Tuesday, January 20, 2009

friday forum

Welcome to the Starvation Seeds blog. I'm an MFA candidate at the University of California Santa Cruz, in the Digital Art & New Media program. I realized today that I needed a place to keep track of the project, documentation, news, etc., so I've started this blog. Thanks for reading!

Last week I participated in something we have at UCSC called Friday Forum. It's a student-run roundtable to present works in progress. I talked about my thesis project and made two piñon nut dishes. First, I brought biscochitos that incorporated ground piñon nuts. I used this recipe, except I made a few changes:


6 c. sifted all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. anise seed
2 eggs
1/2 c. brandy
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl cream together the butter, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and anise seed. Beat the eggs until light and fluffy, and add to the creamed mixture. Add the flour mixture and the brandy, using only enough brandy to make a stiff dough. Mix until well blended.

Knead slightly and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar, and dust the pastry with the mixture. Cut into shapes and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Makes 5 dozen.

The changes I made were:

halve the recipe (there were still plenty of cookies)
include a handful of ground piñon nuts
use whiskey instead of brandy

Also, I find it very helpful when making biscochitos to cut them into diamonds using a pizza cutter. It saves tons of time, and if you press lightly, you won't damage the cloth you used under the dough.

So we started with these cookies, the opposite of starvation food, usually eaten at christmas and weddings. These are the state cookie of New Mexico. In southern New Mexico, people say biscochos, but my family is concentrated in the northern parts, Santa Fe and up.

I talked about the piñon tree, its meaning for generations of New Mexicans, and for extreme travelers like the conquistadors and members of the Donner party. There is a great article about piñons by Birdy Jawoski here. I also talked about how we decide what is food and what is not food. For example, the Donner party wandered through thick piñon forests and were even offered piñon nuts as food, but still refused to see the nuts as sustenance. On the other hand, taboos sometimes teach us that stuff we really shouldn't think of as food is. Cannibalism arises because in some way, because we have a taboo against it, we do think of people as food. So the Donner party ignored an obvious vegetarian option.

I also talked about my family's imaginary origin point in the conquistador Pánfilo de Narvaes, leader of the ill-fated expedition that launched Cabeza de Vaca on his 8 year long journey. I should clarify, now that I'm posting this somewhat publicly, this is a small faction of my family. The relatives I still visit in NM have nothing to do with this--they are from my great-grandmother's side of the family, and this is my great-grandfather's side. My great-grandfather always told us his entire family was killed in a train accident--seven brothers and sisters, all dead. But when he himself died, a relative from NM came up to Denver and told us that his brother had survived, was living in NM, and had kept the name Narvaes, after the conquistador, who was our ancestor.

Geographically, it works--Narvaes shipwrecked off the Texas coast, and my great grandfather's family came to NM from Northern Mexico and Texas, where Cabeza de Vaca wandered. But culturally, I find this very problematic and difficult to swallow. The conquistadors aren't my favorite characters in history. I have trouble recuperating them to be beloved ancestor/fathers.

I also talked about some things going on in my present family, and some recent encounters with food, mixers, and liquification. I have to run now, but I'll write again soon with more about my FF talk and some possible avenues to pursue from here.

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About Me

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Lindsay Kelley is an artist and writer researching bioart, fringe foods, and uncommon modes of food preparation and ingestion. She is currently completing her book manuscript, The Bioart Kitchen. Lindsay holds a MFA in Digital Art & New Media and a Ph.D in the History of Consciousness, both from the University of California Santa Cruz. She works at the Public Library of Science on the PLOS ONE editorial team.