Blogs > Cliopatria > Cooking in Scottsdale (perhaps the first in a series)

Jul 28, 2005 3:58 pm


Cooking in Scottsdale (perhaps the first in a series)



It was in the 90’s all of last week in Rice Lake. Those who had air-conditioning used it. All who didn’t moved much more slowly.

I missed that heat wave because I was down in Scottsdale, helping my sister close my father’s house. (Ann had already done the lion’s share of the work, bless her.) It was hot. The highs ranged from 109-113. Lows were around 90 degrees. It’s monsoon season so it wasn’t a dry heat. There were some scattered thunderstorms with strong winds each night, stripping the palms of some leaves and bits of bark. Those bits, in turn, clogged the automated pool cleaners and so increased employment opportunities in the pool service industry.

Isn’t the invisible hand wonderful?

Ann has just moved from Central Oregon to take over my father’s book store. While, like me, she has been in Scottsdale many times, the local climate is hardly second nature for her. We tend to agree that there is something fundamentally insane about having such a rapidly growing city in that climate. Of course the invisible hand explains that, too. Cheap land, available water, a growing population, and the invention of air conditioning.

And the Valley of the Sun became a bowl of smog.

Yet we like the area. I like it because it is vibrant, alive; younger—despite all the sun cities—than my corner of Wisconsin. It’s culturally rich and confident. It strides with a leading foot in the bilingual urban border culture that’s growing throughout the southwest. The trailing foot is in the cowboy myth and business realities that first built Arizona.

I was about to say that Scottsdale—really the whole Phoenix area—is quintessentially American. That’s misleading, as there are many quintessential Americas: from the fervent Puritans and the profane Scotch-Irish of our past to the fervent vegans and the profane barbecue lovers of our present. (For those who are curious, I tend to admire the vegans and enjoy the barbecue.)

I think this region is in the Carl Sandburg, “Chicago” wing of quintessential Americas. You remember the poem. Sandburg invokes the power of the city and then lists its many crimes and wrongs. But then its extraordinary young power hauls it above such judgments. Here’s one quote:

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling,
Wrecking,
Planning,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
For all their flaws, Phoenix and Scottsdale remain young cities. For better and worse, more than a bit of our future can be seen there.
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