Archive for November, 2009

Albondiga Soup

I love Albondiga Soup. I love soup! Albondiga’s is not just traditionally loved in the Old Pueblo and served in every Mexican Restaurant in the vicinity, it’s loved by most who’ve eaten a bowl of it. Some call it Mexican Meatball Soup, I call it what it is: Albondiga’s.

I’ve tried many versions; adding, substituting, and revising for almost 30 years. This recipe is my favorite.

Even though this recipe comes with each ingredient having a measured amount, I never measure. I use probably more of everything listed but this is a good guide to use until you find your favorite way of making this hearty, stick to your ribs, easy to eat soup.

Albondiga Soup


2 lbs. ground beef

1 bunch fresh Cilantro, trim, wash & pat dry w/paper towel

1 Tbls. salt or so

1 medium onion (I use a big one)

1 tsp. pepper or so

5 fresh tomatoes (at least)

2 cloves garlic minced- I use 3 or 4

3 quarts Beef stock (see below)

2 eggs

Fresh limes sliced (see below)

2 Tbls. Masa Harina  (or finely ground corn meal if you can’t find Masa Harina)

Here we go:

About the beef stock. I’ve simplified. I buy beef stock in quart boxes, preferably organic but not always.

Pour all the beef stock into a large soup pot and bring to a slight boil, cover with a lid & move on.

Mix beef, salt, pepper, garlic, eggs and Masa Harina and set aside.

Chop cilantro, (don’t forget to cut off the stems, they’re bitter) onion and fresh tomato and mix together

Take ½ of the chopped mixture and add to the beef mixture.

Mix and make small round meat balls. Take the the other half of the chopped mixture and add to the soft boiling stock. Drop the meat balls in and simmer until meat is thoroughly cooked ( simmer much longer, it tastes better)

If you want a thicker soup add about a cup of cooked rice to the soup

For each serving squeeze thin slices of fresh lime into each bowl. I love lime and because I do, I squirt the whole fruit into one bowl.

We eat this soup with fresh warm flour tortillas on the side. They’re good for dunking .


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Front Page, Part two


How far I fell, I don’t know to this day. Every newspaper article written about Tanque Verde Falls since that day, including the ones about me, cites a different footage. You’d think after 40 plus deaths, someone would have taken a measuring device there to confirm the height of that waterfall. That many deaths warrant at least that. Some said it was 50 feet, others speculated up to 120. The US Forrest Service states between 80 and 100 feet.

All I know is what friends, strangers, the search and rescue team, the media and a couple who were picnicking below the falls told my parents. I was lucky.  The young man at the bottom of the falls saw me hit the pool below, jumped in and pulled me to the surface.  He and his fiancé held me in their arms, keeping me afloat. I heard later that most people don’t hike up from that canyon floor It’s too difficult. Most begin from the top. Thankfully, these two Californians had.

They floated me on my back for over two hours waiting for the rescue team to show up. I could hear my friends panicked voices from above the falls, but I couldn’t respond. “She has blood coming out of her head!”  “She’s got blood coming out of her ear.”  “She’s bleeding out of her mouth.” “Her chin looks messed up,” and worst of all, “She’s dead, Oh God, she’s dead!” I knew I wasn’t dead. I could hear them.

I heard people shouting for help. My friends were screaming from above the falls.  I wondered what the fuss was about because I felt no pain. I learned later that a helicopter had tried to reach the area, but the narrow canyon was too dangerous for that.  Instead, a Search and Rescue team hiked down and tied me into a stretcher, pulling me up with a rope and out of the canyon. By the time they got me to the road, an ambulance was waiting. The TV crews, newspaper reporters and many voices all sounded like an off-key orchestra. My only thought was, “Oh crap! My parents will get home before I do”.

The rest of that afternoon was a blur. At times, I knew where I was and then I didn’t.  I felt every bump on the road to the Tucson Medical Center, as the ambulance rushed me to the E.R.  The hospital staff was asking questions I could’nt answer. They called the base commander to come to the hospital and give permission to treat me. I needed blood.  I needed a lot.  I was underage. Someone had to sign permission forms to let them patch me back together. My parents couldn’t be reached. They were still in Oracle, thinking I was at home ironing. They were busy praising my younger brother for earning his Boy Scout patches. Personally, I think I got more patches that day than he did!

