So Chepa and the babies were visiting her boyfriend up in Amarillo last week during Sierra's kindergarden Spring Break. I was down here in bucolic Joshua, Texas, with Madeleina and my former clients and friends Emily and Devon. Could have been miserable but it was pretty fantastic. First, I hadn't seen Madeleina in weeks. Second, it was a medicine and food week.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
For medicine, and for the record I'm the only one who did it, there was a 16-hour San Pedro ceremony and two frog sweat--sapo ceremonies. The frog sweat came from my friend Alberto who used to live with Pablo on the Rio Galvez in Peru at 7 de Junio pueblo, the only two men there. Pablo had four wives then and Alberto two. Alberto had about 12 kids, Pablo about 18-20. So they were really really good hunters. I mean, if every person in camp normally ate a kilo (2.2 pounds) of meat daily, that came to 40 kilos of meat. That means 3-4 small boars; 2-3 large boars; 5-6 good sized monkeys--and that's just scraping by and eating all the organs and intestines and bones, or 7 majas, a fantastic jungle rodent that weighs in at maybe 15-20 pounds with entrails--and is the best damned meat in the jungle--or two good sized caiman, or maybe 200 fish or a combination of all the above.
They depended on sapo to help them hunt as they really had a lot of meat to produce daily. And so their sapo is better than anything anyone in the world can get. They didn't scrape the frogs forever, they just took the first juice from several frogs to make a single stick of sapo. And about three years ago, Alberto sent me a stick from the Galvez. And it's one of my personal sticks. Two little burns with that will simply set you on your ass for hours and hours. That stuff cleans you out, cleans out your arteries, your kidneys, your liver, your lungs, your stomach so well that while the acute effects are gone after the same 15 minutes in which they are normally gone, it takes 8-10 hours to recuperate from all that poison running through your system trying to flush itself out. But man, worth the pain! Joyfully worth the pain!
My son Marco likes to get five sapo burns per dose and handles it well: He doesn't smoke or drink or drink coffee or anything like that so he doesn't have a lot of poison to eliminate. But when I offered him some of Alberto's stick I only gave him two burns.
"Hey dad, what are you, a sissy? Why don't you give me five like always?"
"Cause this comes from a Matses hunter who still looks at people like they are a potential lunch. A human can put a lot of food on the table."
He laughed and I gave him two burns. Ten minutes later, in the throes, he began to curse me. "You son of a bitch, dad! What did you give me? I'm gonna die!!!!!"
Of course he didn't. It's great medicine and can't kill you because all of its proteins--144 new ones identified thus far--are bioactive, but when it was all over and he'd slept three or four hours he still couldn't believe how strong the small dose had been.
That's sapo when a hunter depends for the life of his family on it.
And no, you can't have any. It's a private stash.
But nicely, Emily has a diet that restricts meat, most fish and all flour. As a chef it's always nice to have a challenge. So while I was making homemade bar-be-que sauce to put on mixed meats for Devon, I was making things like roasted portobellos stuffed with blue cheese, organic raisins and slivered walnuts for Em. And sliced zucchini stuffed with crushed corn chips, sauteed onion, garlic and tomatoes in olive oil, topped with shredded parmesan. And vegetable bouquets of cauliflower and broccoli florets with sliced zucchini and yellow squash with scallions in a sauteed diced tomato, onion and garlic olive oil mix baked with a bit of freshly grated high-quality sharp cheddar; and whole steamed asparagus with thinly sliced red pepper and sweet onions sauteed with very light garlic and olive oil and finished with a touch of unsalted butter and balsamic vinegar. And we're not done yet! She had thickly sliced organic tomatoes sauteed in garlic and olive oil and covered with grated parmesan and cracked black pepper. And steamed broccoli florets covered with a homemade curry sauce and baked with good mozzarella (given that we're in Texas and not Brooklyn it was pretty good mozzarella, anyway). And don't forget the baked spaghetti squash with a little butter and sweet red pepper. Or the jungle guacamole which is made by mashing avocados, then adding diced tomatoes, red onions and garlic in olive oil. When that's done, add it to the mashed avacado. Wait ten minutes and add the juice of a couple/few limes and salt and pepper to taste. Cracked black pepper, please, let's do it right.
And then there was other stuff that I forget because I'm remembering the salmon with sesame seeds on a bed of spinach I made for Devon and the swordfish with diced red peppers and chives and so on.
And tonight, Madeleina and I alone, well, it's just roast chicken basted with garlic in olive oil and tossed with a bit of cracked black pepper and sea salt, baked on a bed of celery with halved new potatoes, red onion pieces and organic baby carrots. With a gravy made with the drippings, of course. And served with steamed broccoli and steamed fresh spinach.
So that's where we stand. If the kids or Chepa show up, there is part of a good chuck steak, a couple of pounds of swordfish, and if that fails, well, they can have the rice and some of the dogs' chicken legs.
For a family that's very poor, we sure do eat better than most freaking kings!