Jul 082018

On this date in 1947, Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer, Walter Haut, issued a press release stating that personnel from the field’s 509th Operations Group had recovered a “flying disc”, which had crashed on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. Following wide initial interest in the crashed “flying disc”, the US military stated that it was merely a conventional weather balloon. Interest subsequently waned until the late 1970s, when ufologists began promoting a variety of increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories, claiming that one or more alien spacecraft had crash-landed, and that the extraterrestrial occupants had been recovered by the military, who then engaged in a cover-up. There was, indeed, a cover-up by the military although the details were more mundane than the discovery of dead space aliens. The balloon that crashed carried equipment for monitoring nuclear tests, that at the time the government wanted to conceal. Nonetheless, despite eventual full disclosure of the truth, conspiracy theories about alien visitors to earth will not go away, leading to what is sometimes called “Roswell syndrome,” the belief in something that is patently false because it fits preconceived notions.

On June 14, 1947, William Brazel, a foreman working on the Foster homestead, noticed clusters of debris approximately 30 miles (50 km) north of Roswell, New Mexico. This date—or “about three weeks” before July 8—appeared in later stories featuring Brazel, but the initial press release from RAAF said the find was “sometime last week”, suggesting Brazel found the debris in early July. Brazel told the Roswell Daily Record that he and his son saw a “large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks.” He paid little attention to it but returned on July 4 with his son, wife, and daughter to gather up the material. Some accounts have described Brazel as having gathered some of the material earlier, rolling it together and stashing it under some brush. The next day, Brazel heard reports about “flying discs” and wondered if that was what he had picked up. On July 7, Brazel saw Sheriff Wilcox and “whispered kinda confidential like” that he may have found a flying disc. Another account quotes Wilcox as saying Brazel reported the object on July 6.

Wilcox called RAAF Major Jesse Marcel and a “man in plainclothes” accompanied Brazel back to the ranch where more pieces were picked up. “[We] spent a couple of hours Monday afternoon [July 7] looking for any more parts of the weather device” Marcel reported. “We found a few more patches of tinfoil and rubber.”

As described in the July 9, 1947 edition of the Roswell Daily Record,

The balloon which held it up, if that was how it worked, must have been 12 feet [3.5 m] long, [Brazel] felt, measuring the distance by the size of the room in which he sat. The rubber was smoky gray in color and scattered over an area about 200 yards [180 m] in diameter. When the debris was gathered up, the tinfoil, paper, tape, and sticks made a bundle about three feet [1 m] long and 7 or 8 inches [18 or 20 cm] thick, while the rubber made a bundle about 18 or 20 inches [45 or 50 cm] long and about 8 inches [20 cm] thick. In all, he estimated, the entire lot would have weighed maybe five pounds [2 kg]. There was no sign of any metal in the area which might have been used for an engine, and no sign of any propellers of any kind, although at least one paper fin had been glued onto some of the tinfoil. There were no words to be found anywhere on the instrument, although there were letters on some of the parts. Considerable Scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction. No strings or wires were to be found but there were some eyelets in the paper to indicate that some sort of attachment may have been used.

A telex sent to an FBI office in Fort Worth, Texas, quoted a Major from the Eighth Air Force (also based in Fort Worth at Carswell Air Force Base) on July 8, 1947 as saying that,

The disc is hexagonal in shape and was suspended from a ballon [sic] by cable, which ballon [sic] was approximately twenty feet (6 m) in diameter. Major Curtan further advices advises [sic] that the object found resembles a high altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector, but that telephonic conversation between their office and Wright field had not [UNINTELLIGIBLE] borne out this belief.

Early on Tuesday, July 8, the RAAF issued a press release, which was immediately picked up by numerous news outlets:

The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.

Colonel William H. Blanchard, commanding officer of the 509th, contacted General Roger M. Ramey of the Eighth Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas, and Ramey ordered the object be flown to Fort Worth Army Air Field. At the base, Warrant Officer Irving Newton confirmed Ramey’s preliminary opinion, identifying the object as being a weather balloon and its “kite,” a nickname for a radar reflector used to track the balloons from the ground. Another news release was issued, this time from the Fort Worth base, describing the object as being a “weather balloon”.

The military decided to conceal the true purpose of the crashed device – nuclear test monitoring – and instead to inform the public that the crashed object was a weather balloon. Later that day, the press reported that commanding general of the Eighth Air Force, Roger Ramey, had stated that a weather balloon was recovered by RAAF personnel. A press conference was held, featuring debris (foil, rubber and wood) said to be from the crashed object, which matched the weather balloon description. Historian Robert Goldberg wrote that the intended effect was achieved: “the story died the next day.” Subsequently, the incident faded from the attention of UFO enthusiasts for more than 30 years.

Between 1978 and the early 1990s, UFO researchers such as Stanton T. Friedman, William Moore, Karl T. Pflock, and the team of Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt interviewed several hundred people who claimed to have had a connection with the events at Roswell in 1947. Hundreds of documents were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, along with other documents such as those pertaining to the supposed Majestic 12 (or MJ-12, an alleged secret committee set up Truman to hide evidence of alien visitors). Their conclusions were that at least one alien spacecraft crashed near Roswell, alien bodies had been recovered, and a government cover-up of the incident had taken place.

Over the years, books, articles, and television specials brought the 1947 incident significant notoriety. By the mid-1990s, public polls such as a 1997 CNN/Time poll, revealed that the majority of people interviewed believed that aliens had indeed visited Earth, and that aliens had landed at Roswell, but that all the relevant information was being kept secret by the US government. According to anthropologists Susan Harding and Kathleen Stewart, the Roswell Story was a prime example of how a discourse can move from the fringes to the mainstream according to the prevailing worldview. Public preoccupation in the 1980s with “conspiracy, cover-up, and repression” aligned well with the Roswell narratives as told in the sensationalist books which were being published.

In 1978, Stanton T. Friedman, who was a nuclear physicist, and staunch conspiracy theorist, interviewed Jesse Marcel, the only person known to have accompanied the Roswell debris from where it was recovered to Fort Worth, where reporters saw material which was claimed to be part of the recovered object. The accounts given by Friedman and others in the following years elevated Roswell from a forgotten incident to perhaps the most famous UFO case of all time. Although there is no evidence that a UFO crashed at Roswell, believers firmly hold to the belief that one did, and that the truth has been concealed as a result of a government conspiracy. B. D. Gildenberg has called the Roswell incident “the world’s most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim.”

