Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Join me for Pachanga! A Benefit for Galeria de la Raza

 Pictured: Memento mori, digital print by Raul Aguilar.

Please join me, and over 70 contemporary artistas at Pachanga! Galeria de la Raza's 10th Annual Art Auction on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at 7:00 pm. Galeria is located at 2857 24th Street, San Francisco.  Admissions are from $20 to $50 sliding scale.  Pachanga is truly a fantastic party, this year the event has a 1970's flare. Dust off your platform shoes and dance to 1970's disco, salsa and Latin Funk.  There will be an award for the best 1970's attire.

Click here for more information, and to visit the on-line catalog. Can't make it? Bidding by proxy is allowed! Register before Thursday, November 17th at 5:00 pm. All proceeds benefit Galeria de la Raza, San Francisco premier non-profit arts organization.

"Founded in 1970, the GalerĂ­a is a non-profit community-based arts organization whose mission is to foster public awareness and appreciation of Chicano/Latino art and serve as a laboratory where artists can both explore contemporary issues in art, culture and civic society, and advance intercultural dialogue. To implement our mission, the GalerĂ­a supports Latino artists in the visual, literary, media and performing art fields whose works explore new aesthetic possibilities for socially committed art."

Friday, September 30, 2011

New Halloween Fabric! Devils

Right on time for Halloween! This new fabric I designed is available for sale at my SpoonFlower shop.  It depicts a trio of devils having one hell of a good time.

Visit my SpoonFlower shop to play around with the repeat.  A yard on basic quilting weight cotton starts at $18 dollars, a test swatch is only $5 dollars

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Fair....

I created this image for a contest sponsored by The Folsom Street Fair.  The fair celebrates San Francisco vibrant kink, leather, fetish and alternative communities.  I felt like the contest was up my alley! Sadly, upon visiting the Fair's website, I discovered that the contest had been canceled due to lack of interest.  HEY, I was interested!! Anyway, I wanted to share the poster with you. Here is a detail:

The poster plays with many recurring themes in my work: The circus, cartoons, and fetish imagery.  The bright, primary colors of the circus inspired the poster. I was also inspired by movies I saw as a kid, among them the terrifying sequence of Pink Elephants on Parade, from Dinsney's Dumbo.  Here are more sources of inspiration:

The movie Santa Sangre, by Alejandro Jodorowsky is quite distubring, yet it is one of my favorites. The image below comes via Movie Outlaw, where you can read more about this wonderfully strange circus movie.  I think Jodorowsky captured the bizarre world of Mexican circuses quite well. My favorite sequence is when the circus folks stage a funeral for a death elephant.  The character of Concha (played masterfully by Blanca Guerra) is scary and unforgettable, sort of like Norman's Bates mother from Psycho....Mexican style.  Guerra's eyes are like guns! She points, and shoots quite often during the movie.    

Another circus movie that I used to watch was an Argentinian/Spanish movie called "Habia una Vez un Circo", (Once Upon a Time, There Was a Circus) about a sick little girl and her clown friends.  The movie was fun, but scary at times. I remember a scary sequence when the little protagonist (the adorable Andrea Boca) runs into a window late at night, while having hallucinations about the circus. In this sequence, her clown friends come to her bedroom to cheer her up.    

Thanks for reading this brief account of bizarre circus movies.  If you are interested in attending The Folsom Street Fair, just visit their website for a schedule of events. Be warned, it is for adults only.  The Fair is held in San Francisco in September the 25th, 2001. If you are interested in buying my poster, just let me know.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peach and Pitaya Sorbet - Nieve de Durazno y Pitaya

Finally, it is starting to feel like Summer here in San Francisco. What is better for Summer than some delicious iced treats? Recently I saw some luscious peaches and colorful pitayas side by side so I decided to make some cool Nieve de Durazno y Pitaya.

More often than not pitayas (also spelled pithaya) are associated with exotic, tropical or Chinese products but they are also abundant in Mexico. Some species of Pitayas are native to the Americas, and in Asian countries they are referred to as "dragon fruits", because they seem scaley, like a dragon's skin. They are rich in calcium and vitamin C. Pitayas are actually not tropical, they grow in arid regions. Like other succulents, like the nopal and the prickly pear, they are believe to regulate blood sugar in diabetics.

Here in San Francisco I found Pitayas on several groceries stores on Mission Street. They are also available at Rainbow Groceries. This being an artsy blog, I also wanted to mention that these curious fruits were a favorite painting subject of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Here is one of Frida's paintings depicting pitayas!

