I'm off to the Jersey shore to get some writing done. Will resume blogging early next week.
Thanks to a friend for pointing out the existence of this exciting, unique monster to me. This info about her is mostly lifted from a French tourism site.
A swampy area of the Rhone, roughly where the town of Tarascon is now, was once called niger focus, or "heart of darkness". A later reference called it id est niger locus, or Nerluc. When the Romans arrived, they called the small collection of habitations here Ernaginum, probably from the habitants' ur-naga, reflecting the worship of a primeval serpent or dragon.
A huge monster emerged from the sea and chose the river Rhone as its
new home. The legend of this ancient creature, as described in
12th-century writings, was of a half-serpent half-lion monster from
Gallicia, the ofspring of the ancient-world serpents Leviathan and
One source says the Tarasque’s body was like that of an ox borne upon short bear-like legs with enormous claws. Her turtle-like shields were covered with curved spikes, while the rest of her reptilian torso was armored with closely overlapping scales. The tail was long and curved like that of a scorpion; and the head was shaped like a lion’s, but with a horse's ears and an expression like that of a bitter old man (Felice Holman & Nanine Valen, The Drac: French Tales of Dragons and Demons, Scribner's Sons, New York: 1975).
Local heroes, including the King of Nerluc and his knights, fought the Tarasque and perished. Others tied animals along a trail into a deep swamp, near Avignon, hoping to lead the monster there to her doom. But the swamp belonged to the realm of the devil and the Tarasque was a creature of the devil. So when the Tarasque followed the trail of delicious animals into the swamp, it was warned in time to escape the trap.
Martha (Saint Martha of Bethany) was born sometime in the 1st century to a Syrian duke named Syro and his wife, Encharia of Magdalene, in Bethany, near Jerusalem. As a girl Martha lived with her brother, Lazarus and her sister, Mary Magdalene. Their friend Jesus was a frequent visitor in their home.
Following the crucifixion of their friend, a group including the siblings Martha, Lazarus and Mary Magdalenem, along with Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome, St Maximinus and Cedonius, were cast adrift in a small boat without sails, oars or supplies. They eventually landed safely at Marseille where they split up and went their own ways. Martha of Bethany went either to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer or Aix-en-Provence, and became a missionary, beloved for her gracious manner.
Martha was in Nerluc one market day to spread the word of her Christian God, when everyone was talking about the dragon. The townspeople challenged her to prove the strength of her religion by subduing the dragon. So Martha set out barefoot in her white dress to find the tarasque, carrying no other weapon than a jar of holy water. At the monster's lair, Martha held up two sticks as a cross and used hymns and prayers to charm the beast. She sprinkled holy water on it to quench its fire, then used its sharp tooth to cut off her braids and make a bridle to lead the now-tamed Tarasque back to town.
Here comes the tragic part of the story. Though the Tarasque had been tamed by Martha and was docile and ready to lead a peaceful life as a nice French citizen,
the people were not ready to see a monster waiting in line with them to buy baguettes. And so they attacked the contrite tarasque and killed it with a shower of stones. Martha took the opportunity to convert everyone in the town to Christianity, and the town changed its name from Nerluc to Tarascon, in honor of this week's featured monster. For many years, a reenactment of the taming of the tarasque was held yearly, in which a young girl led a replica of the beast through the town. I wish I were that young girl.
Getting a little sick of duck.
When I sewed together the duck neck skins today using a special heat-proof thread, I felt more than ever like a Thomas Harris character. Plus, we have a moth infestation at my apartment.
It puts the duck in the basket.
So, after stitching together the neck skins and two breast skins into an irregular rectangle, I made a forcemeat following this Paula Wolfort recipe:
Stuffing for Preserved Duck's Neck
1 boneless duck breast
6 oz boneless fatty pork shoulder
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, halved
pinch dried thyme
1/4 Turkish bay leaf, crumbled
1/2 C leftover foie gras terrine
It puts the ingredients in the food processor. It pulses them until coarsely but evenly ground.
So then I lay the forcemeat out in a cylinder down the middle of the skin, wrapped the skin up, and sewed it closed. This was really fun, in a gross kind of way. Perhaps it is good for my skin to spend three days in a row covered in duck fat and blood. This could be a new, radical spa treatment.