Karl T. Pflock, a former CIA operative and author of Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe, wrote,

The case for Roswell is a classic example of the triumph of quantity over quality. The advocates of the crashed-saucer tale simply shovel everything that seems to support their view into the box marked ‘Evidence’ and say, ‘See? Look at all this stuff. We must be right.’ Never mind the contradictions. Never mind the lack of independent supporting fact. Never mind the blatant absurdities.

Kal Korff in The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don’t Want You To Know (1997), suggests there are clear incentives for some people to promote the idea of aliens at Roswell, and that many researchers were not doing competent work:

The UFO field is comprised of people who are willing to take advantage of the gullibility of others, especially the paying public. Let’s not pull any punches here: The Roswell UFO myth has been very good business for UFO groups, publishers, for Hollywood, the town of Roswell, the media, and UFOlogy. The number of researchers who employ science and its disciplined methodology is appallingly small.

D. Gildenberg wrote there were as many as 11 reported alien recovery sites in the vicinity of Roswell and these recoveries bore only a marginal resemblance to the event as initially reported in 1947, or as recounted later by the initial witnesses. Some of these new accounts could have been confused accounts of the several known recoveries of injured and dead servicemen from four military plane crashes that occurred in the area from 1948 to 1950. Other accounts could have been based on memories of recoveries of test dummies, as suggested by the Air Force in their reports. Charles Ziegler argued that the Roswell story has all the hallmarks of a traditional folk narrative. He identified six distinct narratives, and a process of transmission via storytellers with a core story that was created from various witness accounts, and was then shaped and molded by those who carry on the UFO community’s tradition. Other “witnesses” were then sought out to expand the core narrative, with those who give accounts not in line with the core beliefs being repudiated or simply omitted by the “gatekeepers.” Others then retold the narrative in its new form. This whole process repeats over time. As a small example, look at the ways in which the newspaper report has been doctored with photos that are not part of the original story (lead photo).

I lived at a center for advanced study in anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a year, and during that time I did a lot of traveling for research. In my travels I gained a lifelong love for New Mexican cuisine: posole, sopapillas, breakfast burritos, menudo, green chile stew, and the like. In fact, I have a pot of green chile stew simmering on the hob right now, because whenever I write about New Mexico I get a hankering. You can search on this blog for recipes for all of these dishes. Here I will add a recipe for pico de gallo (lit: rooster’s beak), a common accompaniment to dishes in New Mexico. There are many versions of pico de gallo in the American Southwest, but this one is specifically New Mexican because it uses green chiles, the ubiquitous condiment of New Mexican cooking. It can be made in a food processor, but you have to be careful not to process too much. It should be chunky.

Pico de Gallo


1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine
3-5 hot peppers, seeded and chopped
½ cup New Mexico green chile, diced fine
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped fine
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
lime juice


Combine the onion, tomato, green chile, hot chile, and cilantro in a large bowl and stir well to mix thoroughly. Add salt and lime juice to taste. Serve separately in a bowl as a dip with tortilla chips, or use as a garnish for burritos, huevos rancheros, etc.

Dec 162016


Today is the official beginning of Las Posadas in Mexico and the US Southwest, although actual timing may vary. The 16th of December is 9 days before Christmas, a novena that can represent numerous things – including 9 days symbolizing 9 months of Mary’s pregnancy. La Posada is Spanish for “lodging” and is used in the plural because the celebration often involves activities on several days, or because it involves visiting numerous places that are potential lodgings.

The classic Las Posadas that I am familiar with from New Mexico and northern Mexico involves a candlelit procession of townspeople from designated house to house led by a young couple dressed as Mary and Joseph (often with Mary on a burro). At each house the couple sings a song which is responded to by the homeowner. There are many variants, of course. This is a simple sample:


En nombre del cielo
Os pido posada
Pues no puede andar
Mi esposa amada


In the name of heaven
I request you grant us shelter
Given that she cannot walk
She my beloved wife]


Aquí no es mesón
Sigan adelante
Yo no puedo abrir
No sea algún tunante


This is not an Inn
Please continue ahead
I can not open
Don’t be a villain]


The procession continues from house to house with different answers from inside, until eventually a designated host lets Mary and Joseph in and there is a re-enactment of the Nativity scene with food and drink laid out for the crowd.


In Santa Fe, where I last attended Las Posadas about 25 years ago, the event is staged in the main plaza. Instead of going from house to house, Mary and Joseph go to the four sides of the square. At each side a devil appears at a top balcony and turns the couple away. The procession then veers off the square to a Nativity. As the couple and crowd journey around the square carrying candles, the crowd sings Spanish carols which continue at the Nativity.


Las Posadas has been recorded as a tradition in Mexico for about 400 years, probably rooted in European traditions of re-enacting significant gospel events for a largely illiterate population who had only vague ideas about what Christian events, especially Christmas and Easter, represented (not helped by the fact that the Bible and the mass were available only in Latin, and congregations were actively dissuaded from reading the Bible).

In Mexico, the Aztec winter solstice festival had traditionally been observed from December 7 to December 26. According to the Aztec calendar, their most important deity, the sun god Huitzilopochtli, was born during the month of December (panquetzaliztli). The parallel in time between this indigenous celebration and the Christmas celebration lent itself to a merging of the two traditions. In 1586, Friar Diego de Soria obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V, stating that a Christmas Mass (misa de Aguinaldo), be observed as novenas on the nine days preceding Christmas Day throughout Mexico.


Although Las Posadas is a distinctly Mexican tradition it has analogs in various parts of the Spanish Diaspora. In the Philippines the Posadas tradition is represented by the Panunulúyan pageant. Sometimes it is performed right before the Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass), or on each of the nine nights. Mary and Joseph sing lines requesting for accommodation and the lines of the potential “innkeepers” may be sung or spoken. Usually the lyrics are not in Spanish but in one of the local languages, such as Tagalog. There was also a Las Posadas tradition in Nicaragua which older generations remember, but for unclear reasons it had died out by the 1960s.


Cuba has a vaguely similar celebration at this time of year called Parrandas (though Parrandas has more of a Carnival atmosphere). The tradition began in the 19th century when Father Francisco Vigil de Quiñones, the priest of the Grand Cathedral of Remedios, in order to get the people to come to midnight masses the week before Christmas had the idea to put together groups of children and provide them with jars, plates and spoons so they could run around the village making noise and singing verses. The idea persisted over the years and gained in complexity so that it is now a street parade and festival.

