PRINTED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE ALPINE AVALANCHE
Saturday evening, we attended the Marfa premier of the film, “Agave is Life” at the Crowley Theater. The event was underwritten by the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, and we were treated to samplings of mezcal and chocolate by the film’s producer, Meredith Dreiss, who was on-hand with her co-director David Brown. Both are archaeologists with a passion for the history of this amazing plant.
A reception followed, with a delicious assortment of finger foods that included street tacos, chips and salsa, guacamole, stuffed olives, seasoned walnuts, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and melon, cheese and crackers, and a bite-sized meaty puff pastry. A platter of fruit with mango that someone else prepared was fantastic. And there was more mezcal and chocolate. There could’ve been other items on the table, but we sampled mezcal. Before and after the film. Did I mention mezcal and chocolate? There was also red and white wine a-flowin’.
Saturday was my first time to experience this spirit, although I’ve had a love-hate relationship with tequila for over half my life. Since the small glasses were served on a table with bits of delicious chocolate, I assumed they were to be consumed together. Walking up to a friend-in-the-know, I asked, with mouth afire, “Hey! So I’m guessing you alternate between this mezcal stuff and a bite of chocolate?!” A lovely lady in a bright pink blouse answered, “That’s how we enjoy it! A sip and a small bite…” turns out, the lady was Meredith Dreiss. I suppose she would be the person to ask, since she wrote the film.
I had no idea that the agave plant was so functional, and the lifeblood of so many people in our Southwest desert region from Mexico up through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The film explored ten thousand years of the human-agave relationship. I was fascinated.
In its raw state, the agave is toxic and indigestible to humans. Buried in the ground and baked, it becomes sweet and easily edible. Harvesting and cooking it was used as a rite-of-passage for young Mescalero Apache women in an elaborate ceremony that the girls – who spoke of being exhausted by it – said it was their favorite thing they’d ever done. I can’t begin to do justice to the film or the agave in this few inches of newsprint.
The following day on a drive around the scenic loop in Fort Davis, I spotted many agave dotting the landscape on that 70-mile stretch. And then my husband reminded me that we have baskets and decorative bags made from agave fibers.
Want to know more about the life-giving agave? Check out the amazing Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute. There are trails to hike, visit botanical gardens and a cactus house, and see probably more hummingbirds than you can count. The CDRI is on my list of favorite places to be, and I now have a brand new appreciation for the agave plant.
Make Your Own Chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4-6 teaspoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Slowly melt coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir cocoa powder, agave nectar and vanilla extract into melted oil until well blended. Pour mixture into a wax paper-lined tray or candy mold. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Enjoy… with or without a little mezcal.