Saturday, April 17, 2010

Caught red handed!

Book Club meeting last Wednesday night was fun as always. The book, "The Hummingbird's Daughter" by Luis Urrea about his great great aunt (?) Teresita got mixed reviews. Urrea has a fun blog and is currently describing his writing progress on Hiummingbird's Daughter 2. Just as I enjoyed his talk in person, I found his blog funny and interesting:

Beth gave the book a 9 because it brought back a flood of memories to her of experiences she had in Mexico. Nancy gave it a 7. I agree with Nancy and would rate it at 7.  Beth offered the provocative idea that Terisita's life mirrored the life of Jesus: death and resurrection, persecution, healing, miracles and her death at 33. We discussed Huila as one of the principal characters  and how interesting a figure she was. Teresita's healing abilities and her resurrection were discussed and the fact that she didn't seem concerned about being left by her mother. My lack of hearing prevents me from hearing more than one end of the table, so I caught little about what was said at the other end from me. Everyone enjoyed the colorful descriptions of life on the ranch and the local customs and culture.

Beth and Barb enlightened us about the red color from cochineal, insect poop. We learned that being caught "red-handed" derived from the custom of covering gold or other precious items with the red dye powder; also that "the red coats" jackets were died with cochineal. I looked up the word origin and found out they also put red dye on Queens and other nobility when the Kingie and other guys were out of town. When they came home, anyone who had red dye on his hands was in big trouble. Guess it never occurred to anyone to wash it off. Red handed also meant murderous.

A peyote cactus , for educational purposes only, was another part of the centerpiece arrangement.  From Wikipedia:

"The top of the cactus that grows above ground, also referred to as the crown, consists of disc-shaped buttons that are cut above the roots and sometimes dried. When done properly, the top of the root will form a callus and the root will not rot.[5] When poor harvesting techniques are used, however, the entire plant dies. Currently in South Texas, peyote grows naturally but has been over-harvested, to the point that the state has listed it as an endangered species.[citation needed] The buttons are generally chewed, or boiled in water to produce a psychoactive tea. Peyote is extremely bitter, and most people are nauseated before they feel the onset of the psychoactive effect."

We passed on chewing peyote buttons although this was not a foreign concept to some of our group. 

The food spread stuck very close to the theme. We had little pork tacos - like street tacos, chile rellenos stuffed with cactus, squash and cheese; a ham salad, mango cole slaw and for dessert Mexican Wedding Cookies. Beth made tamarindo from boiling the pods. The resulting beverage was crisp and delicious.
She also provided the centerpiece, a very dramatic hummingbird. 

Bummer of the evening was the news that Vicki has withdrawn from the club. We will miss her.


  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Barbara and I have just nominated you to the post of book club correspondence secretary. what a great post. It made our book club seem so intellectural and so hip (who in the group ever sampled peyote??). I hope Victor Urrea doesn't read the post and see that we only gave his epic book a 7!!

  2. Anonymous12:19 PM

    oops. sorry, not Victor, Luis.

  3. Okay. I accept the position. I'll have new business cards printed. :)