10:00 p.m.

Chicken in molé sauce
    flaming red peppers and roasted chocolate
    it was the
    17th century

    –twelve year old Moghul princess from Delhi
seized off Malabar coastline
by pirates
perfume of mango & coconut
spicing the offshore wind
    –& sold in Manila
the open market.
Her new owners
transport her to Acapulco in chains
–tossed by waves in the ship's hold
her terror–
where a savagely pious couple from Puebla puts down
some money
    & presses the strange girl
into religious training.

Known as Caterina de San Juan
    la China Poblana becomes a renowned mystic
      fearsome austerities
      miracles & healings attend her
In her adobe quarters she lifts
color'd threads
out of her visions
& embroiders on cotton blouses, shawls & skirts
    what she sees–

flashing ruby, bright magenta, parakeet yellow,
turquoise, gold & silver, pine green & charcoal

flowers & birds rise through the
courtyard animals

The style spreads through New Spain
& becomes "typico"
    –costume of the Mexican peasant–
a sort of 19th century chic
says the guidebook.

While Caterina leans over
her fabric
nuns at Santa Rosa convent
–under patronage of the Bishop of Puebla
    (Sor Juana's shrewd adversary)
devise on the
occasion of a visit from New Spain's viceroy
an unknown dish.
Caterina's hand is involved
    visions back there in the kitchen–
chiles & spices, roasted & separately ground on stone platters
    chipotle, peanuts, almonds, aniseed, garlic
then steep'd in oily chocolate brought up
      from the South–
A dark pungent sauce
wild it seems
    back there on the palate a hint
something distant & sweet–
In Mexico there's been
nothing like it
it is the way food has been cook'd for centuries
      in India

Andrew Schelling | 2 August
Contents | Mudlark No. 9