I poached this neck for 45 minutes in the same duck fat I used for the confit, then I lay the duck neck on top of the duck legs and wings in their sterilized crock, and poured the fat over all of them. The duck neck will be fully aged and mellowed in about a week, and I'll serve it, probably, with a truffle sauce and pureed celery root or something. It's also, according to Paula Wolfort, excellent in pot au feu.
I wish I could show you guys what the duck neck looks like stuffed. Maybe I'll get someone to take a picture. But it's really cool looking -- sort of like a big sausage, but with dimpled poultry skin for casing.
Today I also roasted the bones and made stock, but was too exhausted to actually finish -- put it in the frig and will degrease and reduce tomorrow. Once again, I had to sterilize all my counters and my floor, which were coated with duck fat. Then I was ready to go out for a drink.
I met some lovely friends of my mother at the Russian Samovar, where my favorite flavor of vodka is now back in season. Ah, plum vodka! It has this gorgeous lavender color, slight sweetness, and tannin from the plum skin. I could really drink it all night long, and I might have, except I had dinner plans with lovemoss and Indigo.
We met at East Sushi on 3rd Avenue. Tom Hanks was mistaken when he claimed that life is like a box of chocolates. It's like a revolving belt of sushi.
Who has not had this same thought, languishing in the booths at East and watching life pass by on little plastic plates? It is a melancholy, fishy spectacle. Do you reach out and grab it? Do you look down the line to anticipate what is to come? Do you stare morosely at the yellowtail that got away?
I was tempted to invite my buddies back to the apartment for a "quick saute' of duck hearts and green grapes," but I couldn't bear the thought of more duck. I was perfectly happy with my Incredible Grapefruit Beverage. This is a cocktail that comes to your table in two parts:
1) A mug full of Japanese vodka and ice (that's right, a MUG full of vodka)
2) A citrus juicer with a split red grapefruit balanced temptingly atop it.
The drinker squeezes the grapefruit halves herself -- in itself, a pleasant sensual experience -- drinks enough vodka from the mug to make room for the juice, then pours it in. Not as good as a trip to Iceland, but refreshing nonetheless.
Strangely, despite all this drinking, I didn't get drunk, perhaps because of all the nourishing duck products I have been eating in the past few days.
I was like, Julie, look in my refrigerator and check out all the duck. She stared. Every shelf of my refrigerator is filled with gizzards and skins and hacked up bones.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked.
I could not answer. Why do any of us do what we do?
Julie and I had mint juleps and snacked on the liver. Then I made us duck breasts with rhubarb sauce. I sort of made up this recipe and it came out great. Julie brought me back this huge jar of vanilla beans from India and I've been having so much fun using them in things where I wouldn't normally use vanilla because it's so expensive. I've been discovering how lovely they are in savory dishes like this one. Rhubarb is in season now, so try this out! The sauce is very piquant -- only a little bit sweet. Just like Julie.
DUCK BREASTS WITH RHUBARB A LA JULIE
Two boneless duck breasts, skin on (if Pekin, rub with course salt, shallots and parsley and let sit overnight)
One big stalk rhubarb
1/2 C Brown sugar
One vanilla bean
One pod star anise
1/4 C Soy sauce
1/2 C Aromatic vinegar (I used a moscatel vinegar)
2/3 C Red wine
Chop rhubarb into medium dice. Just barely cover it with water and add vanilla bean (split and scraped) and star anise. Boil the rhubarb with water until it is softened and the water turns syrupy, about 10 min. Add about 1/2 C brown sugar. Mixture should be quite sweet, like jam. Add soy sauce, vinegar, and wine and boil down until reduced to about 1 C. It will be thick, like a glaze, and should taste tart and intense. Correct for your taste, adding more sugar or salt if necessary.
Score the skin of the ducks in a cross-hatch pattern. In a very hot pan with no oil, cook skin side down for 3 min, draining off the fat as it renders (you can save this to fry things in later). Turn breasts and cook about 2 min on the other side. You want them rosy rare. They should have that firmness that means they are not raw, but the give indicating rare. Let sit on a warmed plate in a warm oven for five minutes, then slice on the diagonal, like a london broil. This slicing tenderizes the meat.
It's really crappy that I don't have a digital camera, because this dish was beautiful. I served steamed, buttered snow peas on the side and we drank beaujolais, which was an error, but I have so many bottles of it left from my party. Riesling or some other aromatic white would have been better.
