brown
or the cartooned voices of the actors. Perhaps they mimic the stage performances of that age. But there was no mask on Peter Anderson who was as Quixotic as anyone not Spanish could ever be. He was perfect as was his flatulent Sancho. Rucio was non-descript but Rocinante appeared in several wonderful manifestations ( a one wheeled and a three-wheeled).
A character in the play stated that first acts were often followed by not so good second acts. I though this was bang on until I watched (in that second act) the wonderfully choreographed (Karen Pitkethly with help from Fight Director David Bloom) joust between Don Quijote and the masked Samson Carrasco (Mike Wasko). This was beautiful and with the serious ending I felt that the farce that the play, sort of was, became more of a Quijote I could live with.
I think (but then I’m an amateur) that Director Roy Surette (picture seen here) has done a superb job. My only quibble (a most minor one!) is that the donkey’s name should not have been revealed so lightly and so soon. Seen here, too is a photograph I took sometime in summer in the mid 80s in La Mancha, Spain. the picture brings to mind the descripion of Dulcinea's hair in tonight's play, "Her hair was a halo of golden wheat."
I told my friend, the former arts critic of the Globe and Mail, Christopher Dafoe
that if a few people went home with a commitment to read the novel then the play was a success. And if this was not the case it was a failure. Sleeping over it I will amend my final prediction to say that I will purchase two front seat tickets and take my 13 year-old-granddaughter to see it soon. After all I know what’s good. As Sancho would have told me via my grandmother, the devil knows, not because he is the devil, but because he is older.
While I have no English edition of the novel at hand I would like to place here my translation of Sancho Panza finding and retrieving his stolen rucio:
Sancho approached his rucio and hugging him said, “How have you been, my good one, rucio of my eyes, my companion?” And with this he kissed and caressed him as if he were a person. The donkey said nothing and allowed himself to be caressed by Sancho without responding one word.
Monsignor Quixote - That Ingenious Hidalgo
I took my granddaugther Rebecca to see the show on Saturday October 2 and , I as I thought, she liked it very much and did a lot of laughing. It was she who pointed out that the garlic-spitting dulcinea was that of Sasa Brown. It was sad to note that in the almost full house my Rebecca was probably the only person there under 18. When are parents going to stop taking children to children's plays and realize that some plays are for everyone?
Believe It Or Not!
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Since almost 20 years have passed since I took this picture my memory of the circumstances are hazy. I do not remember if I purchased a newspaper that said that Vargas Llosa
was achieving a surprising edge over his political rivals who were also running for the presidency of Perú. I don’t remember if I folded it carefully so that the fold would look haphazard and then placed it under the agave and snap the picture.
For years I shot annual reports and school and art school catalogues with shot lists of pre-planned setups. I have always believed that while Henri Cartier-Bresson might have had it right in his own time of waiting for decisive moments to happen and to then know when they were happening, that his method would not compute in this day and age of time is money.
For years I felt that there was one publication in which time was never at a premium if the decisive moment had to be waited. That is why the National Geographic
has always had a reputation of being one of the best magazines in the world with the most arresting photography. It was some 25 years ago that the National Geographic went on a decline (as per my opinion and I am happy to report that the decline was almost short-lived!). The article in question was about Robert Louis Stevenson. There was a vertical full page bleed photo of his tomb in Tahiti. To my horror I noticed that upper sky had a pink tinge that did not look real. I knew exactly what had been used for the effect. Instead of waiting for a sunset the photographer had used a very popular French filter (made of plastic) called the Cokin. The not-willing-to-wait-for-the-Bresson moment, or even the Ansel Adams moment, the photographer had used the Cokin tobacco filter. This filter had half of its area darkened and coloured an amber/red/brown. The filter underexposed the sky (making it darker) and the colour tinge made it look like a dramatic sunset that it was not. Shortly after the Stevenson shot the folks at the Geographic got into trouble by moving (digitally) one of the great Egyptian pyramids for a now infamous cover.
With the advent of all the tricks of Photoshop and even being able to modify or change what is supposed to be sacrosanct in digital photography, the meta data (in which even the exact location of a photograph is embedded in the picture) we can no longer believe anything we see. Skies can be tweaked, faces cleaned up, people moved from one side of a picture to the other or to be eliminated (and made to be non persons) from a group photograph with such precision that Soviet Union photo manipulators of the past must feel jealous.
I believe that decisive moments are created and not waited for. This means that I have been able to shoot many magazine assignments in half the time.
As for this picture, I can not assert if I looked for the newspaper or placed it. I do not feel to bad about it as it has been a photographic tradition from the very beginning of photography when American Civil War photographers moved corpses to make the battle fields more photogenic. The same is said of the British Crimean war Roger Fenton who allegedly moved cannonballs around to make his Valley of the Shadow of Death
The Real Life Of Alejandro Mayta
Monday, September 27, 2010
A morning jog along the Malecón de Barranco, when the dew still hangs heavy in the air and makes the sidewalks slippery and shiny, is just the way to start off the day. Even in the summer, the sky is gray, because the sun never shines on this neighborhood before ten. The fog blurs the edge of things – the profiles of sea gulls, the pelican that flies over the broken line of the cliffs that run along the sea. The water looks like leas, dark green, smoking rough, with patches of foam. The waves form parallel rows as they roll in, and sometimes a fishing boats bounces over them. Sometimes a gust of wind parts the clouds, and out in the distance La Punta and the ocher islands of San Lorenzo and El Frontón materialize. It’s beautiful, as long as you concentrate on the landscape and the birds, because everything man-mde there is ugly.
Chapter 1, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (La Historia de Mayta, 1984) by Mario Vargas Llosa
The houses are ugly, imitations of imitations. Fear, in the shape of gates, walls, sirens, and spotlights, suffocates them. Television antennas form a ghostly forest. Ugly, too is the garbage that piles up on the outer edge of the Malecón and spills down its face, Why is it that this part of the city- which has the best view is a garbage dump?
