This and That, Here and There

Dear Friends: I’m going to start with Michael’s tarta chaglabana because some of you have been asking what he’s been up to in the kitchen these days, and it will make a prettier opener than what follows. M with torta torta closeupThe name tarta chaglabana comes from our little community, Chaglaban, and the recipe from Michael’s head. He’s always trying to come up with dishes he can fix with local ingredients and this often involves pork, a mainstay of the Cañar diet. Inspiration struck one night when he had some leftover pork chops. OK, here’s Michael: “Basically it’s a British meat pie, or a giant Argentine empanada, or an Italian calzone – with no cheese. I made this Ecuadorian version with the same dough I use to make pizza, and it really works well in a spring-form pan… (Because this could get tedious for those of you who don’t cook, I’m putting the rest of  Michael’s narrative recipe at the end of this blog.

Next topic: Eyes & Kichwa lessonsmy eye001

I didn’t see any connection between my second multifocal lens implant last week and signing up for Kichwa lessons, but when I go to my first class it will be the first time since I was eight years old to sit in a classroom without glasses (or contacts). The motivating factor was a cataract in one eye (ñawi) and the incredible difference in cost between here and the U.S. for the second eye (insurance will partially reimburse for first but not the second). My eyes are still adjusting to the new lenses, but two weeks after the surgery my distance vision is perfect (for example, from our living room windows I can see the towers on the top of the highest mountain)…

long shot towers closeup

…and I can read books and iPad in good light. But working on the computer (at 20-30”) I’m using Michael’s reading glasses (amazingly, he doesn’t seem to need them). Hopefully this will improve within the three months’ adjustment period. (If you are squeamish about such things, don’t go here.)

In doing Internet research before the surgery, I came across an interesting connection that relates to my last blog. Remember Nestlé, the largest and most profitable corporation in the world, with 8000 brands (not 2000 as I wrote before)? nestle2Well, the giant Swiss firm once wholly owned Alcon, the source of my lens implants. Begun in 1942 as a small eye-care company in Fort Worth, Texas by two pharmacists Robert Alexander and William Conner (Al-Con, get it?), their first product was eye drops for tired eyes. The company expanded into other eye care products, including contact lenses, went public back in 1971, and was acquired by Nestle in 1977 – its second venture outside the food industry – then sold in 2010 to Novartis, now the biggest eye-care company in the world. Through it all, the name Alcon persists, still with an address at 6201 South Freeway in Fort Worth, Texas.

Point being:  while I was waxing eloquent about no global giants serving up hamburgers or tacos or pizza in Cañar, one was reaching deep into my own life. “Alcon” was on the brochure they gave me to start, on the blankets they wrapped around me the day of surgery, on the implant ID cards they gave me after, and on the eyedrops I’m using for the next few weeks (bringing me back to Alexander and Conner’s first product). So for the remainder of my days, I will carry around foreign body parts, complete with serial numbers, connected weirdly to Nestlé, just as this old man we visited last Sunday decorated his kitchen walls and shelves years ago with wrappers from Nestlé.

nestle 1

Lastly, I want to introduce a new project, Voces de Cañar/Cañarikunapa Rimay, a digital storytelling exchange between Cañar and New York City, developed with a colleague from Santa Fe, Judy Goldberg. We met by chance in Ecuador last year and clicked around a mutual love of documentation, oral histories, young people, and her desire to improve her Spanish. Once I knew the archive project was a reality, I invited her to come back and share her recording and video skills. (Judy was founder and for 11 years director of Youth Media Project in Santa Fe.) She is here for three months, coordinating the project. The media exchange is a confluence of my archive work, Judy G.’s work as media producer, educator and digital storyteller, and the interest of the University of Texas. And then an article in the New York Times told about an Ecuadorian radio station in the Bronx run by a man from Cañar, Segundo Angamarca. Every Friday from 6-9 PM the station broadcasts in Kichwa, the native language of many indigenous migrants on the East Coast. Early in the year Judy made a visit to New York to meet Segundo and his colleagues at Kichwa Hatari, and to propose an exchange of audio-stories with community and youth voices in Cañar and their migrant counterparts in the Bronx (now home to New York’s largest Ecuadorian community).website imageSeveral months later, with the enormous good will of Santa Fe IT genius, Greg Malone, we have a beautiful website that we hope will be the hub for the exchange. Go here to see our first effort – a 6-minute audio slideshow about Carnaval in Cañar, in Spanish and Kichwa, that is being shown today at the Bronx Rising! Hawari: Quechua Poetry and Music event. (Clarification: in Ecuador it’s Kichwa; in Peru and Bolivia it’s Quechua.)

OK, back to Michael’s tarta chaglabana:torta alone

So: roll out a big circle of dough and drape it carefully in the pan so it slides down to fill the bottom and sides and hangs over the edges. Make a filling of ground or chopped lean pork, some garlic, onion, olive oil, 3 or 4 liquified tomatoes, chopped green or red sweet pepper, fine dried oregano, spicy Spanish paprika, or ground New Mexico chile (to taste), and salt and pepper. Don’t forget the secret ingredients: raisins and chopped green olives.

Saute the meat and other ingredients (except the tomatoes) in olive oil in big frying pan. When almost done, add the liquified tomatoes and allow to reduce some. Dump the filling into the dough-lined pan. Trim the dough, leaving an extra inch hanging over the outside edge of the pan. Fold these edges over the filling. (Or if you’re really good, don’t trim the edges but artfully fold over all the extra dough to create the top.) In my case, I trimmed and rolled out the extra dough to cut a shape to make the top crust (see photo above). Brush the top with slightly beaten egg white. Bake at about 350 degrees until nice and toasty brown, about 45 minutes. The only other thing you need to make a dinner is a salad.

Hasta la próxima.