Biscochitos are common festival food for Las Posadas in New Mexico, and you can find my recipe here – https://www.bookofdaystales.com/san-lorenzo/ . Let me talk about empanaditas instead. Some empanaditas are just miniature versions of empanadas, with the same savory fillings, but some are made with sweet fillings – empanaditas dulces. Empanaditas dulces make excellent party food at Christmas. You can use pretty much any sweet filling that you want. Fruit jams are very common. I usually bake my savory empanadas in the Argentine fashion, but I fry my sweet empanaditas. Being truly eclectic, at this time of year I use mincemeat for a filling.


Empanaditas Dulces


3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
8 oz/225gm (2 sticks) butter, cut into 16 pieces
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp cold water
fruit filling
powdered sugar
oil (for frying)


Mix the flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl or food processor.

Add the butter, eggs and water and mix until a clumpy dough forms.

Remove the dough from the bowl or processor and knead it for a few minutes.

Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for the empanaditas. I usually use a drinking glass as a cutter.

Place a little filling in the center of each circle. Do not use too much or they will leak when fried. Fold over the circle to form a semi-circle. Press down the edges firmly so that there are no holes, and crimp the edges with a fork.

Heat oil for shallow frying in a wide skillet to 350°F.  Fry the empanaditas in small batches, first on one side, then flipping them with a spatula when the underside is golden. When cooked on both sides, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on wire racks. While still warm, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I prefer to serve them warm with whipped cream.


Nov 152016


Today is the birthday (1887) of renowned U.S. artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, noted for images of big flowers, New York buildings, and (especially) scenes of New Mexico. She was a major player in the modernist movement. She was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Her parents, Francis Calyxtus O’Keeffe and Ida (Totto) O’Keeffe, were dairy farmers. Her father was of Irish descent. Her maternal grandfather George Victor Totto, for whom O’Keeffe was named, was a Hungarian count who came to the United States in 1848.

She attended Town Hall School in Sun Prairie. By age ten she had decided to become an artist, and she and her sister received art instruction from local watercolorist Sara Mann. O’Keeffe attended high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Madison, Wisconsin as a boarder between 1901 and 1902. In late 1902, the O’Keeffes moved from Wisconsin to the neighborhood of Peacock Hill in Williamsburg, Virginia. O’Keeffe stayed in Wisconsin with her aunt and attended Madison High School, then joined her family in Virginia in 1903. She completed high school as a boarder at Chatham Episcopal Institute in Virginia (now Chatham Hall) and graduated in 1905.


O’Keeffe studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1905 to 1906. In 1907, she attended the Art Students League in New York City, where she studied under William Merritt Chase. In 1908, she won the League’s William Merritt Chase still-life prize for her oil painting Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot. Her prize was a scholarship to attend the League’s outdoor summer school in Lake George, New York. While in the city in 1908, O’Keeffe attended an exhibition of Rodin’s watercolors at the gallery 291, owned by her future husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

O’Keeffe abandoned the idea of pursuing a career as an artist in late 1908, claiming that she could never distinguish herself as an artist within the mimetic tradition which had formed the basis of her art training. She took a job in Chicago as a commercial artist and did not paint for four years, claiming that the smell of turpentine made her sick. She was inspired to paint again in 1912, when she attended a class at the University of Virginia Summer School, where she was introduced to the innovative ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow by Alon Bement. From 1912-14, she taught art in the public schools in Amarillo in Texas. She attended Teachers College of Columbia University from 1914–15, where she took classes from Dow, who greatly influenced O’Keeffe’s thinking about the process of making art. She served as a teaching assistant to Bement during the summers from 1913–16 and taught at Columbia College, Columbia, South Carolina in late 1915, where she completed a series of highly innovative charcoal abstractions. After further course work at Columbia in early 1916 and summer teaching for Bement, she took a job as head of the art department at West Texas State Normal College from late 1916 to February 1918, the fledgling West Texas A&M University in Canyon just south of Amarillo. While there, she often visited the Palo Duro Canyon, making its forms a subject in her work.


O’Keeffe had made some charcoal drawings in late 1915 which she had mailed from South Carolina to Anita Pollitzer. Pollitzer took them to Alfred Stieglitz at his 291 gallery early in 1916. Stieglitz told Pollitzer that the drawings were the “purest, finest, sincerest things that had entered 291 in a long while”, and that he would like to show them. O’Keeffe had first visited 291 in 1908, but did not speak with Stieglitz then, although she came to have high regard for him and to know him in early 1916, when she was in New York at Teachers College. In April 1916, he exhibited ten of her drawings at 291. O’Keeffe knew that Stieglitz was planning to exhibit her work but he had not told her when, and she was surprised to learn that her work was on view; she confronted Stieglitz over the drawings but agreed to let them remain on exhibit. Stieglitz organized O’Keeffe’s first solo show at 291 in April 1917, which included oil paintings and watercolors completed in Texas.

O'Keefe Love Letters

Stieglitz and O’Keeffe corresponded frequently beginning in 1916 and, in June 1918, she accepted his invitation to move to New York to devote all of her time to her work. The two were deeply in love and, shortly after her arrival, they began living together, even though Stieglitz was married and 23 years her senior. That year, Stieglitz first took O’Keeffe to his family home at the village of Lake George in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and they spent part of every year there until 1929, when O’Keeffe spent the first of many summers painting in New Mexico. In 1924, Stieglitz’s divorce was approved by a judge and, within four months, he and O’Keeffe married. It was a small, private ceremony at John Marin’s house, and afterward the couple went back home. There was no reception, festivities, or honeymoon. O’Keeffe said later that they married in order to help soothe the troubles of Stieglitz’s daughter Kitty who was being treated in a sanatorium for depression and hallucinations at that time. The marriage did not seem to have any immediate effect on either Stieglitz or O’Keeffe; they both continued working on their individual projects as they had before. For the rest of their lives together, their relationship was, let us say, functional – characterized by her biographer as, “a collusion … a system of deals and trade-offs, tacitly agreed to and carried out, for the most part, without the exchange of a word. Preferring avoidance to confrontation on most issues, O’Keeffe was the principal agent of collusion in their union.”


