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Archive for January, 2015

Maybe what makes snow so special for me is that we don’t get it very often in the desert. New Year’s Day we walked out to a winter wonderland, totally unexpected but a welcome change. Our dogs, Tito and Lalo, ran around and reveled in it much like kids would do. Seeing the white stuff on the cactus lifted my spirits and I enjoyed sprinting after the dogs. Lalo is a black malte-poo so when we came in the house, his face was white from sticking his nose into the snow. Tito, is white, so it didn’t show up on him.

By noon, the sun had melted all of it. The only evidence left was the dripping off from the roof. Our house has a flat roof so it must have collected a couple of inches of snow. All our garden plants were well watered. As much as I like the snow, I don’t like the cold that comes with it. Several years ago, we went to Minneapolis for a family reunion at Thanksgiving. It snowed and desert dweller that I am, I froze. A couple of years ago, we went to Boston so I could attend a writing conference. It snowed. Even with a heavy coat, boots, gloves, scarf, and hat, I froze. I’m not used to the cold.

Living at the base of Mount Lemon, we can go up the mountain whenever it snows. We rarely do so. Instead, I’d rather appreciate it when it snows on the desert.

Snow on cactus

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Albóndiga Soup

The fragrant aroma of roasting meatballs permeates the kitchen! I spent the morning making 5 pounds of albóndigas for soup. I used to make albóndiga soup for as many as 50 people to serve during our Christmas tamalada while tamales cooked.

No more. The days of big parties are over. These albóndigas will go in the freezer and be ready for making soup and serving at small intimate dinners. If my guests are willing to listen, I’ll read them a selection from my short story “Albóndiga Soup” about the never-ending, life-sustaining soup that nourished Morenci people during a hard strike.

I like to roast the albóndigas. It gives them a richer, more nuanced flavor. This is how my grandmother did it. I also use cooked rice in them. I know some people put uncooked rice in the meatballs but I’ve tasted other people’s albóndigas and chewed on hard rice. I freeze the meatballs on the cookie sheets after they cool off, then when they’re completely frozen, I put them into a freezer bag. That way there’s no frost, and no fat. I make the soup stock from scratch using beef broth, onions, garlic, and cumin. After I add the water and bring everything to a boil, I add the albóndigas. When I’m ready to serve, I add fresh mint. The albóndigas already contained mint in them, but including fresh mint in the soup adds more flavor. I serve albóndiga soup piping hot with sides of limes, pico de gallo, and bollios. Yum! Who’s coming for dinner first?

As I made the albóndigas and smelled them roasting in the oven, I thought of my mother, Natividad Díaz Herrera who died on this date, 14 years ago. In my grief, I made albóndiga soup with my granddaughters, Gabby & Manda helping me to roll them out.

The night of the wake, with all the family gathered, I saw how this soup soothed all our souls that night. The menudo my brother prepared was barely touched. As people savored my soup and commented on it, more came to be served. It all went and I didn’t get to taste even a spoonful of it. But no matter. Seeing mi familia, mi Mama’s familia, feasting on this life-sustaining soup is a memory that will stay with me always, especially when I make and serve it.

At tamaladas, I’ve had non-soup eaters tell me, “Don’t give me too much, I’m saving myself for the tamales.” Inevitably they were the ones that came back for seconds and thirds! I don’t know what makes this simple soup so special but I wish I had the never-ending one I wrote about in “Albóndiga Soup.”

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