Culture Clash

…and this is a Culture Clash in a good way.

Last week was the annual Fiesta de Tumacácori, one of our favorite annual festivals. There is definitely a holiday feel to the day but it is not overtly a Christmas festival.

Founded in 1691, Mission de Tumacácori was the first of Father Kino's Jesuit missions in what is now Arizona; the extant ruins date to the late 18th century. It was founded at a native Tohono O'odham settlement. The ruins date to a later Franciscan phase, and are now preserved as Tumacácori National Historical Park.

The town of Tumacácori is about 15 minutes from the Mexican border. While small – extremely small – it has a rich ranching and historical heritage. It is only a few minutes south of the artist colony at Tubac.

The fiesta is a combination of art, dance, music, culture and food of the local Native American peoples (Tohono O'odham, White Mountain Apache and Pasquale Yaqui) and our domestic and neighboring Mexican communities. From start to finish, both days of the festival are filled with delights!

We set out in the morning for the fiesta with our friends Patrician and Barb. It wasn't an early start but I promised some hot cocoa and scones for the trip. And that, dear readers, is the culture clash.

After all, we were headed down the highway to a festival where we would be eating burros de chile colorado, tacos de carne asada, pollo asada, elote (fire-roasted corn), and small cajeta-filled empanadas washed down with horchata. Why scones and cocoa?

The Calvados was a lovely gift from Lynn and Lee when they visited.
Truth is, there actually is a tradition of British foods in the southern region of Arizona. In the border city if Bisbee, there were many Welsh miners who came to the Southwest to work in the copper mines. Cornish pasties were very common, and persist as a 'local food.'

So why not, thought I, bring some scones for the car? Our usual stop was at Le Cave's Bakery in South Tucson for some doughnuts to eat en route. Wouldn't homemade scones be a better alternative?

Scones are in my blood somewhere. One half of my mother's side of the family dates back as far as 1313 in England, where they lived in Cornwall; Saint Ives to be exact. That is the epicenter of scone-dom, isn't it? When I had my first scone in my 20s, it tasted like home.

We arrived to the sound of mariachi music, with thumping bass guitars and blaring trumpets backing up fiddles, and lingered through performances by Tohono O’Odham rain dance, White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers, Mexican ballet folklorico (high school dance troupes at a professional level, to be sure), dancing horses, and waila music (a cross between mariachi, country & western, and klezmer music).

If you are ever in Tucson or Southern Arizona for the first full weekend in December, you must catch at least one day of this fiesta. You will return home enriched by your glimpse of many cultures that certainly don't clash, but comprise our vibrant and richly-textured Southwest culture.

Cheers, and buen provecho!

~ David


1/2 cup currants

3 tablespoons Calvados (any brandy, liqueur, or even water)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular milk, half-and-half, or cream)
1 egg, beaten

reheat oven to 400°F.

Place currants in a small bowl and add Calvados. Microwave for 20 seconds and then set aside for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Place flour and baking powder in a large bowl, and whisk them together. Add butter in 8 chunks then, using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until flour-coated butter pieces are about the size of peas.

Drain the currants and sprinkle on top of the flour mixture. Top with sugar then begin by stirring the currants and sugar together (on top of the flour) and then stirring the currants into the flour. This sugarcoats the currants nicely.

Make a well in the center of the dough and add the buttermilk and the beaten egg. With as few strokes as possible, mix in the liquids until you have a good, stiff dough.

Divide dough into 8 pieces and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat then till they are about 3/4 –inch thick. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden on top, and slightly brown on the bottom.


  1. David - as always your stories and photos are stunning. And these scones look amazing! I love currants, we actually use it in our rices and savory dishes in persian cooking as well! perfect tangy bite.

  2. Thanks, Ahu!I think you need to post more Persian recipes! What region is your family from?

  3. So deep down you're a Cornish boy, then? My friend lives in Cornwall and I still vividly remember our little "cream tea" session in St Ives village. I felt so posh spreading my scones with clotted cream and jam and sipping tea. I've never had Calvados in a scone before, however. Something tells me I just may like it!

  4. Yes, John - deep down, Cornish blood runs through my veins. There is some good French blood in there, too... it explains so much!

  5. I have Irish blood and my great great grandmother´s scones were a must! That and the most time-consuming plum pudding ever. So I love this recipe, very different with Calvados, which I really like.
    Those gowns in the pics remind me of my handmade textiles, I search and take ideas from traditional clothes like those! Wonderful celebration David!

  6. Thanks, Paula - I should let everyone know NOT to expect boozy scones! The Calvados simply imparts a subtle brandy flavor to the currants when you bite into them.

    The textiles at this festival are really fun - some of the mariachi's have particularly interesting costumes!

  7. What an amazing place you live in! All that Mexican food. I have Cornish blood running through my veins too! I would love to go to this festival...

  8. Anna - I love living here! And I love all the Mexican food - we are so lucky. So, we both have Cornish blood... maybe we are related! (The world is small sometimes...)

  9. Wow those scones look amazing!! Great post.


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