In Mexico these fruits are not often eaten by themselves. They make wonderful Agua Fresca and nieve, a type of sorbet. I think that the species found here in the US are not particularly flavorful, they have the consistency of kiwi with crunchy little black seeds. The flavor some how resembles Jicama, with a hint of melon. I think the ripe juicy peaches marry well with the flavors of the pitaya. These recipe is super easy. You'll need the following ingredients:

  • Two big, very ripe peaches. This recipe wont work if the peaches are not soft.
  • Two red pitayas
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Sugar or sweetener of your choice to taste (optional)
  • A splash of fruity liquor like Midori, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec (optional)

Cut the pitayas lenghtwise and take the white flesh out of the peel carefully using a spoon. Save the red peel as a "cup" for presenting your sorbet. Cut the pitaya flesh in chunks and place them in a food processor.

Peel the peaches by cutting an "X" on their skin, then dunk them in boiling water for a few seconds. Dunk them on iced water and the skins should be able to come right off. Cut the peaches in chunks and add them to the food processor.

Add the lime juice, the liquor and a little bit of the water you used to peel the peaches. The peaches I used were very sweet so I didn't use any sugar, but you can add the sweetener of your choice at this point. Process until you have a soft puree. Don't process the fruit too much, or the little seeds of the Pitaya will pulverize and discolor your sorbet.

Freeze the puree in an ice cream maker until you reach a sorbet consistency. It wont take too long to churn, so check often. I use cuisinart model 21. If you don't have an ice cream maker you can freeze the puree in a tray until it is partially frozen. Scrape the sides with a spatula and freeze again - it will be more icy, like an Italian Granita, but still good! Serve in the hollowed out peel of the pitaya and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Prints and Cards Now Available!

A small selection of my artwork is now available at Fine Arts America. FAA is an on-line marketplace for selling, purchasing and creating fire art prints, greeting cards and original works of art. Prints start at $18.50. Check out my FAA gallery for more information!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Palomitas de Colores: Colorful Fruity Popcorn

So...A recipe for popcorn in a Mexican food blog? Of course! Corn is a quintessential Mexican food, with lots of symbolic meanings, check the previous post. Back in grammar school my friend's mother made colorful popcorn like this. The first time I saw it in his lunchbox I found the colors fascinating! My friend's mom used a syrup made out of hard candy (similar to jolly ranchers) to color the popcorn. This version uses less sugar and fresh fruit to flavor it, and it uses stovetop popped popcorn. It is crunchy, toasty and better than the microwave kinds, that are full of hydrogenated fats. Let's get cooking! You'll need the following ingredients:

  • Half a cup of Maiz Palomero, divided into eights of a cup (or any quality brand of popping corn)
  • Vegetable oil, two tablespoons
  • Salt, just a pinch (optional, it just brings out the flavor)
  • A sauce pan with a lid (it should hold at least 3 quarts)

Add the oil to the pan, and heat on high, together with one fat kernel of popcorn to test. Once the kernel pops, you are ready to add one eight of a cup of popcorn to the pan, and a pinch of salt. Shake it a bit so it divides evenly into a single layer. Cover and let it rest for about 15 seconds away from the heat - then place it over the flame once again. The popcorn should start popping, go ahead and hold on to the lid and shake the pan vigorously over the stove to prevent burning. Once the popcorn is almost all popped you won't hear rattling. Open the pan halfway so the steam escapes, that way you'll have crunchy toasty popcorn. Place the popcorn in an oven so it stays warm and crunchy, before covering it with the flavored syrup.

  • One cup of flavoring agent. In this case I used fresh blue berries, raspberries, vanilla, fresh lime and lemon.
  • One cup of organic, evaporated cane juice sugar or piloncillo (Note: using piloncillo will result in darker colored popcorn).
  • Three quarters of a cup of water
  • A drop or two of vegetable coloring (optional).

Fruit syrup is created in a similar manner as the one used for this Agua Fresca, but it uses less water. Combine the water and the fruit of your choice in a blender, strain in a fine sieve. Combine the sugar and the flavored water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. You can add a couple of drops of food coloring at this point, if you are using it. Boil and stir until the sugar has thickened. This is the tricky part! If your caramel is too tick, you'll end up with a messy sugary clump. If the syrup is too thin, it will shrivel your popcorn. You'll know your syrup is the right consistency if you pick it up with a spoon and it falls back to the pot in the shape of a ribbon. Put the warm popcorn in a bowl and cover with the syrup evenly, using a wooden spatula to carefully coat it. The correct ratio of popcorn to caramel is about half a cup of syrup to three cups of popcorn, depending on taste. Place the finished product on a sheet of wax paper and let dry.