Stieglitz started photographing O’Keeffe when she visited him in New York City to see her 1917 exhibition. By 1937, when he retired from photography, he had made more than 350 portraits of her. Most of the more erotic photographs were made in the 1910s and early 1920s. In February 1921, 45 of Stieglitz’ photographs were exhibited in a retrospective exhibition at the Anderson Galleries, including many of O’Keeffe, some of which depicted her in the nude. It created a public sensation. She once made a remark to Pollitzer about the nude photographs which may be the best indication of O’Keeffe’s ultimate reaction to being their subject: “I felt somehow that the photographs had nothing to do with me personally.” In 1978, she wrote about how distant from them she had become: “When I look over the photographs Stieglitz took of me-some of them more than sixty years ago—I wonder who that person is. It is as if in my one life I have lived many lives. If the person in the photographs were living in this world today, she would be quite a different person—but it doesn’t matter—Stieglitz photographed her then.”


Beginning in 1918, O’Keeffe came to know the many early American modernists who were part of Stieglitz’ circle of artists, including Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Paul Strand, and Edward Steichen. Strand’s photography, as well as that of Stieglitz and his many photographer friends, inspired O’Keeffe’s work. Also around this time, O’Keeffe became sick during the 1918 ‘flu pandemic. Soon after 1918, she began working primarily in oil, a shift away from having worked primarily in watercolor in the earlier 1910s. By the mid-1920s, O’Keeffe began making large-scale paintings of natural forms at close range, as if seen through a magnifying lens. In 1924, she painted her first large-scale flower painting Petunia, No. 2, which was first exhibited in 1925. She also completed a significant body of paintings of New York buildings, such as City Night and New York—Night (1926) and Radiator Bldg—Night, New York (1927).


O’Keeffe turned to working more representationally in the 1920s in an effort to move her critics away from Freudian interpretations. Her earlier work had been mostly abstract, but works such as Black Iris III (1926) evoke a veiled representation of female genitalia while also accurately depicting the center of an iris. O’Keeffe consistently denied the legitimacy of Freudian interpretations of her art, but 50 years after it had first been interpreted in that way, many prominent feminist artists assessed her work similarly. Judy Chicago, for example, gave O’Keeffe a prominent place in her The Dinner Party. Although 1970s feminists celebrated O’Keeffe as the originator of “female iconography”, O’Keeffe rejected their celebration of her work and refused to cooperate with any of their projects.


In 1922, the New York Sun published an article quoting O’Keeffe: “It is only by selection, by elimination, and by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.” Inspired by Precisionism, The Green Apple, completed in 1922, depicts her notion of simple, meaningful life.


Beginning in 1923, Stieglitz organized annual exhibitions of O’Keeffe’s work. By the mid-1920s, O’Keeffe had become known as one of the most important artists in the US. Her work commanded high prices; in 1928, Stieglitz masterminded a sale of six of her calla lily paintings for US$25,000, which would have been the largest sum ever paid for a group of paintings by a living US artist. Although the sale fell through, Stieglitz’s promotion of it drew extensive media attention.

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In 1938, the advertising agency N. W. Ayer & Son approached O’Keeffe about creating two paintings for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole Food Company) to use in their revamped and innovative advertising campaign. Other artists who produced paintings of Hawaii for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company’s advertising include Lloyd Sexton, Jr., Millard Sheets, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Isamu Noguchi, and Miguel Covarrubias. The offer came at a critical time in O’Keeffe’s life: she was 51, and her career seemed to be stalling (critics were calling her focus on New Mexico limited, and branding her desert images “a kind of mass production”). She arrived in Honolulu February 8, 1939 aboard the SS Lurline, and spent nine weeks in Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the island of Hawaii. By far the most productive and vivid period was on Maui, where she was given complete freedom to explore and paint. She painted flowers, landscapes, and traditional Hawaiian fishhooks. Back in New York, O’Keeffe completed a series of 20 paintings. However, she did not paint the requested pineapple until the Hawaiian Pineapple Company sent a plant to her New York studio.


Even by 1929, O’Keeffe felt the need to find a new source of inspiration for her work and to escape summers at Lake George, where she was surrounded by the Stieglitz family and their friends. O’Keeffe had considered finding a studio separate from Lake George in upstate New York and had also thought about spending the summer in Europe, but opted instead to travel to Santa Fe, with her friend Rebecca Strand. The two set out by train in May 1929 and soon after their arrival, Mabel Dodge Luhan moved them to her house in Taos and provided them with studios. O’Keeffe went on many pack trips exploring the rugged mountains and deserts of the region that summer and later visited the nearby D. H. Lawrence Ranch, where she completed her now famous oil painting, The Lawrence Tree (one of those “modern” paintings that people can’t seem to orient correctly)


Between 1929 and 1949, O’Keeffe spent part of nearly every year working in New Mexico. She collected rocks and bones from the desert floor and made them and the distinctive architectural and landscape forms of the area subjects in her work. She also went on several camping trips with friends, visiting sites in the Southwest, and in 1961, she and others, including photographers Eliot Porter and Todd Webb, went on a rafting trip down the Colorado River about Glen Canyon, Utah.


Late in 1932, O’Keeffe suffered a nervous collapse that was brought on, in part, because she was unable to complete a Radio City Music Hall mural project that had fallen behind schedule. She was hospitalized in early 1933 and did not paint again until January 1934. In early 1933 and 1934, O’Keeffe recuperated in Bermuda, and she returned to New Mexico in mid-1934. In August of that year, she visited Ghost Ranch, north of Abiquiú, for the first time and decided immediately to live there; in 1940, she moved into a house on the ranch property. The varicolored cliffs of Ghost Ranch inspired some of her most famous landscapes. In 1977, O’Keeffe wrote: “[the] cliffs over there are almost painted for you—you think—until you try to paint them.” Among guests to visit her at the ranch over the years were Charles and Anne Lindbergh, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, poet Allen Ginsberg, and photographer Ansel Adams.

O’Keeffe explored the land often in her Ford Model A, which she bought and learned to drive in 1929. She often talked about her fondness for Ghost Ranch and Northern New Mexico, as in 1943, when she explained: “Such a beautiful, untouched lonely feeling place, such a fine part of what I call the ‘Faraway’. It is a place I have painted before … even now I must do it again.”

Shortly after O’Keeffe arrived for the summer in New Mexico in 1946, Stieglitz suffered a cerebral thrombosis. She immediately flew to New York to be with him. He died on July 13, 1946. She buried his ashes at Lake George. She spent the next three years mostly in New York settling his estate, and moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949. From 1946 through the 1950s, she made the architectural forms of her Abiquiú house—patio wall and door—subjects in her work. Another distinctive painting of the decade was Ladder to the Moon, 1958. From her first world travels in the late 1950s, O’Keeffe produced an extensive series of paintings of clouds, such as Above the Clouds I, 1962/1963. These were inspired by her views from the windows of airplanes.


