cats, customs/rituals, Festivals, pets

A Turtle-Filled Life

Chocolate, pecan and caramel turtles.  Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Chocolate, pecan and caramel turtles. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

Some turtles are for eating, like those scrumptious turtle-shaped chocolate candies with pecans and caramel made famous by De Met’s.   In 1950, right after I met my late husband, Harold, he took a trip back to Chicago to visit relatives. I wasn’t sure of his interest in me until I unexpectedly received a box of De Met’s Turtles from him while he was away. I interpreted that as a positive omen.

Traditional Native American turtle necklace.  Photo by Mariah Chase.  Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Traditional Native American turtle necklace. Photo by Mariah Chase. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

Some turtles are symbolic . For the bar mitzvah of my grandson, Zachary, I wore a necklace created by a Native American artist featuring a turtle. In creation myths of numerous tribes, they believe that the earth was created on the turtle’s back.  To me, it seemed appropriate for a folklorist Granny to wear a Native American traditional  symbol to a traditional Jewish coming of age ceremony.

Sign inside Tortugas Festival Pavillion.  Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Sign inside Tortugas Festival Pavillion. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

Some turtles are the centerpiece of celebrations. This past weekend in Las Cruces at the Tortugas (Turtles) Pueblo they held an annual Tortugas Festival. Key to this event is a turtle race, where turtles of all sizes compete – from the small souvenir types that children keep in small bowls of water to giant desert tortoises that can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Small turtle racer.  Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Small turtle racer. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Giant desert tortoise.  Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Giant desert tortoise. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But for me, the highlight of my turtle- filled life has been the adoption of an adorable new cat, Tortuga, named so because she is a variety of tortoise-shell feline.

“Tuga” is about two years old and had been neglected by her original owner who lay dead at home for four days before anyone realized it. When the body was taken away by authorities, Tuga was taken to an animal shelter but later rescued by a concerned neighbor who thought this cat would be a good fit for me. Not only is Tuga a good fit, she is PURRFECT.

Tuga and I together at last.  Mariah Chase photo. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014. photo
Tuga and I together at last. Mariah Chase photo. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014. photo

Tuga has faced tough times in her short life. Consequently she is so hungry for love and attention, she snuggles all night in my bed giving me kisses. During the day, she trots by my side like Mary’s Little Lamb.

Tuga at play.  Mariah Chase photo.  Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Tuga at play. Mariah Chase photo. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Beautiful sweet Tortuga, my new furry companion.  Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Beautiful sweet Tortuga, my new furry companion. Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

Tuga is not a replacement for my dear departed Tom, the rescue cat who rescued me from depression after I became a widow.  Tom remains in my heart and will continue to be my logo in his Dracula cape.  However, Tuga represents moving on and my being able to make a welcoming home for another helpless and abandoned creature.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is grateful to have a lovable new furry companion.

customs/rituals, Festivals, food, holidays

♪♪♪ “One Meatball” ♪♪♪ ?

NO, THOUSANDS OF MEATBALLS!

© Photo by Daniel Zolinsky, 2013. Tortugas Pueblo, Las Cruces, NM.
© Photo by Daniel Zolinsky, 2013. Tortugas Pueblo, Las Cruces, NM.

December 11, along with dozens of other volunteers, I made hundreds of Mexican meatballs — albóndigas — to celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe at her shrine located in the Tortugas Pueblo, in Las Cruces, NM.

Some of you may wonder, “Why is this Jewish woman making meatballs for a Mexican Catholic holiday?”  Here is my response, “Why not?”

As a folklorist rituals are one of my passions, and I prefer to participate rather than just watch.  As long as the ritual is for a positive purpose, count me in.  Consequently,  I accompanied my comadre, Denise Chávez, who was the cultural leader for a tour of Colorado seniors.  She wanted them to experience this annual event from a personal point of view, so there we sat for hours making this annual treat that would be served the following day to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and her followers.  As we rolled the ground beef and chatted, a meatball captain patrolled  up and down the aisles to ensure the unwritten rules about the size of the meatballs — that they were not too big.  If so, he tossed them back into the pot to be re-sized downward.

On December 12, the actual feast day, we returned to the Pueblo to sample our handiwork.  There were hundreds of noon-time diners, two shifts worth.  The meatballs were served in their own juice inside a stainless steel bowl.  For each eight persons, we shared a bowl of meatballs plus three other stainless steel bowls containing macaroni and cheese, boiled pinto beans, and red chili beef stew.  Each place setting had a paper soup bowl with only a soup spoon and napkin by its side.  Servers also distributed big chunks of homemade white bread.  What a fabulous meal!

Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Tortugas Pueblo, Las Cruces, NM.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Tortugas Pueblo, Las Cruces, NM. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.

I almost always have a tune going through my head, and while anticipating this meatball adventure, I couldn’t get that old song,   ♪♪♪ “One Meatball” ♪♪♪   out of my system.  I asked several people if they knew it and was surprised when most didn’t.  George Martin Lane wrote it in 1885 and titled it, “The Lone Fish Ball.”  In 1944,  Hy Zanet and Lou Singer revitalized and modernized the song renaming it, “One Meatball.”  Many singers popularized it including  Dave Van Ronk, Josh White, Bing Crosby, and the Andrews Sisters.  What’s surprising is that despite the song being popular in the 1940s, the lyrics seem more fitted to the Depression.  The song describes a hungry man with only 15 cents in his pocket.  He enters a restaurant, studies the menu and discovers that all he can afford is one meatball.  When he asks the waiter for a slice of bread, the waiter embarrasses the diner by retorting harshly, “You get no bread with one meatball!”

If that same man had been at the Tortugas Pueblo on December 12, he would have gotten more than one meatball plus not a slice but at least one chunk of bread.

Food served at the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Tortugas Pueblo, NM.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.
Food served at the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Tortugas Pueblo, NM. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2013.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who enjoys participating in rituals of all kinds.