Saturday, October 25, 2008

Of Ancient Indians and Modern Day Chile ( the food not the country)

I don't know who took this delicious photo. If you do, let me know.

John returned from New Mexico this weekend and brought pots and pots of red and green chile back with him. Hot, mild, medium, roasted and regional, my dearest covered the chile gamut on this trip and I was delighted to see him come home toting this treasure trove. This is uniquely New Mexican cuisine (note it is "chile" not "chili") and I am totally hooked on it. Red chile stew with pork or lamb, green chile over huevos or on a burger, red chile name it, I'll eat it and when I'm in New Mexico I'll eat it every day. When John was performing at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Conference at UGA in Athens, Ga., this past spring, the keynote speaker was Simon Ortiz, the esteemed Native American poet and writer from Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. On the second night of the conference he and I were talking about our respective homelands and I mentioned how much I loved the western U.S. and in particular, New Mexico. "You have great food there." I told him.
Sure," he answered with a soft smile, "If you like red and green chile."
"Which I do!" I exclaimed happily.
"Me too." he said.
There's a lot to like about red and green chile.

We got through one package of the green before taking off today for Moundville, Alabama and the Moundville Archaeological Park south of Tuscaloosa. It was a bright, clear fall day and the temps were perfect to explore around the site where 800 years ago a city of Mississipian Indians, ten thousand strong, thrived on the banks of the Black Warrior River. Called "The Big Apple of the 14th Century" by National Geographic magazine, this community was America's largest city north of Mexico. The park itself preserves 326 acres of where the busy ancient metropolis once stood. There are 28 large flat-topped mounds (much like earthen pyramids with the tops lopped off) arranged in sequence around a central plaza. The mounds were man-made and created for civic and ceremonial purposes and for the houses of the nobility of the tribe. The large population farmed, fished and foraged in the area and traded with communities from hundreds of miles away. Their pottery and artifacts are both beautiful and utilitarian and their history fascinating and mysterious.

After climbing the big mound (60 feet high) to take in the view, following the walking trail and checking out the small "Indian village" exhibit we had a picnic by the river and feasted on goat cheese, Greek olives, hummus and Dr. Pepper, while we watched a huge barge make its way around the bend and down the Black Warrior river ( "Tuscaloosa" is a Choctaw word meaning "Black Warrior").

Part of the University of Alabama, Moundville Archaeological Park is well worth a visit if you're traveling near west central Alabama. There's an RV park and campground on the site, with bathhouse. It's a very attractive area to bike, run, picnic or take your boat out on the river. Admission to the park is about $5 per person. Tent camping and RV parking is $8- $12 per day with a 14 day limit (that can be extended by permission) and pets are welcome.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Last year, for the very first time in our relationship, we carved a pumpkin. It was our attempt to participate in the general frivolity of fall and Halloween since we don't dress up. Part of that, I'm sure, is that John is a professional dancer and performer and I worked in theatre for so many years. Dressing up or creating a character in our household means going to work. There's no trick or treating in the RV park (in some parks there is, but we've never been in one at the right time of year). We just had to do something to "mood up", John decided. Carving the pumpkin (oh - and dressing up the dogs, much to their collective canine dismay) seemed to do the trick. You can see the results of our carve above. It was fun and made us feel like kids again, something John and I do on a regular basis (feel like kids, not carve pumpkins).

This year I took to looking on the internet to find what was "in" in the world of pumpkin carving and I wasn't at all disappointed. It's an election year, you say? I hadn't noticed. Click over to for some Obama-mania in gourd form.

There's also an amiable artist out there by the name of Ray Villaphane, who carves pumpkins so well, you will likely exclaim out loud when you see the photos of his work, like this one:

Look for more of his incredible pumpkins at:


Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!