I’m looking for Mayta, does he know where I might find him?
He’s a respectable-looking guy, dressed relatively well. He listens without asking any questions. But I see that he has doubts, and I’m sure he’s not going to tell me anything. I ask him to give Mayta my telephone number, the next time he sees him.
Suddenly he decides. “He works in an ice-cream parlor,” he says. “In Miraflores.”
It’s a small ice-cream parlor which has been there for many years. It’s on Bolognesi Street, a street I know very well because when I was a kid I knew a beautiful girl who lived there. She had the improbable name of Flora Flores. I’m sure the ice-cream parlor was there then and I went in with the beautiful Flora Flores to have a sundae. It’s and unusual place for a street where there are no stores, only the typical Miraflores houses: two stories, front lawn, the inevitable geraniums, bougainvillea, and poincianas with big red flowers. I have an attack of nerves as I turn off the Malecón onto Bolognesi. Yes, it’s exactly where I remember it, a few steps away from the gray house with balconies, where Flora’s sweet face and incandescent eyes would appear. I park a short distance away from the ice-cream parlor, but I can barely get the key out of the ignition, because I’ve suddenly become jittery.
“Alejandro Mayta,” I say, stretching my hand. “Right?”
He looks at me for a few seconds and smiles, opening a mouth not overpopulated by teeth. He blinks trying to remember me. Finally he gives up.
Chapter 10, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta by Mario Vargas Llosa
I’m still thinking about the garbage in Mayta’s slum when on the left I see Lurigancho in the distance and I remember the mad naked inmate sleeping on the immense garbage heap in front of the odd-numbered cell blocks. And shortly afterward, when I am all the way across Zárate and Plaza de Acho and I’m on Avenida Abancay, on the road that takes me to Vía Expresa, San Isidro, Miraflores, and Barranco, I can already imagine the seawalls in the neighborhood where I have had the good fortune to live, and the garbage you see – I’ll see it myself tomorrow when I go running – if you crane your neck and peek over the edge. The garbage dump that the cliffs facing the sea have become. And I’ll remember that a year ago I began to concoct this story the same way I’m ending it, by speaking about the garbage that’s invading every neighborhood in the capital of Perú.
Chapter 10, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta by Mario Vargas Llosa
Mario Vargas Llosa
More Mario Vargas Llosa
And More Mario Vargas Llosa
And even more
And if that was not enough
La Ciudad Y Los Perros
Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa published his first novel La Ciudad y los Perros (The Time of the Hero) in 1967. The title literally means the "city and the dogs". The novel is set in a brutal military academy for young boys in the outskirts port of Callao not far from Lima. In the mid 90s I visited Mario Vargas Llosa at his home. He was running for the presidency of Parú. Those of us who relish his novels were glad he lost. I lost a big job. I had made an agreement with the folks at Condé Nast Traveller to photograph the places mentioned in Llosa’s books. They were keen on the idea but not so keen later. I was saddled with some of the best photographs I ever took in my life.
One of my most exciting discoveries was to find out that Vargas Llosa was most autobiographical in many of his novels. When he would mention as he did (see above blog) in The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (an ice-cream parlor and tell of its location) I would find it exactly as he wrote. I took him to task on this, not knowing that most writers will never blatantly or publicly acknowledge the autobiographical content of a novel. The man simply stared at me.
It was outside of the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Callao that I caught this dog. It was in this school that the patrician Mario Vargas Llosa grew up. The novel, The Time of the Hero, features a dog and I could not help but be happily amazed when I snapped this one with my Widelux!
The Farm, The Rocket & The New Studio
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Today Rosemary and I drove in the Rocket to "the Farm" it is right off the freeway on Steveston East. We bought lots of fresh vegetables and Rosemary indulged without any guilt in shucking lots of corn until she found the cobs she wanted. The folks at the Farm provide lots of bins for this. We drove back pretty happy while I thought on how much simpler life is becoming in spite of the stress we still live with. Rosemary has to have stuff checked on Tuesday and we are living in that hazy area of not knowing. But we will know and no matter what we are together.
We watched (courtesy of our local Vancouver Library) our new and latest find which are the excellent British series called Foyle's War with Michael Kitchen (the chief detective of a small coastal town in Britain, Hastings, during WII) and the improbably named but delightful chauffeur Honeysuckle Weeks. We have seen 4 and I believe there may be 12 more to go!
I had the pleasure of processing four rolls of Kodak Plus-X 120 which I took of the girls the past month. The ones you see here where my first efforts in my "new" living room studio. I purposely show sections of the lights stands holding up the wrinkled gray seamless and the strip of carpet at the girls' feet. As I look at these pictures in delight I think back that I have had four studios before this one. The first one was in our basement of our home in Burnaby. Another was a large one in a pre-not-yet-expensive Hamilton Street in Yaletown. That studio had a huge white cove wall and I could have photograped a tank, had I been able to instert it into the elevator as the studio was on a second floor. The last studio, the one on Robson I had for 15 years and its memory is becoming as faint as Rosemary's Audi Sophie. The Rocket has made me change allegiance from one gal to another. I feel shameless!
But as I look at these pictures I reflect that when I had the studio I hardly ever photographed the girls, particularly with lights. Taking them to the studio was formal, almost a stiff affair. I reflect that since the advent of my iPhone I have never taken more pictures of the girls and just about everything else I want to photograph. Pardoxically the ease and the availability of the iPhone has made me think more of photography and I am taking out my Mamiya more and loading it with Ektachrome and Plus-X. I am taking more pictures. Life can be grand and more so if only Rosemary is as well as I think she will be.