After Julie left, I realized with horror that I had to begin making the confit or the duck legs and wings would be left too long in the salt marinade, rendering them inedible. It was midnight. I somehow always do this whenever I make confit -- I time it so that I have to start making it when I am exhausted and drunk.
I rinsed the salt off the pieces and patted them dry.
I put all the accumulated skin and fat (except the neck skin I was saving to stuff) into the food processor, ground it up, and then put it on the stove to render. About an hour later, I had some clear duck fat and some crispy cracklings. I skimmed out the cracklings and put them in the frig to go on top of a salad in the future. Putting fried duck skin on top negates any health benefits of the raw vegetables, a technique pioneered by chefs at TGIFridays, where they put fried things on all their salads.
To the newly rendered duck fat I added all the duck fat I have in my refrigerator already (about five cups) from my last batch of confit. This is one of the great things about confit -- you can keep reusing the fat and it just gets riper and more fragrant, similar to sourdough starter or black socks.
BLACK SOCKS (to be sung as a round)
They never get dirty;
The longer you wear them,
The stronger they get.
I think I should launder them,
Something inside me says,
"Don't wash them yet."
Not yet. Not yet. Not yet.
OK, so I put the legs and wings and gizzards in the hot fat with a head of garlic cut in half and stuck with a clove. Then I set the flame on its lowest setting to keep the temp of the duck fat below 200 degrees. I collapsed into bed and set the alarm for four AM. The night consisted of fitful sleep, brief awakenings to check to the oil temperature, and halucinogenic dreams.
In the morning I had my confit. I sterilized my jar and poured it in to set. To make your own confit, follow Wolfert's excellent instructions in The Cooking of Southwest France.
Stay tuned for Day Three, in which, dazed from sleep deprivation, I stuff a duck neck, make stock, and drink refreshing summer beverages.
Gentle reader, embark with me upon a journey of duck! I love working with whole birds, because they are so generous. Nothing goes to waste -- even the fat can be rendered and used for cooking, the bones for stock, the livers for a delicious and nourishing snack.
We will spend the next several days cutting up and cooking in various ways, two ducklings. The ducklings in question are from Jurgielewicz Duck Farm in Long Island. They are free-range and "all natural" Pekin ducks. I normally use D'Artagnan ducks, but wanted to check out the competition.
(Cooking methods for ducks vary slightly depending on their breeds, the three breeds commonly found in US markets being the Muscovy, Pekin, and Moulard. I recommend Paula Wolfort's excellent book Cooking of Southwest France as a reference.)
The ducks cost $17 each from Fresh Direct and arrived frozen last night. I left them in my frig overnight to defrost.
Here is my goal for the ducks:
Sauteed Duck Breasts with Rhubarb Sauce
Preserved Stuffed Duck's Neck
Confit of duck legs, wings, and gizzards
Duck Liver Pate
Day One of the Duck Odyssey: Cut up ducks.
My kitchen looked like a brutal murder scene after I was done taking apart the birds. For each duck, I first cut off the neck skin and set it aside into Pile 1. Then I remove the creepy little bag of entrails from the body cavity. I fish out the livers and hearts and put them in a bowl of milk in the frig. I reserve the gizzards for confit. I cut off the wing tips and put them in Pile 2. I cut off the rest of the wings and place them in Pile 3. Detach the breasts from the breast bone so they are boneless. Reserve two of them for tomorrow's dinner for the lovely Julie (Pile 4). Skin two breasts for the stuffing of my Preserved Stuffed Duck Neck, put them in Pile 1. I cut off the legs at the thighs and put the legs into Pile 3 with the wings. I put the carcasses, which look like little empty rib cages, in pile 2 with the wing tips.
Now I have the following piles:
1) Neck skin and skin of two breasts -- to be stitched together tomorrow for stuffed duck neck. Two skinless breasts -- to be used for stuffing.
2) Wing tips and carcasses -- to be roasted for soup
3) Legs and wings -- for confit.
4) Skin-on boneless breasts -- for dinner tomorrow.
Piles 1 and 2 go in the frig. Pile 3 gets rubbed with a mixture of course sea salt, garlic, thyme and shallots and set in frig to marinate for 24 hours. Pile 4 also gets a salt marinade, though I'll only let this sit about 12 hours to prevent it getting too salty.
