Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mysteries and Mexican Food

I'm sorry that I was AWOL last Saturday.  I was doing a Mystery Writers of America event up in Sedona, Arizona.  This was the annual Arizona MWA meeting, as well as one of a series of author events being held this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sedona Public Library.  The co-sponsor was the Well Red Coyote Bookstore, which is owned by mystery author Kris Neri and her husband Joe.

The bookstore held a reception for the participating authors in the afternoon, an then we adjourned to the library for a panel discussion on mystery writing.  I was privileged to be one of the authors, along with fellow mystery writer Betty Webb, thriller writer and retired attorney Ben F. Small, and true-crime author and practicing attorney Kerri Droban.  Kris was the moderator.  The formal program lasted about an hour, with time afterward for book signing.  It was a wonderful event, very well attended by regional MWA members as well as a pretty good showing from the local general public.  We had quite a bit of media coverage, which really helped bring people in.

If any of you Dear Readers have ever been to Sedona, you know that it is literally one of the most beautiful spots on this green earth.  It's located about 120 miles due north of where I live in Tempe, half way to the Grand Canyon, three-quarters of the way to the high mountains around Flagstaff.  It's a town of around 30,000 (I'm guessing), and surrounded by cliffs so red that you can hardly believe your eyes, with the spectacular, wooded, rushing, Oak Creek running right through the middle.  When we first moved to Arizona over twenty years ago, Sedona was a tiny, quiet little place smack dab in the midst of all that eye-popping scenery.  Sadly, everyone else, including the entire state of California, has discovered it, and traffic through that winding canyon has become horrible, especially during high tourist season.

Our event lasted until late, so my husband and I spent the night there, which was an expensive proposition.  But Sedona is still small enough, and high enough in the mountains, that the stars were like a silver blanket.  That sight alone was worth the trip.

After the panel, we gathered at a local Mexican restaurant called Casa Bonita and gorged on chiles relleno (me) and enchiladas (my husband).  One of the great perks of living in Arizona is that Mexican food is just food, and you don't have to look very far to find it.  Here in Arizona, the Sonoran style of cooking is prevalent, since the state is sitting right on top of the Mexican state of Sonora.  We are also fortunate to have access to a number of restaurants that cook Jalisco-style, which incorporates a lot of seafood. I grew up in Oklahoma, and we ate Tex-Mex, which is an actual native style of cuisine.  Sonoran and Jaliscan cooking seem much lighter to me, and not as fried-up and smothered in melted cheese. 

Talking mystery all evening, and then eating Mexican food, made me think of Louise Ure, and as soon as I got home, I re-read her Forcing Amaryllis. Louise's books are set in the Tucson area, and her characters get to eat a lot of Mexican food, which she describes in mouth-watering detail. So if you are in the market for some Mexican menu ideas, yu cound't find better references than Forcing Amaryllis and The Fault Tree, by Louise Ure. 


Gayle said...

Great post, Donis. You've made me want to visit Arizona, eat Mexican food and read. Have you ever thought of writing copy for sales catalogs? :-)

Louise Ure said...

Thanks for the shout out, Donis. Part of the reason that I glory in writing about Mexican recipes in my work is that I can't get good Jalisco style food here in San Francisco.

zhadi said...

I lived in Tucson for a year when I was a kid and it was very difficult - Mom remarried, new school, new friends, Tucson instead of San Diego... but the food was indeed excellent! I've never been to Sedona and really think this has to happen...

Donis Casey said...

Hey, Gayle, if the state of Arizona would like to pay me to tout it in print, I'm ready willing and able. Zhadi, a trip to Sedona might sweeten your impression of Arizona if anything can.
And Louise, I love your books. I don't live in the place I grew up any more either, and yet that's where I write about. I wonder sometimes if distance doesn't give one great insight into one's native place. I can feel Tucson right down to the bone in your work.

Deb Baker said...

I lived in Phoenix for 2 wonderful years and visited Sedona then and again a few years ago when I did an author talk at the Well Read Coyote. The owners are great, Sedona is beautiful, and I'm so jealous that you were there recently.