Or, “I Have No Horse in This Race.”
I volunteered to help set up for Friday night’s Authors’ Table dinner (900 or so authors and their closest personal, paying friends), but for the first time in five years, there wasn’t an author or topic I absolutely had to see. Yeah, like that’s gonna keep us from going. TFOB continues to be a Fantastic local event, and this year was no exception. We mapped out our schedules, packed our lunches, and spent two days wandering around like happy lunatics, seeing things, listening to things, putting swag in our bags. Cool.
I attended fewer lectures this year, but it’s not like there were lectures, interviews and panels out the wazoo. And, of course, there were at least two sessions that I had two (or more) lectures marked and so had to be a Responsible Adult and make a Decision.
So here’s who and what I saw:
The Mexican Kitchen: Many Cultures, One Cuisine. The presenting author Ricardo Zurita was sick and cancelled, but that didn’t keep two local chefs (the owner of Boca and the director of Culinary Arts at PCC) from doing a fabulous job of substituting for him. Two kinds of chiles relleno were made, and neither were the bell-pepper-stuffed-with-American-cheese variety (aka, FEH!). I scored a relleno all for myself (yeah, I had to share it with a few people around me, but still), and it was filled with ground beef and pork and apples and onions and plaintain… Honest to God, if it had just been handed to me, I sure wouldn’t have called it a chile relleno. It was wonderful, and the owner of Boca Chef Maria is a Fanatic (in a good way) for authentic ethnic cooking, wherever it may be, and equally of supporting Tucson businesses. Boca is about three miles from our house. No more excuses — gotta go there.
Oh, Mayor Rothschild and a Mexican consulate were on the official Tasting Team, and for local Tucsonans, questions from the audience were fielded by Lupita Murrrrrrrrrrrrillo. There were also some tense moments focusing on Sonoran vs. Tex-Mex cuisine, and the all important white or red menudo controversy.
Roll-out of Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars. A new book with several contributions by friends of Bradbury, along with fans, artists who do Mars, and scientists (like Peter Smith, who has been involved with the most of the NASA Mars expeditions and rovers) all spoke about Bradbury’s childhood, literary influence, and incredible talents as a horror, genre, and regional writer. There were a couple of Martians in attendance as moderators and entertainment, and even refreshments which the Martians didn’t understand but ate anyway (do you need to understand a green-filled Oreo in order to enjoy it?).
Bats of Kartchner Cave. No bats, but a personable and knowledgeable park ranger talked about the cave bats who spend the summer in the cave, answered questions, and made several small children huddle together and scream “Mom! Mom! Mom!” to demonstrate a nursery cave environment in which several hundred Mom-bats have to find their babies several times a night to feed them (for several weeks). Mom-bats are pretty dang smart.
Oh, it was pretty windy on Saturday. Like it stopped anyone from attending.
And yes, that was just SATURDAY. There’s more to come (maybe even photos!) for Sunday.
SUNDAY! SUNDAY! Absolutely perfect weather, not hot, no wind (i.e., God approves of reading.). EVEN MORE!:
Steak with Friends and Scars of a Chef. When in doubt, I just mosey into the Culinary Pavilion located on the Mall and listen as folks talk about food. Cook food. And sometimes hand out food. Rick Tramonto of Chicago’s “Tru” restaurant, along with Revolution in New Orleans, talked about his Italian home life in a Chicago suburb with a wonderful cook for a wife, three teenage boys that need to learn to cook, and a 120-lb. dog, all while prepared a skirt steak and a flank steak. There’s a difference between these, along with the very-closely-attached-to-the-cow hanger steak and flatiron steak, but I think you have to buy his cookbook to know the centimeter-difference between them all. Still, I did get a slice of a very thin, very nicely grilled skirt or flank steak, so I don’t care what you call it — just don’t call me late for dinner.
The Best in Picture Books for All Ages. I like kids’ picture books; I have quite a collection. But attending this session was double-barreled, since I’ve known the presenter’s kid brother for nearly 40 years, in a very different venue. Bob Wortman has been a teacher and principal in TUSD for over 30 year, teaching the little-bitty kids (K and first grade), and can he read a picture book! There’s nothing quite like being read to, with all the sounds and voices and pointing out of Important Things, and Bob read at least eight books to us (I’m pretty sure these were only the best in picture books from the beginning of the year 2014, too). I really spent more time enjoying being read to than squinting my eyes, trying to see the similarities between the two brothers…well, most of the time.
And thus this year’s Festival ends, but not before next year’s is already scheduled, 14-15 March 2015. And if you ever doubted the diversity of wildlife in the Sonoran Desert, next year’s Festival (the seventh) will finally feature a Mammal (WOOT!) as its mascot — and what else but a
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