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Feasting Hopi-style; It all starts in the kitchen

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In the dim kitchen, the salt glittered on the heap of meal in the in the
yellow bowl. The salt was the good kind from the Grand Canyon - coarse
irregular crystals stained by the earth. Ma poured boiling water into a
well in the fine blue cornmeal, and the smell of blue marbles cooking right
in the crockery filled the room. From the kitchen table Pa hummed a kastina
song under his breath and tapped his finger on the red Formica to the

Just enough water went into blue marbles to make the cornmeal hold
together. If there was too much, the cook and whoever was around to help
got their hands all caked up when they rolled them.

Ashes went in, too - just a little for leavening to make the bite-sized
dumplings plump. The ashes came from burning and sifting the leaves of
juniper trees through a fine sieve. (Soda works as well, and is more and
more the choice these days.)

Then came the rolling, and Ma's female relatives were on hand: women
sitting around the table, rolling handfuls of dough into thick ropes and
pinching off pieces the size of shooters. While they visited, they rolled
the marbles round and round in their palms, taking their time and making
them nice. Into the pot the little blue dumplings went and once the lot was
finished, Ma covered them with boiling water and took the pot to the stove
to simmer.

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Ma's sister took a yellow sifter basket made from yucca out to the back
porch and broke some red chilies off one of the dried strings. Meanwhile,
Ma's daughter boiled some eggs, and Ma fried the pork chops. I stirred the
blue marbles off the bottom of the pan ever so gently so they wouldn't
break up and tasted the blue gravy that had started to develop in the pot.

We shook most of the chili seeds out before we put the shiny red pieces
into a black cast iron skillet to fry. It didn't take long until the feast
was ready. The last of the afternoon light had left the mesa, Pa had
stopped singing long enough to light the lantern, and we all settled down
around the meal with some coffee.

Ma ladled our blue marbles into bowls, and we passed the glistening eggs
and sizzling pork chops around. The chili, though, sat center stage - there
on the table in the pan within easy reach. Ma was first. She speared a
marble with her fork and then swirled it into the oil and chili, careful to
stay in her own area of the common pan. Pa and the rest of us weren't far

"Is all," Pa said. "Tastes good. We'll be sure and plant lots of blue corn
this year so we can sure keep eating blue marbles."