In late 1970, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted the Georgia O’Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, the first retrospective exhibition of her work in New York since 1946, the year Stieglitz died. This exhibit did much to revive her public career.

In 1972, O’Keeffe’s eyesight was compromised by macular degeneration, leading to the loss of central vision and leaving her with only peripheral vision. She stopped oil painting without assistance in 1972, but continued working in pencil and charcoal until 1984. Juan Hamilton, a young potter, appeared at her ranch house in 1973 looking for work. She hired him for a few odd jobs and soon employed him full-time. He became her closest confidant, companion, and business manager until her death. Hamilton taught O’Keeffe to work with clay and, working with assistance, she produced clay pots and a series of works in watercolor. In 1976, she wrote a book about her art and allowed a film to be made about her in 1977.

O’Keeffe became increasingly frail in her late 90s. She moved to Santa Fe in 1984, where she died on March 6, 1986 at the age of 98. In accordance with her wishes, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of Pedernal Mountain.

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A recipe from New Mexico seems fitting, and in reviewing my previous posts I see that I have twice given recipes for green chile stew – an absolute favorite – and one for sopapillas. Trying to capture the flavors of New Mexico in other places is as elusive as emulating Chinese or Italian foods in Guatemala or Morocco.  It can’t be done. The green chile of New Mexico has to be savored in New Mexico – end of story. Not only that; you have to understand the many subtle differences between the chiles of different regions, and not just settle for everyday Hatch chiles, which are good, but not the best in my opinion. The chiles of Chimayó, for example, are exquisite and hard to come by unless you know someone, and know when to find them.

I’ve extolled the joys of posole – white hominy – several times, and certainly hanker after it now and again. I have not mentioned chicos, though, and you might be able to find them if you hunt. Chicos are dried yellow corn that are virtually unknown outside of New Mexico. The best chicos are dried overnight in a beehive oven and have an intense smoky flavor when rehydrated. Here is a classic recipe. As with all New Mexico stews the question is “verde o rojo?” – green or red? For green, use fresh chiles, for red use red chile powder. Actual quantities are cook’s choice. I ALWAYS eat green.


Chico Stew

2 cups chicos
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ pork shoulder, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
dried oregano
4 New Mexico green chiles, chopped coarse (or red New Mexico chile powder)


Soak the chicos in cold water overnight.

Next day drain the chicos and cover them with 10 cups of cold water.  Cook the chicos in a crock pot all day on low, or simmer them on very low heat for 3 hours or more.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet on a medium flame, and sear the pork all over. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until just translucent. Add salt and oregano to taste, chiles, and the chicos with all their water. Cook for about 20 minutes (or longer) to blend the flavors. Waiting one more day and reheating is even better.

Serve piping hot with sopapillas.

Aug 102016


Today is the feast of St Lawrence of Rome, one of the seven deacons of the city of Rome under Pope Sixtus II who were martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Valerian in 258. I tend to use the Spanish version of his name, San Lorenzo, because most of my associations with him are Spanish, and he was born in what is now Spain.

San Lorenzo is thought to have been born in Huesca, a town in the region of Aragon that was once part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. The martyrs Orentius and Patientia are traditionally held to have been his parents. He met the future Pope Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin, in Caesaraugusta (today Zaragoza), and the two left Spain for Rome. When Sixtus became Pope in 257, he ordained Lorenzo as a deacon, and, though Lorenzo was still young, appointed him first among the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal church. He is therefore called “archdeacon of Rome,” a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the church and the distribution of alms among the poor.


St Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, notes that Roman authorities had established a norm according to which all Christians who had been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of August 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Sixtus was captured on 6 August 258, at the cemetery of St Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and executed immediately.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lorenzo turn over the riches of the Church. A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, St Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor. St Ambrose of Milan relates that when St Lawrence was asked for the treasures of the Church he brought forward the poor, among whom he had divided the treasure as alms. “Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the church’s crown.” The prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it (hence St Lawrence’s association with the gridiron). After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “I’m well done on this side. Turn me over!” From this derives his patronage of cooks and chefs.


The legend of Lorenzo’s martyrdom is memorable, but unlikely to be true. Valerian expressly commanded that Christians be decapitated. A theory of how the tradition arose is put forward by Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri, who postulates that it was the result of a mistaken transcription, the accidental omission of the letter “p” – “by which the customary and solemn formula for announcing the death of a martyr – passus est [“he passed”] – was transcribed as assus est [he was roasted].” Contemporary martyrologies normally read, passus est.


Constantine I is said to have built a small oratory in honor of San Lorenzo, which was a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs by the seventh century. Pope Damasus I rebuilt or repaired the church, now San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, while the minor basilica of San Lorenzo in Panisperna was built over the place of his martyrdom. The gridiron of the martyrdom was placed by Pope Paschal II in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.


San Lorenzo is widely venerated and is also honored in place names and patronage. He is patron of Rome (one of several), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Huesca (Spain), San Lawrenz, Gozo and Birgu (Malta), Barangay San Lorenzo San Pablo (Philippines), Canada, Sri Lanka, as well as of comedians, librarians, students, miners, tanners, chefs, roasting and baking, the poor, and firefighters. My closest personal association with San Lorenzo is with Bernalillo in New Mexico where his feast is a public holiday which is commemorated by a mass and by the matachines dance, which is found throughout indigenous and Hispanic cultures of southern U.S. and northern Mexico. I have spent decades researching the dance historically and in its current forms.


Usually matachines performances occur around Christmas or Easter, but in Bernalillo they are associated with the feast of San Lorenzo. The dancers practice in specially constructed areas outside of the houses of the year’s mayordomos (sponsors), nightly in the weeks leading up to San Lorenzo, and then dance in the streets on the actual day.


Any dish involving a grill, especially a gridiron, would be suitable for today. Early examples of the gridiron were found in Pompeii. The Latin term is “craticula,” a diminutive form of “crate” (hurdle). This name probably referred to their barred design. However for my daily recipe I am going to give you biscochitos Biscochitos are crisp lard cookies, flavored with anise and dusted with cinnamon sugar that are a specialty of New Mexico and always found at festivals such as San Lorenzo.




1 ½ cups lard, chilled
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp anise seeds
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp brandy (or milk)
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a stand mixer, beat the lard and 1 cup of sugar in a bowl until fluffy.

