We sat at the desert inn, at the window which afforded a magnificent view onto Monument Valley, awaiting our luncheon orders. She sipped desert mint tea sweetened by hummingbird saliva and I lapped pomegranate wine, a divine concoction of pine sap sweetened by cactus rind and desert rosehips with a drizzle of wild honey, harvested not from the hive but from the beaks of mountain owl.
We gasped as the fresh concoctions reached our lips. We traded glasses and cried. We closed our eyes and considered the depth of this experience. We were dining on ingredients enjoyed by the Native Americans. We were Hopi for the day. I wanted to wear beads on my genitals. I fantasized dragging my wife by the hair.
This is what we work for. This is what has been made possible.
Soon our entrees were brought to us as if we were royals, on hand-woven platters of hardened straw, made by local artisans using techniques perfected thousands of years ago. They were even unwashed, stained with the juice of berries and the blood of squirrels. The hostess boasted that no detail had been overlooked. A lack of water in the desert makes washing impossible. We were invited to partake of the riches. “Enjoy.”
We dug in. What a feast of genuine Hopi cuisine.
As we ate, I couldn’t help but notice the arrival of some local children on bicycle who parked in front of the nearby 7/11, a convenience store located just across from our restaurant at the Antelope Inn. They were not Caucasian, but I supposed Native, possible residents of the nearby Reservation. Their skin was brown and their hair, shiny black. I’d guessed they were 12 or so, maybe 13. I wasn’t sure. They departed the store, eating hotdogs and swilling orange soda. Their pockets were filled with candy. One of the kids held a bag of BBQ chips and shared them. They ate on the sidewalk. I could see them, but they couldn’t see me.
They caught my eye just as our Navajo tamales were set before us. We shared a basket of roasted blue tortillas accompanied by cactus relish. I had ordered the quail and my companion tried the Antelope Valley red squirrel, which she was assured tasted like rabbit. Her dish was garnished with grasshopper and some sort of steamed pine cones Teddy Roosevelt was said to have loved. Mine came with fried cicada larvae cooked in local peanut oil. We ordered a local wine, but not made from European vines. This wine was taken from an assortment of native plants, including the fruits of desert cacti and tiny wild blueberries.
I eyed the boy across the way who was eating what I thought to be a Hostess cupcake. He gave his little friend a bite. She got some whipped cream on her nose. They laughed in the sun. It was hot.
We enjoyed our meal and finished up with an assortment of local cheeses made from mountain goats.
When we stepped outside, the kids on bikes had ridden away. It was nearly dark. The sand as far as the eye can see is red or orange, I suppose. I felt that we belonged.
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