I opened my eyes when the emergency room nurse approached me with a pair of scissors in her hand. She started to snip away at my new burgundy top.  I begged and pleaded for her to stop, but she won. She cut right up the middle of my top, my bra and then dismembered my cut-offs into shreds of denim.  She could have aimed for the seams, making my top repairable, but she seemed in a hurry to get me naked.

Next came a catheter, IV’s, needles, and off to get X-rays. This was the first real pain I felt all afternoon. The X-ray table was cold and hard as steel.  The technician positioned me into unbearable contortions. That cold table singed my skin like dry ice. I could feel my bruises and fractures coming to life. He snapped an album’s worth of x-ray film.

Then I cried.

Once my photo session was over, they wheeled me back to a holding room. I just lay there, in too much pain to think.

Hours later, still drifting in and out of a haze, I saw my parents standing over my bed. I was sure my mother was frosted about the ironing and that my Dad was livid about joyriding in his Rambler. Instead, I saw only fear in their eyes.  Their voices were gentle. They tried to touch me but couldn’t find places on my body not broken or deeply bruised.

I thought that this wasn’t so bad after all. They weren’t yelling.

Iternists, nurses and surgeons specializing in orthopedic and neurological traumas came and went. I was getting very hungry. “No food,” they said. How rude I thought. My chin had been cut wide open, wrapped in temporary bandages to keep it from bleeding. A plastic surgeon showed up next to stitch me up. The slice ran across my chin, resembling the edge of a jagged rock I must have hit.

By late evening, I was transferred to a double room. It was the first time people weren’t hovering over me wrapping, poking, sewing, or adjusting new tubes that were inserted into various parts of my body.  I wanted to talk to my friend Janis, but couldn’t reach the phone. My new roommate, an older woman, graciously came to my side of the room, put the phone on my bed and placed the headpiece to my left ear. I told her the number and she dialed. I couldn’t hear the phone ringing. We tried again and again. She put the phone to her ear and assured me that someone was on the other end. I panicked and quickly pushed the red button for the nurse. She was there within moments trying to calm me down. “I can’t hear out of this ear!” She left as quickly as she came and within a short time an ear specialist showed up with his equipment. He ran some tests. Once he was finished, he said nothing and left.

My roommate turned the television on for the late night news. I watched myself on the screen. The news anchor sounded solemn and the pictures seemed startling yet foreign.   It all looked and sounded serious.

The next morning, the internist came in and gave me the news:

Loss of hearing in my left ear from trauma to the inner and middle ear, brain injury, and bone fractures from my head to my feet, including shoulder, ribs, hips and toes. Oddly enough, my bruises hurt the most.

I had no idea what all of this meant except that I was told I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital bed for some time. My world was reduced to traction, bedpans, and lousy hospital food.

After nearly four weeks I was discharged with a walker, and instructed to stay in bed. School was starting and my life had changed.

I remember not looking forward to the proverbial “what did you do last summer” questions from my teachers.

I gently smoothed out the wrinkles of the front page before I tripled folded the newspaper back into its original shape. As I rolled the rubber band over the Daily Star to bundle it secure, I knew I didn’t need to read beyond the headlines.  In Section B would be a description of a fine young man who once was, studded with names of those whose lives would be now changed forever.  The paper felt as light as ashes.  Then the phone rang.

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Front Page

thefallsLike every morning, I shuffled in my slippers out to the driveway to retrieve the paper. As soon as I snapped off the rubber band and wrapped it around my wrist, I saw the front page. I knew instantly that the local media would call me as they have almost yearly for over two decades. The front-page headline read, “Teenager Falls to his Death at Tanque Verde Falls”. My stomach turned as I shook my head with silent rage and sadness. Once again, I was flooded with disbelief. The 37th person had died. Aside from a boy who is now an adult in a wheelchair, I hear that I am the only one who has survived falling over Tanque Verde Falls.