Add the eggs and anise seeds, and continue beating until very light and fluffy.  Turn off the mixer.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture along with the brandy. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon to make a stiff dough.

Place the dough on a long piece of waxed paper. Bring the waxed paper end over the top of the dough and press it to a little less than one inch in thickness. Refrigerate for several hours.

Roll out the dough between the waxed paper to just under ½ inch thickness.

Cut out the dough using cutters into the traditional fleur-de-lis shape or whatever shape you want.

Combine the 3 tablespoons of caster sugar with the cinnamon in a shallow bowl.

Dip the unbaked cookies into the sugar-cinnamon mixture on one side.

Place the cookies on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are just firm.

Cool on wire racks.

Yield: about 48 cookies.

Aug 102015


The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 — also known as Popé’s Rebellion — was an uprising of most of the Pueblo Indians against the Spanish colonizers in the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, present day New Mexico. The Pueblo Revolt killed 400 Spanish and drove the remaining 2,000 settlers out of the province. Twelve years later the Spanish returned and were able to reoccupy New Mexico with little opposition.

From 1540 to 1600 the pueblos of present-day New Mexico were subjected to seven successive waves of soldiers, missionaries, and settlers. These encounters, referred to as the Entradas, were characterized by violent confrontations between Spanish colonists and Pueblo peoples. The Tiguex War, fought in the winter of 1540-41 by the expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado against the twelve or thirteen pueblos of the Tiwa, was particularly damaging to Pueblo and Spanish relations.


In 1598 Juan de Oñate led 129 soldiers and 10 Franciscan Catholic priests plus a number of women, children, servants, slaves, and livestock into the Rio Grande valley of New Mexico. There were at the time approximately 40,000 Puebloans inhabiting the region. Oñate put down a revolt at Acoma Pueblo by killing and enslaving hundreds of the Indians and sentencing 24 men to have their right foot cut off. The Acoma Massacre would instill fear of the Spanish in the region for years to come.

Spanish colonial policies in the late 16th century regarding the humane treatment of Indians were difficult to enforce on the northern frontier. With the establishment of the first permanent colonial settlement in 1598, the Pueblos were forced to provide tribute to the colonists in the form of labor, ground corn, and textiles. Encomiendas were soon established by colonists along the Rio Grande, restricting Pueblo access to fertile farmlands and water supplies and placing a heavy burden upon Pueblo labor.


Assault on Pueblo religion was especially annoying and harmful. Franciscan priests established theocracies in many of the Pueblo villages. The priests converted the pueblos to help build the Spanish empire in New Mexico. In 1608, it looked as though Spain might abandon the province, so the Franciscans baptized 7,000 Puebloans to try to convince the Crown otherwise. Although the Franciscans initially tolerated manifestations of the old religion as long as the Puebloans attended mass and maintained a public veneer of Catholicism, Fray Alonso de Posada (in New Mexico 1656–1665) outlawed Kachina dances by the Pueblo Indians and ordered the missionaries to seize and burn their masks, prayer sticks, and effigies. The Franciscan missionaries also forbade the use of psychoactive drugs in the traditional religious ceremonies of the pueblos. Several Spanish officials, such as Nicolas de Aguilar, who attempted to curb the power of the Franciscans were charged with heresy and tried before the Inquisition.


In the 1670s drought swept the region, causing a famine among the Pueblo and increased raids by the Apache which Spanish and Pueblo soldiers were unable to prevent. Fray Alonso de Benavides wrote multiple letters to the King, describing the conditions, noting “the Spanish inhabitants and Indians alike hides and straps from carts”. The unrest among the Pueblos came to a head in 1675. Governor Juan Francisco Treviño ordered the arrest of forty-seven Pueblo “medicine men” and accused them of practicing “sorcery”. Four were sentenced to death by hanging; three of those sentences were carried out, while the fourth prisoner committed suicide. The remaining men were publicly whipped and sentenced to prison. When this news reached the Pueblo leaders, they moved in force to Santa Fe, where the prisoners were held. Because a large number of Spanish soldiers were away fighting the Apache, Governor Treviño was forced to accede to the Pueblo demand for the release of the prisoners. Among those released was a San Juan (Tewa: “Ohkay Owingeh”) shaman named “Popé”.


Following his release, Popé, along with a number of other Pueblo leaders, planned and orchestrated the Pueblo Revolt. Popé took up residence in Taos Pueblo far from the capital of Santa Fe and spent the next five years seeking support for a revolt among the 46 Pueblo towns. He gained the support of the Northern Tiwa, Tewa, Towa, Tano, and Keres-speaking Pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley. The Pecos Pueblo, 50 miles east of the Rio Grande pledged its participation in the revolt as did the Zuni and Hopi, 120 and 200 miles respectively west of the Rio Grande. The Pueblos not joining the revolt were the four southern Tiwa (Tiguex) towns near Santa Fe and the Piro Pueblos south of the principal Pueblo population centers near the present day city of Socorro. The southern Tiwa and the Piro were more thoroughly integrated into Spanish culture than the other groups. The Spanish-speaking population of about 2,400, including mixed-blood mestizos, and Indian servants and retainers, was scattered thinly throughout the region. Santa Fe was the only place that approximated being a town. The Spanish could only muster 170 men with arms. The Pueblos joining the revolt probably had 2,000 or more adult men capable of using native weapons such as bows and arrows. It is possible that some Apache and Navajo participated in the revolt.

The Pueblo revolt was typical of millenarian movements in colonial societies. Popé promised that, once the Spanish were killed or expelled, the ancient Pueblo deities would reward them with health and prosperity. Popé’s plan was that the inhabitants of each Pueblo would rise up and kill the Spanish in their area and then all would advance on Santa Fe to kill or expel all the remaining Spanish. The date set for the uprising was August 11, 1680. Popé dispatched runners to all the Pueblos carrying knotted cords. Each morning the Pueblo leadership was to untie one knot from the cord, and when the last knot was untied, that would be the signal for them to rise against the Spaniards in unison. On August 9, however, the Spaniards were warned of the impending revolt by southern Tiwa leaders and they captured two Tesuque Pueblo youths entrusted with carrying the message to the pueblos. They were tortured to make them reveal the significance of the knotted cord.