I scrub down the gore and collapse in bed, exhausted.
Cutting Up an Ox - Chuang Tzu
Translation by Thomas Merton, from "The Way of Chuang Tzu",
©1965 Abbey of Gethsemani
Prince Wen Hui's cook
Was cutting up an ox.
Out went a hand,
Down went a shoulder,
He planted a foot,
He pressed with a knee
The ox fell apart
With a whisper,
The bright cleaver murmured
Like a gentle wind.
Like a sacred dance,
Like "The Mulberry Grove"
Like ancient harmonies!
"Good work!" the Prince exclaimed,
"Your method is faultless!"
"Method?" said the cook
Laying aside his cleaver,
"What I follow is Tao
Beyond all methods!
"When I first began
To cut up oxen
I would see before me
The whole ox
All in one mass.
"After three years
I no longer saw this mass.
I saw the distinctions.
"But now, I see nothing
With the eye. My whole being
My senses are idle. The spirit
Free to work without plan
Follows its own instinct
Guided by natural line,
By the secret opening,
The hidden space,
My cleaver finds its own way.
I cut through no joint, chop no bone.
"A great cook needs a new chopper
Once a year - he cuts.
A poor cook needs a new one
Every month - he hacks!
"I have used this same cleaver
It has cut up
A thousand oxen.
Its edge is as keen
As if newly sharpened.
"There are spaces in the joints;
The blade is thin and keen:
When this thinness
Finds that space
There is all the room you need!
It goes like a breeze!
Hence I have this cleaver
As if newly sharpened!
"True, there are sometimes
Tough joints. I feel them coming,
I slow down, I watch closely,
Hold back, barely move the blade,
And whump! the part falls away
Landing like a clod of earth.
"Then I withdraw the blade,
I stand still
And let the joy of the work
I clean the blade
And put it away."
Prince Wen Hui said,
"This is it! My cook has shown me
How I ought to live
My own life!"
The best cookie I've ever had is the Key Lime cookie from Amy's Cookies. It's a chunky shortbread sandwich cookie with a thick layer of pale green buttercream peeking out through a hole in the top. The texture and flavor of the buttercream is sublime, and the shortbread has a lovely, sable'-like crumb. Not too sweet, very buttery, with a true key lime flavor, this just might be The Best Cookie in the World.
I got the one I ate today at Dean and Deluca, in a successful attempt to stop myself from buying anything at Bloomingdales. They also sell them at Blue Apron Foods in Park Slope, and at the Tea Lounge. (However, the Tea Lounge has them in an open case with lots of other foods, and they don't taste as fresh.)
When I first read Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I thought it was really clever and fun. Then a friend was like, did you read Louis Menard's New Yorker review of it? It was the only time that I've ever read a piece of criticism that radically changed my opinion of the art under review. I felt chastened and schooled.
Normally I dislike scathing reviews, as I feel they are so often motivated by some species of playa hating or positioning on the part of the critic. But Menard's essay is totally pure, even as it is bitchy. (At one point, Menard says of Truss's misuse of the semicolon, "She thinks it makes her sound like Virginia Woolf." Ooh, SNAP.) But the thing that's so great is, he doesn't just point out the problem, he suggests a solution, turning the negative review - shockingly - into a beautiful meditation on voice.
I was reminded of this piece because I'm teaching my writing students a unit on "Voice," which is pretty much impossible to define or teach. Menard gets pretty close, though, and I love that he uses James Agee as an example. Here's the end of the article, minus the Truss takedown. To read it from the beginning, go here:
One of the most mysterious of writing’s immaterial properties is what people call “voice.” Editors sometimes refer to it, in a phrase that underscores the paradox at the heart of the idea, as “the voice on the page.” Prose can show many virtues, including originality, without having a voice. It may avoid cliché, radiate conviction, be grammatically so clean that your grandmother could eat off it. But none of this has anything to do with this elusive entity the “voice.” There are probably all kinds of literary sins that prevent a piece of writing from having a voice, but there seems to be no guaranteed technique for creating one. Grammatical correctness doesn’t insure it. Calculated incorrectness doesn’t, either. Ingenuity, wit, sarcasm, euphony, frequent outbreaks of the first-person singular—any of these can enliven prose without giving it a voice. You can set the stage as elaborately as you like, but either the phantom appears or it doesn’t.