Monsoon season in August of 1967 brought late afternoon thunderstorms that rolled into the valley like clockwork, pouring rain onto the parched desert floor. Two hours later, the rain vanished as quickly as it had come. The sun re-appeared with no evidence of rain except for the washes that quickly filled up to their banks, channeling tree stumps and an assortment of flotsam and jetsam. By evening, the instant rivers ran dry short of the mud in the riverbeds, which began to crack. Inside our slump block home, the swamp cooler hummed uselessly since there was a swell of humidity in the air. I wasn’t fond of Tucson then and definitely not accustomed to turquoise gravel front lawns and no water to speak of, unless it shimmered in a swimming pool or shot out of a garden hose. What was this hellhole my Dad had brought us to? What was the Air Force thinking; transferring our family from military bases in England, with four seasons, glorious rain, flowers and trees, lakes and rivers? Tucson felt like a bone-dry place with trees that didn’t count for much. Touching cactus for the first time quickly taught me to never touch it again. I considered posting warning signs on each type of cactus that surrounded our new house. They would read, “Go away!” The desert was definitely no place for me. Cactus jumped, pricked and stung and in my opinion were rather ugly.

One Friday, just a month before my senior year of high school, I was once again on restriction. I don’t remember the reason for being grounded, but I’m sure I deserved it. To add misery to the already hot, muggy day, I was told to spend the afternoon ironing while my parents drove to see my brother at Boy Scout camp, an hour’s drive northwest and out to the town of Oracle. I was obediently ironing some of my mom’s polyester blouses when the phone rang. It was Kirstie. She invited me to join “the gang” for some fun at Redington Pass. “Put on some shorts and join us,” my fairly new friend said. Friends always felt fairly new living the military life. We didn’t live in any one place long enough to call any friend much more than that.

It was a chance to “fly the coop,” since my parents weren’t due home till evening. I figured I could take my Dad’s Rambler, meet up with my schoolmates and be home in time to iron a few more garments. I slipped into my favorite Levi cut-offs and my brand new burgundy summer top I had just bought the day before. I was most proud to own it since it took many babysitting jobs for me to afford it.

I jumped into my Dad’s car and headed for the far east side of town to meet up in a parking lot. I had no idea where we were headed to from there, which was reason enough to take the risk of disobeying. An adventure was always worth the potential punishment from my parents. I had never driven far beyond Old Spanish Trail Road, a short distance north of our house, and hadn’t really mastered the art of driving yet.

After we met up at the parking lot, I was told to follow the green lead car. I turned off the radio, which blared one top 40’s hit after another, both my hands gripping the wheel as the road eventually turned from asphalt to dirt. Both excited and clueless, I had no idea where our caravan was headed. I just followed as we drove into the foothills of the Rincon Mountains. Suddenly the cars in front of me started pulling over and parking in ditches of desert rock. I stopped too and jumped out to join them. Like a trail of ants, we hiked our way into a canyon, along narrow paths. It hadn’t occurred to me to wear practical shoes. I was the only person walking in Zories, aka “flip flops”. A strong waft of creosote was still lingering from the rain. As we trekked over rocks, dirt and cactus that were too close for comfort, I heard a soft rushing sound. Water? Real live running water? I was the only one of the bunch who’d never been to Redington. I picked up my pace, and flip-flopped my way down a hill since I couldn’t get to the water fast enough. I tripped and slid and didn’t care.

Once I was at the water, I tossed my Zories and plopped myself down in clear, fresh cool water. I felt immediately refreshed. Above, the brilliant blue sky was loaded up with pure white cumulus clouds building a bed of pillows. It was the prettiest sight I’d seen since moving to Tucson. I sighed, reclining into the cool stream. I was the only one in the water. I remember wondering why my friends chose to sit on the rocks at the edge of the stream while I was luxuriating in cool bliss. I splashed from pond to pond, giggled and splashed some more. I felt similar to being in a candy store with dollars in my pocket. Time had stopped. I was busy being happily wet. I didn’t notice that the stream was gathering force. It was fun at first, like a free ride at a carnival. The current starting pushing me forward and down the canyon. I thought this was part of the thrill until I couldn’t get a grip on the rocks to slow myself down. The wet granite lining the stream felt like slippery glass. Suddenly, the water had pushed me further downstream, out of sight from my friends. I kept trying to grab for a rock, any rock, to stop me. My ride was becoming intense. The current continued to push me down several tiers of the canyon stream, around one last corner, with my butt bumping over river rock. I looked up and saw two of my friends high up on a cliff looking at me with disbelief. Suddenly, I was airborne. I was falling, my feet dangling in thin air. That was the last thing I remembered; my feet shooting forward as if I’d been launched out of a tube in a water park.

*End of Part One*

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