Popé then ordered that the revolt begin a day early. The Hopi pueblos located on the remote Hopi Mesas of Arizona did not receive the advanced notice for the beginning of the revolt and followed the schedule for the revolt. On August 10, the Pueblos rose up, stole Spanish horses to prevent them fleeing, sealed off roads leading to Santa Fe, and pillaged Spanish settlements. A total of 400 people were killed, including men, women, children, and 21 of the 33 Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico. Survivors fled to Santa Fe and Isleta Pueblo, 10 miles south of Albuquerque and one of the Pueblos that did not participate in the rebellion. By August 13, all the Spanish settlements in New Mexico had been destroyed and Santa Fe was besieged. The Puebloans surrounded the city and cut off its water supply. In desperation, on August 21, New Mexico Governor Antonio de Otermín, barricaded in the Governor’s Palace, sallied outside the palace with all of his available men and forced the Puebloans to retreat with heavy losses. He then led the Spaniards out of the city and retreated southward along the Rio Grande, headed for El Paso del Norte. The Puebloans shadowed the Spaniards but did not attack. The Spaniards who had taken refuge in Isleta had also retreated southward on August 15 and on September 6 the two groups of survivors, numbering 1,946, met at Socorro. About 500 of the survivors were Indian slaves. They were escorted to El Paso by a Spanish supply train. The Pueblo did not contest their passage out of New Mexico.


The retreat of the Spaniards left New Mexico in the power of the Pueblos. Popé was a mysterious figure in the history of the southwest as there are many tales of what happened to him and among the Pueblos after the revolt. Later testimony to the Spanish by Pueblo Indians was probably colored by anti-Popé sentiments and a desire to tell the Spanish what they wanted to hear.

Apparently, Popé and his two lieutenants, Alonso Catiti from Santo Domingo and Luis Tupatu from Picuris, traveled from town to town ordering a return “to the state of their antiquity.” All crosses, churches, and Christian images were to be destroyed. The people were ordered to cleanse themselves in ritual baths, to use their Pueblo names, and to destroy all vestiges of the Roman Catholic religion and Spanish culture, including Spanish livestock and fruit trees. Popé, it was said, forbade the planting of wheat and barley and commanded those Indians who had been married according to the rites of the Catholic Church to dismiss their wives and to take others after the old native tradition.

Pueblo culture had no tradition of political unity. Each pueblo was self-governing and some, or all, apparently resisted Popé’s demands for a return to a pre-Spanish existence. The paradise Popé had promised when the Spanish were expelled did not materialize. The drought continued, destroying crops, and the raids by Apache and Navajo increased. Initially, however, the pueblos were united in their objective of preventing a return of the Spanish. Popé was deposed as the leader of the pueblos about a year after the revolt and disappears from history. He is believed to have died shortly before the Spanish reconquest in 1692.


New Mexican cuisine would not exist without the New Mexico green chile. Contemporary cooking in pueblos is more or less the same as New Mexican cooking in general – corn, beans, pork, hominy, tortillas, etc. It has elements of Mexican, Spanish, and indigenous cooking blended together into dishes that are distinctive – not Tex-Mex (which passes for “Mexican” in the U.S.); not southern Californian Mexican. It stands alone, and one of the major factors is the New Mexico chile.

New Mexico chile is a cultivar of the chile pepper developed by pioneer horticulturist, Dr. Fabián Garcia, at New Mexico State University in 1888 (then known as Las Cruces College and the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts), created from a hybrid of various Pueblo and Santa Fe de Nuevo México cultivars. It can be grown anywhere peppers grow, but is best when farmed in the Rio Grande valley where soils and climate are ideal. Chile grown in the Hatch Valley, in and around Hatch, New Mexico is called Hatch chile. The peppers grown in the valley, and along the entire Rio Grande, from northern Taos Pueblo to southern Isleta Pueblo, is a vital component of New Mexico’s economy and culture. It is New Mexico’s state vegetable, and the official New Mexico state question is “Red or Green?”.


If you are lucky enough to be in Santa Fe in late August or early September you’ll not miss the aroma of green chiles roasting on the streets. Vendors sell whole sacks of fresh green chiles which are then roasted over gas jets in metal tumblers (pictured). Makes you salivate on the spot. Householders buy a year’s supply at a time, quickly taking the roasted peppers home (they are burning hot), laying them out in one layer on newspaper to cool slightly, then peeling off the charred skins – ready for freezing. It’s good to wear gloves for this, or risk burning your fingertips. It’s also great to take a hot, freshly peeled pepper and wrap it in a flour tortilla for a quick snack. Flour tortillas are much more common than corn tortillas in New Mexico.

I’ve already given my “recipe” for Santa Fe green chile stew here https://www.bookofdaystales.com/world-diabetes-day/ It’s a favorite of mine, and I have made it in New York, Argentina, and China with varying degrees of success. Without New Mexico chiles it’s not the same, but you can find mild long green chiles anywhere that can make a reasonable substitute.


There is a rule in New Mexico: “if you find a guy selling breakfast burritos out of a cooler on the back of a pick-up truck, buy one.” They’re fabulous. The basic breakfast burrito is scrambled egg and hash brown potatoes spiced with a sauce, and wrapped in a flour tortilla. It’s common to use pico de gallo as the sauce – a chopped up blend of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro in lime juice, but I find that scrambled eggs, hashed potatoes and chopped green chiles wrapped in a tortilla work just fine for a hearty breakfast.

Apr 292014


Today is International Dance Day, which was introduced in 1982 by the International Dance Council (Conseil International de la Danse or CID), a UNESCO partner NGO. The celebration is not intended to be linked to a particular person or a particular form of dance, but it was chosen because it is the birthday of  Jean-Georges Noverre (29 April 1727  – 19 October 1810), a French dancer and ballet master, the creator of ballet d’action, a precursor of the narrative ballets of the 19th century, who was instrumental in separating ballet from opera in 18th century Europe, thus giving dance a spotlight of its own.. The main purpose of Dance Day events is to attract the attention of the wider public to the art of dance. Emphasis should be given to addressing a new public, people who do not follow dance events during the course of the year.

Every year, the president of the CID sends the official message for Dance Day. The message for 2014 is a poem by Alkis Raftis, a Greek choreographer, ethnographer, and current president of CID.

A dancer’s creed

I believe in one dance
father, all-resonant
revealer of heaven and earth
and of all things visible and invisible:
Light of body,
very dance of very souls,
begotten, not made,
by whom all things are transfigured.

Who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven
before all worlds
and was incarnate in the bodies of mortals
and humanized them.
And was crucified during the consumer society,
suffered and was buried
and rises again in isolated places
where no scriptures exist.
And comes again with glory
to enliven both the quick and the dead:
whose kingdom shall have no end.

