The Canyon in Us: Me and Mattie, And Potato Nettle Soup

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was out on the plaza watching my beloved busk with his one-man-band outfit a few weeks ago when I saw a woman fluttering by in a beautiful, long, hooded beige coat dress. It was funny, I only saw her back, but there was something so familiar about her… it was almost like seeing a little piece of myself. My rational brain just thought “Oh, it’s because she’s wearing something I would wear, that’s why I feel this.”

A few minutes later, she came back down the street and stood right in front of me. “Loba??” Is it you? WHAT are you doing here?”

(here’s a little moment of Mattie being her beautiful self here!)

A little yet-untold back story for my readers here, that some of you already know from reading the Anima blog I was a sporadic contributor to for at least a dozen years: Elka has only been my name for about the past four years. Before that, my name was Loba for twenty years. Before that, I had another name that I dearly loved, and still love. (You can find out what it was here in the second story that appears).

It took me a few seconds to adjust my eyes to see this person apart from the only context I was used to.  “MATTIE, is that you???”

I’d been thinking about Mattie, I’d been wanting to contact her, but had lost track of her email and didn’t remember her last name. I figured she was probably back in Montana, where she was from.

She was one of my all-time favorite helpers in the canyon, and stayed quite a bit longer than most of our other helpers did. I have many beautiful memories of us baking together in the outdoor kitchen, sharing songs, harvesting and cooking up the wild greens of summertime with endless panfuls of homemade corn tortillas, floating in the river, doing water dances in the moonlight with our lovely & mischievous friend Evangeline, sharing tears and fears, stories of our lives and some of the powerful moments we each had on our own with the canyon.

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A Happy Spring Breakfast!

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It doesn’t take long to make and eat a simple breakfast of eggs and vegetables. But how many days of the week do we actually do something like this for ourselves?  If you say “nearly every day”, yay for you! I’ve made these kinds of breakfasts many, many days of my life. And, back in the canyon, by the time I left, Rhiannon was very good at whipping up wonderful egg and veggie breakfasts for all of us. So when Monica made us this one, it was a very warm, familiar feeling, to be cooked for with love and attention! Read more

Preserving, Drying, and Cooking Lamb’s Quarters- aka. Quelites

To be honest, it took me quite a while to fall in love with lamb’s quarters.

But once I learned how to make “quelites”, a traditional Mexican dish, I became very attached. Maybe I even need them, like I “need” cheese in my life. Certainly, my enchanted pantry would be a sadder, less magical place without them.

This month, I’m attempting to gather up enough to see us through the winter. Many an evening I’ve been spotted by the local wildlife running barefoot upriver to the lamb’s quarters patch, piling up my greens for the night in an old sarong, then wrapping it up and slinging it over my shoulder for the mile walk back to the kitchen.

I have three ways I like to preserve lamb’s quarters or “goose-foot,” Chenopodium album, a plant that is known in the US Southwest more often as “pig-weed” or “quelites”. The Spanish word “quelites” refers to the traditional Mexican dish or the lamb’s quarters plant itself. It can also refer to amaranth greens, and they are often prepared the same way. Most often, they are boiled and then sautéed with minced onions and red chile, sometimes adding mashed beans near the end of the cooking time.

The first easy preservation trick is pesto. Lamb’s quarters pesto might sound odd, but its flavor is wonderful! I don’t love all herbal pestos, and I was skeptical, since I’m not a huge fan of raw lamb’s quarters…but this is one that makes me very happy. 

The second is to boil it and freeze it, which also works very well. Of course this takes up precious freezer space, however, so my third and favorite way to preserve lamb’s quarters is to dry them.

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