Monday, June 02, 2008

The Chicken Dance, Part 3

The Management of this blog regrets to inform its readers that there will be no Chicken Dance in this episode. There will, instead, be a Bull Dance.)

After passing the carved portals of the Salon Diana, showered with confetti, we stood in awe at the upper tier of the site. Along the wall to our back was the small kitchen, which would somehow feed and assuage the thirsts of an estimated 500 guests. While waiting, the visitors could snack on churros, papitas (delicious thick potato chips), or nieves y helados. With the exception of the nieves seller, who was limited in range by his cart, the others wandered about freely in the venue, mingling with the merrymakers, and keeping starvation at bay. We bought some papitas.

Below, the vast cavern sloped down in gradual tiers. I'll make a wild estimate that it is at least 50 meters wide by 150 meters long, with a ceiling ranging from 3 meters to 15 meters in height. (Please, don't hold me to this.)
I'll also wildly estimate that there were 50 to 75 long tables, each capable of holding 8 guests easily. The folding chairs were notably comfortable.

The Pastel de Boda stood on a pedestal at the far end of the hall. It was unusually spare and elegant. I assumed that the caterers had a few full sheet cakes in reserve, as that cake wouldn't serve more than 35-50 guests.

María made sure to point out the location of the baños, down and to the right of the Pastel de Boda, in their own semi-subterranean crypt. I had to be careful to duck my head when stepping down under the low hung lintel. Inside, the facilities were basic but clean and functional.

Enough statistics.

We were entertained by a small but wild band, who played the loopy, merry, even frenetic music; the tuba holding down the bass line, while clarinets, and brass instruments wheedled and noodled the manic melodies in a crashing cacophony of cymbals. I was somewhat reminded of the tone and tenor of Klezmer music.

A beefily built jóven held a small set of bulls horns at waist level and made a show by dancing a repetition of tight steps as the band and banner-waving women circled, keeping up with his macho display. They moved from outside to the Salon, where the women's increased efforts to "capture" him finally succeeded and "ensnared" him with long scarves or cloth streamers.
Dr. Freud would have enjoyed.

We took seats at a table in the upper tiers, far from the blasts of the band down by the Pastel de Boda. The table was set with a paper tablecloth, adorned with two miniature, wooden donkey or ox carts, each holding a green potted plant. Napkins nested in a little "tiara" servilletero. There were tortilla baskets with little lace rings around the waist. Very sweet.

Waiters began to fan out into the hall; first distributing cervezas, 2.5 liter bottles of Coca o Fresca, then plastic bowls of lightly pickled sliced vegetables. These were carrots, potatoes, jícama, onion, a very little chile, and the Número Uno Coveted Prize: Pickled Chicken Feet! That was as close as we got to a Chicken Dance, due to our premature departure. I willingly gave up my chicken feet to Sra. Chucha, who greatly enjoyed them.

Hot, foil wrapped stacks of tortillas came and were duly nested in the dainty baskets. Then unwrapped corundas of an unusual yellowish hue and a coarser than normal texture. Heavy but good.

After we toasted each other with our Coronas or Victorias, filling up on corundas, nibbling pickles and chicken feet, glomming an extra, unclaimed bowl from an adjacent table, the main course began emerging from the kitchen.

At first, the distribution system was made of of enthusiastic volunteers, forming a "bucket brigade" and passing plates one at a time from hand to hand.
Points for good will, points off for inefficient use of personnel. :-)

Then waiters took over, carrying several plates on the large, round pot lids; then they caught fire, loading up an entire table with plated food and schlepping the whole table down into the hall. ¡Bravo!

And the band played on, a loud, weird, disharmonious cacophony. We were content to sit as far away as possible.

Our main course arrived: "Churipo", as it is called locally, does not fit the classic definition of churipo, but that's what it was and is here; a very simplified stew of beef in red chile broth, without vegetables. We've had it similarly prepared at La Fiesta de La Virgen de Guadalupe, here in Las Cuevas.

We also had a very simple sopa seca de arroz. Surprisingly, after eating one serving, half the stodgy rice, and two tortillas, we were full.

I was running out of energy, so we said our good-byes, leaving the chicken dance and a slice of Pastel de Boda to the lucky and hardy majority who stayed. Our companions started divvying up the table favors; the tortillas in the basket, the oxcarts with plants, and we settled for the plastic napkin holder.
Estuvo una boda inolvidable, y les agradecemos por la experiencia.

(Now, I don't have to ever do it again. Unless the children of friends are getting married.)

Just one last thought: what do the newlyweds do with all those nut and candy dishes that they received from 500+ guests?)

This just in: I was searching for ways to use capulines, a sort of small wild cherry, and I came across this "paper" written by Robert V. Kemper of SMU,, Dallas, Texas, on "FOOD IN TZINTZUNTZAN, MICHOACÁN, MEXICO: TRADITIONS AND TRANSFORMATIONS", with intriguing references to geographical locations such as Sanabria and Chapultepec, two places which which we are quite familiar.


Steve Cotton said...

Michael -- Though I am sorely disappointed to have missed the chicken dance, you get extra points for the fun commentary. I told a Mexican friend at church yesterday of your series. The first question he asked was: "How many fights were there?"

Michael Warshauer said...

I don't think there were any fights, but possibly, we didn't stay long enough.

Michael Dickson said...

Great shots, Miguel.

Michael Warshauer said...

Thank you, Michael Dickson. I'm very pleased that you liked them.

I like the "Untitled" 1 and 2 best. I got luck with the chiaroscuro. "El Consuelo de Los Crudos" is a favorite also.


Steve Cotton said...

My favorite? "Los Novios y Familia" What a great wedding picture. Weepy bride. Groom with the same expression as a trapped bobcat. Photographic narrative at its best.

Michael Warshauer said...

Sheer photographer's luck Steve, nada más.