I believe in a holy dance,
lord, giver of life,
who proceedeth from independent communities
who speaks by the flesh of humans,
instead of the prophets.
I acknowledge that it constitutes a baptism
for the remission of afflictions and sins
the resurrection of dead limbs,
and the life of the world to come.

Alkis Raftis

My professional career as an anthropologist has had many foci, but dance has been the most significant. I have been a dancer, dance teacher, and historic and ethnographic dance researcher since my late teens. I thought that to honor International Dance Day I would give you a taste of some of my interests via video clips. Sadly all my videos are on a hard drive somewhere in New York, so I have had to make do with ones pulled from YouTube. I apologize for the amateur quality of most of them, but they do give you the idea.

I was first drawn to dance and dance research in England in 1967 when I first encountered traditional dance there. Thirty years, and hundreds of libraries, later I published the definitive history of one strand in the very rich tapestry of English traditional dance:


I have performed and taught a great many different English dance styles. (I am pictured in the lead photo of this post, 3rd from the left with the muttonchops, and my son is crouching in front (in the straw hat). Here’s a clip of rapper, a linked “sword” dance which is found traditionally only in the coal mining towns of the far north. You will see that it is ideally suited for confined spaces, as befits miners. Last time I performed this dance was in a cramped bar on the island of Madeira in 2007.

The north west of England is noted for dancing in clogs which were traditional footwear for the working class for centuries. They have carved wooden soles and leather uppers, ideal for making clicketty sounds as you dance. Some of the dances are performed in teams, but there is also a strong tradition of solo stepping. I can do this but I’m not an expert by any means.

Team clog dancing found its way to the South of the U.S. where it took on its own style based on the local music. It originally evolved in the Appalachians but has since spread to other regions. The clogs were replaced with hard-soled shoes (like those worn by rapper dancers), and eventually taps were added. I’ve not performed these dances, but I have done research (unpublished) with dancers, and was once a judge at a local competition.

Stage tap dancing evolved directly from English clog stepping, which was an element in some Vaudeville shows in the U.S. (as it was in Edwardian Music Halls in England). You might be interested to note that in all film versions of tap dancing, the taps are added to the audio track afterwards. This is purely for technical reasons (just as singing is dubbed over the images from studio recordings). In the case of tap this is quite a feat of audio engineering.

My research into the history of traditional dance in Western Europe led me to the dances of the pueblos and Hispano villages of New Mexico, where I spent a year doing fieldwork in 1993/94. The matachines dances of the southwest of the U.S. and northern Mexico are hybrids of indigenous dance styles and dances from Spain which were brought there by Spanish missionary monks. Much of my research (published and unpublished) has focused on the links between European dances and the matachines. Here are the dances from Alcalde, NM, an Hispano village adjacent to the Tewa pueblo of San Juan (where the dance is also performed). I have detailed ethnographic studies of both.

I have also done extensive research into historic dances in England, which has included reconstructing dances from old sources, mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries, and arranging the music for performance. Here is a dance of this type taken from John Playford’s manual The Dancing Master (1651). Reconstructing such dances is difficult because Playford’s instructions are so meager.


Sometimes the dance patterns do not fit the music, no stepping patterns nor hand/arm movements are indicated, and so forth. But familiarity with the whole corpus of dances from the era ultimately gives a sense of how to carry out reconstructions. The strangest place I ever taught these dances was in Sing Sing prison to a group of inmates who had written a play that had a dance sequence in it. I choreographed a version of a Baroque dance for them which was a comic prelude to a break dance session. The inmates could barely keep straight faces as they rehearsed, and I certainly couldn’t.

So, now I live in Buenos Aires where tango reigns supreme. People outside Argentina know tango from ballroom styles. This is NOT tango. You can find tango in different venues in Buenos Aires. Tourists usually experience “tango show” which has authentic roots, but is heavily re-choreographed for audience excitement. The most traditional tango is to be found in the milongas (dance halls) of the city, many of which are clustered in my barrio, san Telmo, one of many crucibles of tango in the nineteenth century. Milongas are strictly for locals to get up and dance; there is no performance element. In between show tango and the tango of the milongas is street tango, a common form of busking in tourist areas. This clip is from el Caminito in barrio La Boca, near where I live. The music, sadly, is not fully traditional, but comes close (if you excuse the English lyrics). Tango is all about passion kept rigidly under control – love, sex, betrayal, longing . . . It is slowly dying for all kinds of reasons. But tango still remains the lifeblood of Argentina. We are VERY proud of it.

I’ve got the world to choose from when it comes to picking a recipe. I’ve decided to go with a quasi-traditional recipe for kidneys from Northumbria, home of rapper. It’s based on a classic recipe for kidneys in gravy, but tarted up. Some cooks use a mix of kidneys and sausages. You can use all sausages if you prefer. The best beer for the sauce is Newcastle Brown Ale. I made do with Patagonian amber ale this time. Any dark beer that is not too sweet will work. I also like lashings of freshly ground black pepper in the sauce. All traditional English cooks keep a dripping pot for the fat from Sunday roast. It adds a characteristic richness to gravies of browned meats. But the health conscious can use vegetable oil for the sauté here.


©Northumbrian Tipsy Kidneys


8 lamb’s kidneys
¼ pint/150 ml brown ale
¼ pint/150 ml sweet sherry
2 onions, coarsely chopped
pan drippings or vegetable oil for frying
2 tbsps tomato puree
8 oz/225 gm mushrooms
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp flour
¼ pint/150 ml beef stock


Cut the kidneys into bite-sized chunks, removing the fat and tubules (the white bits) from the center.

Heat a heavy, dry skillet on high heat and then brown the kidneys very quickly. Addition of fat at this stage or slow cooking will cause the kidneys to leak fluid and so will not brown. Set aside.

Add a tablespoon or more of fat or oil to the pan. Add the mushrooms and brown quickly. You can keep them whole if small, or halve/quarter if large. Set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onions until they are golden.

Return the kidneys and mushrooms to the pan. Turn the heat to high and add the sherry and brown ale. Reduce for about 2 minutes.

Add the beef stock and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Overcooking makes the kidneys chewy.

Make a slurry of the flour in a small amount of cold water. Add it slowly to the gravy, stirring well as you add it. Add just enough to thicken the gravy.

Cook for 5 minutes at a simmer and then serve with boiled or mashed potatoes.

Serves 4