When it does appear, the subject is often irrelevant. “I do not care for movies very much and I rarely see them,” W. H. Auden wrote to the editors of The Nation in 1944. “Further, I am suspicious of criticism as the literary genre which, more than any other, recruits epigones, pedants without insight, intellectuals without love. I am all the more surprised, therefore, to find myself not only reading Mr. Agee before I read anyone else in The Nation but also consciously looking forward all week to reading him again.” A lot of the movies that James Agee reviewed between 1942 and 1948, when he was The Nation’s film critic, were negligible then and are forgotten now. But you can still read his columns with pleasure. They continue to pass the ultimate test of good writing: it is more painful to stop reading them than it is to keep going. When you get to the end of Agee’s sentences, you wish, like Auden, that there were more sentences.
Writing that has a voice is writing that has something like a personality. But whose personality is it? As with all art, there is no straight road from the product back to the producer. There are writers loved for their humor who are not funny people, and writers admired for their eloquence who swallow their words, never look you in the eye, and can’t seem to finish a sentence. Wisdom on the page correlates with wisdom in the writer about as frequently as a high batting average correlates with a high I.Q.: they just seem to have very little to do with one another. Witty and charming people can produce prose of sneering sententiousness, and fretful neurotics can, to their readers, seem as though they must be delightful to live with. Personal drabness, through some obscure neural kink, can deliver verbal blooms. Readers who meet a writer whose voice they have fallen in love with usually need to make a small adjustment afterward in order to hang on to the infatuation.
The uncertainty about what it means for writing to have a voice arises from the metaphor itself. Writers often claim that they never write something that they would not say. It is hard to know how this could be literally true. Speech is somatic, a bodily function, and it is accompanied by physical inflections—tone of voice, winks, smiles, raised eyebrows, hand gestures—that are not reproducible in writing. Spoken language is repetitive, fragmentary, contradictory, limited in vocabulary, loaded down with space holders (“like,” “um,” “you know”)—all the things writing teachers tell students not to do. And yet people can generally make themselves understood right away. As a medium, writing is a million times weaker than speech. It’s a hieroglyph competing with a symphony.
The other reason that speech is a bad metaphor for writing is that writing, for ninety-nine per cent of people who do it, is the opposite of spontaneous. Some writers write many drafts of a piece; some write one draft, at the pace of a snail after a night on the town. But chattiness, slanginess, in-your-face-ness, and any other features of writing that are conventionally characterized as “like speech” are usually the results of laborious experimentation, revision, calibration, walks around the block, unnecessary phone calls, and recalibration. Writers, by nature, tend to be people in whom l’esprit de l’escalier is a recurrent experience: they are always thinking of the perfect riposte after the moment for saying it has passed. So they take a few years longer and put it in print. Writers are not mere copyists of language; they are polishers, embellishers, perfecters. They spend hours getting the timing right—so that what they write sounds completely unrehearsed.
Does this mean that the written “voice” is never spontaneous and natural but always an artificial construction of language? This is not a proposition that most writers could accept. The act of writing is personal; it feels personal. The unfunny person who is a humorous writer does not think, of her work, “That’s not really me.” Critics speak of “the persona,” a device for compelling, in the interests of licensing the interpretative impulse, a divorce between author and text. But no one, or almost no one, writes “as a persona.” People write as people, and if there were nothing personal about the result few human beings would try to manufacture it for a living. Composition is a troublesome, balky, sometimes sleep-depriving business. What makes it especially so is that the rate of production is beyond the writer’s control. You have to wait, and what you are waiting for is something inside you to come up with the words. That something, for writers, is the voice.
A better basis than speaking for the metaphor of voice in writing is singing. You can’t tell if someone can sing or not from the way she talks, and although “natural phrasing” and “from the heart” are prized attributes of song, singing that way requires rehearsal, preparation, and getting in touch with whatever it is inside singers that, by a neural kink or the grace of God, enables them to turn themselves into vessels of musical sound. Truss is right (despite what she preaches) when she implies, by her own practice, that the rules really don’t have that much to do with it. Before Luciano Pavarotti walked onstage at the opera house, he was in the habit of taking a bite of an apple. That’s how he helped his voice to sound spontaneous and natural.