If you are making different flavored popcorn I recommend you have your fruit flavor based prepared ahead of time, before making the syrup. That way your warm popcorn doesn't have to sit in the oven for a long time. Once the popcorn is dry and cool to the touch, it is ready. Put it in a pretty bowl and serve. Oh wait...It doesn't matter where you'll put it, it usually gets eaten right the way! Enjoy.

Doves and Hail: Secret Meanings of Popcorn

During the Mexican conquest, Spanish historian Fray Bernardino de Sahagun described a curious dance performed by young women on the Mexica month of Toxcatl:

"....Young maidens dance shaven, with arms and legs covered in red feathers, wearing capillejos composed of toasted corn called momochitli, that was a grain resembling a very white flower. These capillejos were made in the same manner as the ones created out of flowers, [worn] by young Castillian maidens during the month of May..."

Those capillejos (a type of bonnet) mentioned by Sahagun were actually made out of popcorn. To the Mexica ("Aztecs"), corn was an important grain that held important socio-religious significance, much like chia and amaranth, that I have mentioned on previous posts. Corn was central to the native culture of the Americas, but only Zea Mays Averta had the ability to pop when heated.

Tlaloc, God of Rain, from the Codex Rios

In other writings, Sahagun mentions that momochitli was also offered to Tlaloc, the Rain God, due to its resemblance to hail, that was also attributed to this deity. To this day, some Mexicans say "Tlaloc must be angry" every time it hails. Other writings by Sahagun allude that popcorn was an important offering due to its resemblance to stars - it was a divine reminder of the constellations, that helped the ancient Americans develop the calendar.

Indigenous communities like the Mazahua in central Mexico create simple offerings for religious ceremonies composed of strands made out of popcorn, small biscuits and marshmallows. Thanks to El Bable, you can see the following image showing a Mazahua altar adorned with fruit and popcorn garlands. Mazahua women also create long popcorn garlands that are strung around crosses and images of saints, at times completely covering them. Some times a piece of bread is hung in the middle of the popcorn strand, symbolic of the holy spirit.

The word for popcorn in Mexico is "palomitas" - a word that literally means "little doves", maybe because the popped grain resembles tiny white doves. The name could also be an attempt to scyncretize religious beliefs associated with popcorn. An offering to Tlaloc, the god of rain could be sincretized as an offering to the holy spirit, also symbolized as a white dove in Catholic belief. According to Genesis 8:11, a dove released by Noah flew back to the ark carrying back an olive branch after the flood, a sign of peace and divine reconciliation.

Noah releasing a dove.
Mosaic, Basilica de San Marco, Venice Italy

It is impossible to decipher the exact meaning and associations hidden behind a certain food, but popcorn offers a few clues. Popcorn could be seen as one of the basic miracles of nature: Life trapped inside a seed, just waiting to pop out. It is energy flying in all directions, in the shape of tiny white doves. It sounds like furious hail that destroys crops, both a gift and a warning from divine forces. It could also be a representation of the stars above us - a reminder that we are small among the planets, like a grain of corn. Such are the mysteries of food mythology and syncretism, and some things to ponder next time you to to the movies..! Enjoy the following recipe for Colorful Popcorn.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now on Sale! Heart Charms - Milagro Fabric

I am pleased to inform that a small selection of my fabrics can now be purchased online at SpoonFlower! This heart fabric is called "Milagro". Milagros literally means "miracles". They are metal charms traditionally pinned to a saint's robes. Milagros come in many shapes, and are used as tokens of devotion, or as thanks for miracles performed. I think this fabric is perfect for February, the month when we celebrate love and friendship.

Fabrics at SpoonFlower are processed digitally. I am still trying to adjust the color way - the sample I got shows up more orange than red, yet I think it looks very nice against the cobalt blue background. Other fabrics for sale are my mermaid and merman fabrics, and a kid's print called "Kids with Scarves". Please take a look at my online store at SpoonFlower.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Animal Free Mexican Chocolate Drinks, Hot and Cold

Dear bloggeritos, I was unable to post for the month of January due to a busy schedule and a spotty internet connection. I'm still around and ready to share some information and ideas for chocolate drinks! It is amazing to think that almost a third of the US is blanketed in snow right now...Here in San Francisco we've been having almost Summer like weather! What could be better than a cool licuado for hot day? Or a cup of hot cocoa, for chilly weather? Read on!

Cool Chocolate Licuados.
I used to drink a heavenly chocolate licuado sold at the Tapachula market when I was a kid. It was advertised as "Choco 1000" (choco mil). It was a play on words on the popular powdered drink called Choco Milk. This drink was cleverly marketed by the super healthy and butch little Mexican boy known as Pancho Pantera. Here's Pancho, courtesy of -U! (Uriel Duran).

