Today is the birthday (1902) of Ansel Easton Adams, U. S. photographer and environmentalist. His black-and-white landscape photographs of the U.S. West, especially Yosemite National Park, have been widely reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books. I could give you a pile of technical stuff about his cameras, his vision, and such. But I won’t. You can look it up if you care. What I will say is that he helped revolutionize photography into an art form in its own right.
He is probably best remembered for his images of Yosemite. But he did actually take quite a number of other memorable images such as of a WWII Japanese internment camp euphemistically called the Manzanar War Relocation Center. He was deeply distressed by U.S. policy on Japanese internment.
Adams was a realist when it came to loss of natural habitat due to ever expanding development, but advocated for balanced growth. He wrote, “We all know the tragedy of the dustbowls, the cruel unforgivable erosions of the soil, the depletion of fish or game, and the shrinking of the noble forests. And we know that such catastrophes shrivel the spirit of the people. The wilderness is pushed back, man is everywhere. Solitude, so vital to the individual man, is almost nowhere.”
Adams’ black-and-white photographs of the West became the foremost record of what many of the National Parks were like before tourism, and his persistent advocacy helped expand the National Park system. He used his works to promote many of the goals of the Sierra Club and of the nascent environmental movement.
Adams also spent considerable time photographing the Southwest of the U.S.
This fact gives me the opportunity, finally, to give you a recipe for sopapillas, a great staple of Arizona and New Mexico (where it is claimed they originate). They are a classic accompaniment for all soups and stews. They are called “little pillows” but the name actually translates as something like “soup catcher” – their main purpose. In New Mexico people usually eat leftover sopapillas with honey, and all restaurants have a squeeze bottle of honey on the table.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tbspns lard (or vegetable shortening)
1¼ cups warm milk (approximately)
vegetable oil for frying
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.
Cut in the lard. You can use a pastry cutter, but it is generally better to do it with your hands. (Actually, I cheat and use a food processor – pulsing about 10 times).
Add the milk, and mix the dough quickly with a fork or by hand until the dough forms a mass. Do not get it too sticky.
Turn the dough on to a well floured board and begin to knead the dough by folding it in half, pushing it down, and folding again. It should take about a dozen folds to form a soft dough that is pliant.
Rolling the dough is the tricky part. Like pastry, you do not want to work it too much or the resultant sopapillas will be tough. Take half the dough and roll it out to ? inch thickness (keeping the other half under a damp kitchen towel). Cut the dough into 5 x 5 inch squares, then cut on the diagonal to create triangles. Repeat the process with the rest of the dough. DO NOT re-roll any of the pastry. You can just fry up the scraps and eat them with honey (cook’s privilege).
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or a deep fryer to 400°F/205°C.
Fry the sopapillas in small batches. They should begin to puff immediately. Turn once so that they are browned nicely on both sides and then remove to a wire rack to drain.
Yield: about 20