What writers hear when they are trying to write is something more like singing than like speaking. Inside your head, you’re yakking away to yourself all the time. Getting that voice down on paper is a depressing experience. When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music. This writing voice is the voice that people are surprised not to encounter when they “meet the writer.” The writer is not so surprised. Writers labor constantly under the anxiety that this voice, though they have found it a hundred times before, has disappeared forever, and that they will never hear it again. Some writers, when they begin a new piece, spend hours rereading their old stuff, trying to remember how they did it, what it’s supposed to sound like. This rarely works; nothing works reliably. Sooner or later, usually later than everyone involved would have preferred, the voice shows up, takes a bite of the apple, and walks onstage.
Looking for something fun to do tonight in NYC? Check out God's Pottery, a satirical Christian folk rock group, performing hits such as "Jesus I Need a Drink" and "The Pants Come Off When the Ring Goes On" at Comix. The show will be taped for Comedy Central and they want to pack the house. Also featuring comedians Todd Barry and Nick Kroll. Details and clips here.
Like the best satire, God's Pottery is nearly indistinguishable from the thing it sends up.
Twin hero gods of Mayan mythology, Hunahpu and Xbalanque played a memorable baseball game in Hell. Hunahpu and Xbalanque are the second generation of twins in the Mayan mythology. Their father and uncle, the previous generation of twins, also went down to the underworld to play ball and were roundly defeated, outfoxed, and then slain by the death gods. Here's the story of how the young twins avenge their ancestors' defeat, according to "Aztec and Maya Myths" by Karl Taube. (I paraphrase in places.) The original story is from the Popol Vuh:
. . .the hero twins learn to play ball at the ballcourt. The lords of Xibalba (Hell) are infuriated by the incessant pounding above their heads and send their owls to summon the twins to the underworld. In their descent to Xibalba, Hunahpu and Xbalanque successfully pass rivers of pus and blood and other deadly obstacles until they come to the crossroads. Here Hunahpu plucks out a hair from his shin and creates a mosquito to spy on the lords of Hell. The insect flies ahead and bites the lords, and as they are bitten they call out each other's names. In this way, the twins learn the true names of all the underworld lords.
When the twins arrive, they successfully greet all the lords by name, and they refuse to sit upon the burning hot bench which had previously trapped their uncle and father. The astonished lords of Hell then send the boys with cigars and torches to the House of Gloom, telling them they must keep the cigars and torches burning all night, yet they must be intact at the end of the night. The twins cleverly place red macaw feathers
on the torches and fireflies on the cigars to make them seem as if they are burning. At dawn the unburned fire brands and cigars are as new.
The twins then play ball with the death gods, eventually allowing themselves to be beaten. That night they face another series of tests, but by their cunning they pass safely through the House of Knives, the House of Cold, the House of Jaguars, and the House of Fire. Finally they are sent to the House of Bats, a room filled with fierce, knife-nosed bats. The twins hide inside their hollow blow-guns, but Hunahpu peeks out to see if dawn is approaching, and at that moment the killer bat Camazotz
snatches off his head. The head of Hunahpu is taken to the ballcourt, and all of the death gods and demons rejoice, because their victory over the twins now seems certain.
However, in the late, pre-dawn hours, Xbalanque calls on all the animals to bring their various foods to help. Some creatures present rotten things, others offer leaves and grass. Finally, the coati
arrives with a large squash, and Xbalanque places it against the severed neck of Hunahpu like a new head. Magically, the squash takes the form of Hunahpu's features, and he can hear and speak. The twins appear at the ballcourt at dawn as if nothing had happened. But they tell their friend rabbit to wait in the trees outside the ballcourt.
The death gods begin the game by throwing out the real head of Hunahpu to serve as the new ball. Xbalanque strikes the head so hard that it bounces out of the court and into the woods. At that same time, the rabbit bounds away, shaking the branches and confusing the death gods, who mistake the rabbit for the ball and follow it. The twins take advantage of this diversion to retrieve the head and swap it for the squash. When the death gods return, the twins throw the squash into the court. According to the Popol Vuh:
"The squash was punted by Xbalanque, the squash was wearing out; it fell on the court, bringing to light its light-colored seeds, as plain as day right in front of them."
Thus the confused and astonished death gods are truly defeated in their underworld court of sacrifice.