This licuado of my childhood was made using fresh non-pausterised milk and a raw egg. It made it really thick and rich, but it would be considered dangerous by today's standards! See the advertising? It was recommended kids drank it three times a day in order to tame tigers, stop trains on its tracks and...Garden.

Amazingly enough, ancient Mexicans blended cocoa water and spices for a chocolate drink that was naturally animal free. The word Chocolate is actually a derivative of the ancient Nahuatl for Xoco Atl, meaning bitter water, a drink that was sacred. The Spaniards turned the word "Xocolatl" into "Chocolate", the term encompassing both cocoa solids and the original frothy drink. Of course, the Aztecs didn't have electric blenders but here's some ideas for making chocolate drinks in the ancient Mexican tradition. I use unsweetened powdered cocoa by Ghirardelli.
  • Almendrado. Use two cups of almond milk, a handful of peeled slivered toasted almonds and two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Azteca. Two cups of almond milk, a handful of peeled slivered toasted almonds, two tablespoons of chia seeds, and two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Chango Marango. Two cups of coconut milk, a very ripe banana, berries of your choice, two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Abuelita's. Two cups of almond milk, a handful of peeled slivered toasted almonds, two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa, powdered cinnamon, and a tablespoon of Mexican Vanilla (I use Xanath's). Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Manicero. Use two cups of rice milk, a ripe pear, two heaping tablespoons of peanut butter, and two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend.
  • Choco Chispas. Use two cups of almond milk, a scoop of soy based frozen dessert (I use the one made by So Delicous), two heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa and fresh chopped mint. Add ice cubes, sweetener of your choice and blend. The mint will create refreshing little "chips".

History of Hot Mexican Chocolate
The image above comes from Peaton, it shows a chocolate pyramid created for a competition in Germany. Emperor Moctezuma would finish his meal with a frothy gourd full of "Xocolatl" and a nice smoke perfumed with liquidamber resin. The drink was traditionally served cold. During colonial times the original bitter drink of the Aztecs became fermented, sweetened and seasoned with vanilla, sugar, almonds and cinnamon - what it is now known as "Mexican Chocolate" immediately caught on in Europe and became very popular. Certain convents in colonial Mexico experimented with chocolate, creating famous recipes like Mole Poblano, yet the church forbid nuns from drinking chocolate because it was considered too voluptuous for them. Here's a recipe for animal free Champurrado, a hot chocolate drink that can be enjoyed by everyone!

4 cups of Almond Milk
4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 small lumps of piloncillo (Mexican Raw Sugar)
2 sticks of Canela (Mexican Cinnamon)
1 cup of corn masa (corn dough used to make tortillas)

Heat the milk, add the cinnamon and the sugar until the lumps dissolve completely. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Add the masa and the cocoa and stir often. Use a blender to combine everything and to make sure your champurrado is nice and frothy. Process in small batches, at the slowest setting. Place a thick cloth napkin on top of the blender so you don't burn yourself. Serve in individual cups and enjoy.

Spicy Hot Chocolate
Finally, if you want your hot chocolate to be hot in more ways than one try adding some dry chiles to it. The picture above is from a spicy Venezuelan hot chocolate taken at Christopher Elbow, in San Francisco. They use a nice blend of chiles, spices and Venezuelan chocolate for this delicious drink. I've used all kinds of chiles in hot chocolate, but I think the best tasting are the raising like pasilla, robust ancho, or smoky chipotle. If you use chipotle use the dry variety - the canned chiles have added spices and salt that won't add much to the chocolate. Here's some notes on spicy Mexican hot chocolate that I served during a recent chocolatada party:

"No chocolatada can be complete without some hot chocolate. I used tablets of Chocolate Ibarra and Chocolate Abuelita and mixed them with hot low fat milk or soy milk. A little bit of the pasilla and negro chiles was added to the blender in order to make a delicious spicy and sweet drink. A little bit of Mexican vanilla also gives the chocolate a wonderful scent. Please make sure you get authentic Mexican vanilla, it really makes a big difference. One of my guests said it was the best hot chocolate she had ever tasted! You can get Ibarra and Abuelita hot chocolate tablets at MexGrocer, I get my vanilla from Xanath in San Francisco."

One last note: Most processed chocolate has milk added to it. If you want your drinks to be animal free, use powdered cocoa, and make sure to read labels carefully for commercially bought blends. Generally, the darker the chocolate, the less likely it is to contain milk. Enjoy your chocolate, and stay cool...Or warm!!