When two staff members of Edible Baja Arizona left in early July, it just so happened that a complete restructuring of our advertising sales department and the business side of the company was already in the works.
It was time to clear out the garden, add compost to the beds, and plant some new seeds. It’s been exciting to work with Monica Pracko, our favorite consultant of all time, who has spent the last seven weeks assisting in restructuring the company while simultaneously being instrumental in helping us create this very issue (there is always a deadline, regardless of anything else going on). Monica spent nearly ten years at the Tucson Weekly, most recently as its advertising sales director, and has brought a wealth of expertise and guidance to our project. We hope she can maintain a connection with us as a coach and resource. Thank you, Monica!
And as part of the ongoing transition, we are pleased to introduce two new members of the Edible Baja Arizona team: Johnny Smith, our advertising sales consultant and Kate Kretschmann, our business coordinator. Johnny will be out in the field, working with existing and new advertising partners to help them create successful marketing programs. Kate will be in the office every day, providing top-notch service to our advertising partners, handling subscriptions, and taking care of myriad office tasks. We look forward to their contributions.
Johnny Smith’s first job, nearly 30 years ago, was as a busboy at the well-loved Conti’s Italian restaurant on Tucson’s Northwest side (ask him to tell you about their frequent guest, “Uncle Joe” Bonanno). He’s held many positions in Tucson’s restaurant industry, including managing the legendary Café Terra Cotta in its heyday and working most recently as a representative for Alliance Beverage. Trained as a sommelier and a certified Cicerone (an expert in beer), Johnny’s love of the food and beverage industry runs deep. Raised by an Irish farmer from Georgia and a Mexican-born mother, Johnny’s comfort foods run the gamut. Pig’s feet and Oxtail are as favored as caviar and porterhouse. He shares his passion for Baja Arizona and its food and drink with his wife, Marcia.
Kate Kretschmann is a Michigan transplant with an editorial background in encyclopedia publishing and online advertising, having worked as an editor, writer, researcher, and project coordinator. After years of traveling both domestically and around the world, she stopped by Tucson in 2012 to help family members open a new restaurant, fell in love with the place, and has refused to leave ever since.
Read a Q&A with Kate and Johnny here.
In this issue that precedes the autumn equinox, we delve into death and ancient ancestors through the lens of food and tradition.
Artist and writer Paul Mirocha, with the help of his daughter Anna Mirocha, searches for the tastes and textures of the foods that would have been eaten by the Hohokam, the people who lived and farmed along the Santa Cruz River for thousands of years and who are regarded as ancestors by the Tohono O’odham. The archaeological record is full of clues, and Paul created some fantastic artwork to accompany the quest for ancient menus items.
“The Mexican is … familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love,” wrote Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz in The Labyrinth of Solitude. And no tradition better exemplifies that sentiment than Dia de los Muertos—the Day of Dead—celebrated on November 1 and 2. Lourdes Medrano writes about the foods and dishes that have become an essential part of the tradition, including pan de muerto (bread of the dead), sugar skulls, tamales, rice, sweet pumpkin and mole. It’s a celebration that connects us in a special way with loved ones who are no longer with us.
The prose and poetry of Alison Hawthorne Deming, Manuel Muñoz, and Emma Perez join Adela Licona’s images of life in the Sonoran Desert. Autumn Giles talks with Mike Hultquist, Jr. and Sr., to reminisce about the history of Lerua’s famous green corn tamales. And Lisa O’Neill introduces us to the kids of the Best Day Ever gardening project, who are taking their gardening skills to the market, proving you can have kale with a side of cute.
As always, there’s much, much more to discover in this issue. We’ll see you around the table. ¡Salud!
—Douglas Biggers, editor and publisher