Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chile/i in New Mexico

Photo courtesy of the Hatch, New Mexico website

The peppers in New Mexico are chile peppers (with an "e"); the semi-official state question is "Red or green?" (The bill designating this as the official state question was passed by the NM legislature some years ago, but vetoed by former Governor Gary Johnson as "lacking merit".) If you can't decide, you order "Christmas" (a mix of red and green).

The dish (with beans, meat, tomatoes, etc.) is chili, though it's much more popular in Texas (where it is the official state dish--do you think the state legislatures might have better things to think about?) than it is in New Mexico. (However, the last words of Kit Carson, who spent much of his adult life in New Mexico, are reputed to have been: "Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.")

I've been a chili lover my whole life (it was a favorite recipe of my Anglo-Irish mother)--and love to try different versions of the dish (different meats, with or without tomatoes, different kinds of beans, etc.).

Just came across a wonderful poem by New Mexico poet Simon Ortiz, who hails from the Acoma Pueblo. Here's about half of the poem to give you the flavor (so to speak):

How to make a good chili stew--
this one on July 16, a Saturday,
Indian 1971

It's better to do it outside
or at sheepcamp
or during a two or three day campout.
In this case, we'll settle
for Hesperus, Colorado
and a Coleman stove.
Chili (Red, frozen, powdered, or dry pods. In this case,
just powdered because that's all I have.)
Beef (In this case, beef which someone who works in a
restaurant in Durango brought this morning,
leftovers, trim fat off and give some to the dog
because he's a good guy. His name is Rex.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Onion (In this case, I don't have any, but if you do have
some around, include it with much blessings.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Put chile and some water into a saucepan with bullion,
garlic which is diced, and salt and pepper and onion
which I don't have and won't mention anymore because
I miss it and you shouldn't ever be anyplace without it,
I don't care where.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In the meantime, you can cut the meat (which, in this case,
I should mention, was meant for Rex the dog but since
it was left over from just last night and it's not bad--
I know 'cause I tasted it--that's alright, but if you
can afford it, cut the lean meat) into less than inch
pieces and you don't have to measure, just cut it so
it looks like cut meat.
Make sure you smell the chili in the saucepan once in a
while and think of a song to go along with it.
That's important.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Smelling and watching are important things, and you really
shouldn't worry too much about it--I don't care
what Julia Child says--but you should pay the utmost
attention to everything, and that means the earth,
clouds, sounds, the wind. All these go into the cooking.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Further Directions to Make Sure It's Good
Don't forget about the chili.
Look all around you once in a while. (In this case,
the La Plata Mountains in southern Colorado. It's
going to rain soon on them and maybe here too
if we're lucky.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Waiting For It To Get Done
Oh, maybe about two hours for the chili to simmer
and then put in the hominy and cover with water
and simmercook for another two hours.
It's also good to have someone along,
and in case they don't know how too good
you can teach them, slowly and surely,
until they're expert. It will take more than
one time but that's okay and much better.
It's best to do anytime.
At Last
Well, my friends, that's all there is to it,
for the chili stew part, but as you well know
there is more than that too. So good luck.
And you can eat now.

No comments: