Hatch : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

Gobble, Gobble

And here we find ourselves again on the eve of the Holiday of Big Eats. Of all the holidays each annual cycle brings, Thanksgiving and Halloween rank up there as my favorites. Mainly cuz of the snacking aspect so central to them both.

I do love a good day of eatin’.

So at this year’s Thanksgiving fest as I nosh and nom, I have many things to be thankful for.

I’ll start with gratitude for each and every reader of this blog. You may not be many in numbers, but you are huge in providing motivation. I love reading comments both here and on Facebook and each comment just spurs me on.

Thanks also for putting up with my most recent and quite maudlin post. I was in a pretty dark place that day. Writing the words out on the page always help me exorcise those demons. It is my greatest therapy.

I cried through just about every word of that post (a little awkward at work, so I had to stop and finish it up at home) but getting it all out really helped.

I’ve been a bit MIA since that post as I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff. Work got really weird last week and of course I am already weird, so when weird is doubled down, it’s not really a good thing.

The good news is that I am off work this week. I have to admit I didn’t know how much I needed a vacation. Needed it so much. Yesterday I slept in to a reasonable hour, something like 7:30, and got up and started doing stuff around the house. Then I felt nauseous and had vertigo. So I did the only logical thing: I went back to bed. For the whole afternoon.

Turns out my body was saying “Lay it down sister, we need rest.” I have been running full throttle for a long while and when I let off the gas, I needed to actually rest. So as much as I hated to lose a whole day of vacation, it was totally worth it.

Today I’m full of the usual quantities of both piss and vinegar, so it’s game on. Look out world, I’m back! And grateful to feel good again.

So I’m thankful for my job, the ability to take paid vacation days, and for rest. All of these together make me a better Karen.

I might also mention here how thankful I am for The Good Man who puts up with my special brand of crazy including chronic rantings and frequent bad moods. He is the cream in my coffee, the salt in my stew, and he makes me a better person every day. Thanks for being you.

Also, looping back to my dark post from last week, I am thankful for the magic of veterinary medicine. The Feline is back up on her paws. She still has a chronic and quite terminal condition, but with some medication, some subcutaneous fluids and some love, she’s almost back to her usual zippy almost 15-year-old self. Who knows how long we have left, but we have her feeling ok today. And I am very grateful.

And finally on this by no means all-inclusive list, I am thankful for my best friend who, earlier this year came to my home bearing bags of green chile that she had stowed in her suitcase. Yesterday I discovered them in my freezer and realized that two of those bags were chopped chile, just perfect for making a green chile stew.

As the chiles and cumin and potatoes roiled and boiled, I was thankful that I am a New Mexican, grateful for the mouthwatering food, and thankful that my New Mexican by way of Texas best friend in the whole wide world cares enough to share her chile stash. That’s love.

Most of all on this sunny and warm California Wednesday, I’m just happy to be alive, to be loved, and to have my place here on my little blog where I can be weird or depressed or lame or just simply be me, and that’s ok.

Happy Day of Gobble Gobble to you all! May you have a wonderful holiday, wherever in this big ol’ world you may be.

Had to post this image, it’s tradition.

Photo and doodle Copyright 2010, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone 4 using the Hipstamatic app.

From My Green Blood To My Little Green Heart

It’s late September and to a New Mexican’s heart that means green chile! And lots of it. The smell of roasting peppers mixed with the wood smoke from piñon logs burning in fireplaces across the state means Autumn.

And it means heartache for a displaced New Mexican like me.

So imagine my delight to be strolling in my local Whole Foods grocery and see this:

While I was happy, this paltry display also made me very, very sad.

So, what, I am supposed to pick up a *handful* of green chile and take it home? Sure, I know how to roast my own, but c’mon here people.

I want to see big burlap bags and big burly men behind a got-dang flame thrower.

I mean, the flame thrower is part of the whole experience! In Fall one goes from the whooosh of the burner in a hot air balloon in the morning to the blast of a flamethrower outside a grocery store in the afternoon.

The abuse of propane in all forms is built into the DNA of a New Mexican.

That’s where I come from! These are my people!

Photo of the puny display of green chile is Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5, the Camera+ app, and sadness in my heart.

Nothing To See Here

And so as I was perusing my Facebook timeline this morning, idly reading posts while breakfast was consumed, I came across a post from Chile Monster, a good group of folks that I follow.

Contained in their post was a link to an article about a woman who had moved to New Mexico and her first experience dining at Albuquerque restaurant Little Anita’s. She details how over time she learned to love green chile, and now living in Colorado, she found another location of Little Anita’s where she could get her fix.

In the comment section of that article was the following quote:

I have the greatest disdain for it. Green “chili” is disgusting gruel. Chile verde is supposed to be made from tomatillos.

— Diego Raya

When I read that, I actually jumped a little as though I’d been touched by a live electrical current.

Then I said aloud to my phone in the quiet dark of my living room, “Whaaat the f*****k?”

It was at this point that I laughed. This had to be a joke. The Good Man wearies of me raging against tomatillos. In California, green salsa and green enchilada sauce are made solely with tomatillos and thus I avoid them at all costs. Occasionally there are some jalapenos thrown in. All heat and no flavor.

That is, as the internets would say, weak sauce.

Why anyone would prefer tomatillos over green chile is a mystery to me. There is actually room in the world for them both. I believe true chile verde has both, but I won’t quibble with the adamant commenter.

In the aftermath of reading the quote, I went through many of the stages of grief. I was disbelieving. I was angry. I was sad. Then I accepted that one Mr. Diego Raya is entitled to his opinion. And also his utter lack of taste buds.

Then I realized, let Mr. Raya have his silly green tomatoes. Piles and piles of ‘em. Let him have the entire watery crop.

Eat, Mr. Raya, eat! Enjoy every last one.

Just leaves that much more green chile for me and my people.

Move along Mr. Raya. Nothing to see here.

O Fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so…

Image Copyright 2008, Karen Fayeth.

Am I Blue?

Yes I’m blue.

Heck yeah I am! A blue ribbon winner, that is.

Long time readers might remember last year when I brought New Mexico cooking to my local county fair. I whipped up a batch of biscochitos, the New Mexico State Cookie, and they were awarded the blue ribbon.

This year, I decided to bring New Mexico back to the fair by entering a special “Culinary Arts” competition.

The event? Enchiladas.

Aw, yeah.

I love making my version of enchiladas with marinated chicken and Hatch green chiles. So I signed up.

Today, I was quite nervous as the judges sampled my offering and wrote notes and counted points.

And then they awarded me first place!! Whoooooo!

How I beat the guy who made his own mole sauce, I’ll never know.

But what I do know is this. Anyone who wants me to whip up a batch? It’s gonna cost you, cuz I’ve got a double blue ribbon winning kitchen.

Oh Fair New Mexico…boo yah!

Photo by Karen Fayeth and taken with an iPhone4s, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.

Right Idea, So-So Execution

Imagine my joyful surprise when I heard about a new restaurant that opened recently in San Francisco.

Called the Green Chile Kitchen, it proclaims to “…serve New Mexican inspired food focusing on the distinctive flavors and traditions of this unique region.”

Wait. What?

“We use Bueno chile in all our dishes, which has been owned and operated by the Baca family since 1951.”

Hold on. I know (and have eaten of the) Bueno chile.

Can it be? Is it so?

Is there actually true New Mexican cooking near enough to me to make it matter?

So you know what happened next. I made The Good Man take me there (he’s better at navigating San Francisco and the part of town where this is located is really unfamiliar to me).

The verdict?

Well. It’s ok, I guess. So-so on the “I’m from there and know better” scale.

I chose the usual first dish I try at a restaurant to see if it passes muster: a plate of green chile chicken enchiladas.

Here’s how the plate looked.

Not bad, right? Pretty enough.

First thing I noticed was they used green chile pieces but not any sauce on the enchiladas. Hmm. I’m used to a plate dowsed in sauce and melted cheese. But the cook does say this is more Santa Fe style, so ok. I went along with it.

The enchiladas are made how I like, sort of stacked style, but even though I ordered the hot chile, I have to say the whole plate lacked that zing I like (and crave).

They could use a lot more cumino along with a heavy dose of both garlic and onions.

And this is just me, but I like refrieds more than whole beans with enchiladas. Also, I’m pretty sure they didn’t cook the beans with fatback which is a sin against nature my home state, if you ask me.

So I’d give this whole meal about a B, maybe a B+. Far better than anything else I can get around here. No where near as good as Nopalitos.
Oh, and you can see in the top corner of the photo, I tried the Green Chile Cafe’s horchata. I consider myself an aficionado. This version was pretty bland, I thought. They seriously need to cut loose with the cinnamon shaker. If we go back I wouldn’t order it again. Four bucks it too much to pay for GOOD horchata, much less disappointment in a glass.

Misty Water Colored Memories. Of the Way We Were. Orale.

In the wake of my most recent (and fabulous) visit to my home state of New Mexico, I find I’m getting my old crone on.

New Mexico has both grown and grown up over the last twenty years. I suppose change is inevitable.

But sometimes I still lament the way it used to be.

So here’s a top of my mind list of how New Mexico used to be. This just happens to be what I’m thinking about on my first day back in California on a stormy Bay Area day.

Grumpy McGrumperson’s List of “That was my New Mexico”

  1. It rained in summer. It snowed in winter. The Rio Grande bulged with water in July. Farmers irrigated their land. Sure, it was still a desert, but water didn’t cost $300 a cubic meter. Cotton plants grew tall. Pecans grew large. It worked. Now New Mexico is in the midst of a terrifying descent into serious drought and a mismanaged water conservancy.
  2. If you went to the Balloon Fiesta, there was never, not for one moment, a thought that you’d just sit there and watch. You were expected to pitch in, even if you were a small child. “Safety” and “insurance” didn’t ever come into mind. We just helped, because getting those hot air balloons off the ground was what we did in Albuquerque.
  3. Breakfast burritos at the Balloon Fiesta were cheap, incredibly delicious, and you bought them out of a battered ice chest and didn’t think twice about it. Same with tamales at Christmas.
  4. Pinto beans were made with pork. No one ever wondered about or protested this fact. Ever.
  5. If you ate a Biscochito, you didn’t question if it was made from lard. OF COURSE it was made with lard. And no one thought that was weird, bad or worried that it would make them fat. Anything but lard was unfathomable.
  6. Luminarias used a real candle. None of this electric hogwash.
  7. If it said Hatch green chile, you knew it was actually from Hatch. It seemed strange to even question.
  8. When you looked into a bucket of ice at a bar, and pulled out a bottle, it was beer. Just beer. None of these foofy malt-based sugared up drinks. Just beer. And decent beer. What’s with the light, light, oh so lite you can breathe it like air. Just drink a damn beer! Or don’t. (this comes straight from the events of this weekend. I grabbed what I thought was a beer. It wasn’t. *sigh*)
  9. While on a two lane highway, when someone passed the other direction, you gave ‘em a wave. Be it whole hand, the pointer finger, two finger Boy Scout style or whatever acknowledgement you like, you did it. And the other driver waved and smiled back. (in some places this still happens, but I got an awful lot of unreturned waves this weekend.)
  10. We didn’t call a tortilla a wrap. It was a tortilla. They weren’t made of spinich or tomato, and if mom made ‘em from scratch they were thick and oh so very good.

There’s more, I think, but that’s enough of what’s bothering me today.

I suppose time marches on whether I march in step or not. New Mexico can’t stay the same forever and neither can I.

Must be the dark clouds I have, both mentally and meteorologically, that’s got me all stirred up.

Wish I could find a way to send you some of this wet weather, my Fair New Mexico.

This Woman is a Saint

“Las Cruces resident Karla Barela, 38, places red chile pork on the corn husks containing masa to make tamales Saturday at El Indio Tortilla Shop. Barela started making tamales at 4 a.m. and continued to make them at 12:30 p.m. (Photos by Richard Davis / For the Las Cruces Sun-News)”

At the end of the article, Karla sums it all up:

“Without tamales…it wouldn’t be Christmas.”


Customer Service Has Not Died

Despite all appearances to the contrary, customer service has not died.

Nope, there is still a small patch of wonderful service to be found in Southern New Mexico.

You’ll recall a week ago, I wrote of my joy and my subsequent despair regarding buying actual New Mexico grown chiles here in Northern California.

In that blog post last week, I mentioned that I wrote a rather terse letter to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, complete with photographs, about my sorrow.

In fact, I’ll let you in on the text of my actual letter, sent to Mr. David Lucero at the NMDA:


Dear Mr. Lucero – I found your email address from the www.nmda.nmsu.edu
webpage, though I’m unsure if you are the right person to contact.

I am a native New Mexican now living in Northern California and while on
a Southwest Airlines flight, I was happy to see an ad in their inflight
magazine for Hatch Green Chile coming to a long list of supermarkets in
my area.

My husband and I plan to buy a lot as we enjoy our green chile
throughout the year by finding kind friends back home to bring us the
good stuff.

While at Whole Foods recently in (town name redacted), California, I saw a sign for “Hatch peppers” and I was very happy (Whole Foods was on the list of stores that would carry the product).

As I picked a few from the pile, I looked closer at the sign and I
noticed it said “grown in California.” (see photo attached)

Now, I’m confused. Is this the “real thing” as advertised by the NMDA
and just mislabeled? Or has someone appropriated the Hatch name for
not-Hatch peppers?

I chose not to buy any that day as I’m unsure.

Hence why I’m coming to you for advice and guidance.

Are Hatch chiles going to be available in the Northern California Bay
Area? Also, is someone perpetrating a terrible fraud by selling
California grown peppers under the branded Hatch name?

On behalf of my family, we thank you and appreciate any guidance you
would provide.

All my best,

Karen Fayeth


Honestly…I expected no reply.

Imagine my surprise when not only did I receive a VERY nice email from Mr. Lucero thanking me for providing this information, he also told me that he’s taken up the issue with his national Whole Foods buyer (who was cc’d on the email) and also with his shipper, Seco Spice (also cc’d on the email).

Then, and here’s where my mind gets blown, Mr. Lucero indicated that a Mr. Ogaz from Seco Spice would be happy to send me along a box of roasted and peeled chile if I’d be willing to pay shipping.

Holy jumping jehoshaphat!

So I’m currently getting shipping costs from the very kind Mr. Ogaz.

That’s amazing.

I want to publicly thank both Mr. Lucero and Mr. Ogaz for helping a poor New Mexico expat find her way home via the ol’ dinner plate.

By the by, I checked with my friends down in the greater Las Cruces and Anthony metropolitan areas and they know the Ogaz family and Seco Spice and can vouch that they are top notch people and growers.

So here’s a HUGE public thank you and a plug for the good people over at Seco Spice and the NMDA.

: sniffle : It makes me very proud to be a New Mexican.

Roast, My Pretties! Roast!

Can’t think of a better smell.

Oh…wow…speaking of Fall….great photo of the burning of Zozobra from the ABQJournal. (you are right, NewMexiKen, my gloom might have been in the Zozobra. I’m feeling better just looking at that photo.)

The Delicious Eagle Has Landed

So there I am, sitting on a Southwest Airlines flight, headed for El Paso.

As we haven’t yet cleared 10,000 feet, I can’t use my Kindle, so I’m idly flipping through the pages of the Spirit in flight magazine.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an ad for the beautimous Hatch green chile.

The copy claims that this precious commodity will be for sale in many grocery chains near me!


I unceremoniously tore the ad out of the mag. I had to clutch it to my heart!

I showed the ad to my friends there in the southern part of New Mexico, and they told me that due to NAFTA, the local farmers are getting beat out on selling their beautiful crops.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture is putting on a marketing drive to try to stir up some sales.

The tagline? “Get Your Fix.”

Why yes, I think I will. Thankyouverymuch.

So I was in my local Whole Foods store, perusing the fresh produce, when my peripheral vision locked on the word, “Hatch.”

There, in my very store, shiny green peppers stacked high.

I RAN over to the display.

But my brain said, “hoooooold on a minute.”

I looked a little closer at the sign.

Can you read the sign in this image?

It says, “Hatch peppers” and just above that it says, “Grown in California.”

What the @#*$%@&*^%$!!!!


Just no.

This is not right.

This is NOT correct.

This is definitely not ok.

So I laid the waxy green vegetable back on the pile and walked away.

This was not the treasure I sought.

Over this Labor Day weekend, I wrote a terse email to the NMDA asking them if the word “Hatch” can be applied to California grown chiles, or if this sign is in error.

I await their reply.

Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I ran to the Nob Hill Foods (also known as Raley’s) near where I work to pick up a couple things. I never shop at Nob Hill, but it was the closest grocer near work.

Once again, my “Hatch” radar picked up something at the periphery.

I fear I couldn’t get excited.

I slowly walked toward the word “Hatch” and sniffed the air near the display.

And I looked closely at the sign. They spelled “chile” wrong.

But still…could it be? Have I found the good stuff? Did I just accidentally stumble upon The Precious?

Yes. Yes I did.

I filled a produce bag to bursting and made them mine. Those beautiful chiles sat in the backseat of my car all afternoon, and they made the inside of my car smell heavenly.

This year, The Good Man finally gets to know what the smell of roasting green chile (and the smell of Autumn) is truly about, because it will permeate the corners our home.

Aw. Yeah.

Lighting a votive for, uh, peace?

Oh, this could be a serious and solemn post.

It’s not gonna be, however.

So you see…my rock star mom-in-law is a Brooklyn girl, and at the holidays, she has traditions in keeping with where she was raised.

In her words: “Not untypically for someone from Brooklyn in my day for most of my adult life, I’ve made Italian food for the holidays. Often the menu included a seafood dish like spaghetti and clams for Christmas or New Years Eve and usually a lasagna on Christmas Day.”

Italian food? Oh I’m ALL about that.

This holiday season it was her very generous idea to celebrate the holidays with the foods from my childhood in New Mexico.

That means tamales that we handmade together, a pan of Hatch green chile enchiladas and a big pot o’ beans.

To help set the atmosphere, my mom-in-law brought over some accoutrements including Mexican hot chocolate, a tortilla warmer, and an Our Lady of Guadalupe votive candle.

We lit Our Lady up and enjoyed dinner by her warm candlelight.

So the holidays passed by, as they will. The Good Man and I began to dismantle the holiday displays in our home and put things away.

Our Lady of the Fabulous Christmas Feast had been on the coffee table for a couple weeks, but after New Years she had disappeared. The Good Man had stowed her away somewhere. Fair enough, right?

But then…I was rather startled to, uh, find her.


I call her “Our Lady of Fartima.”

The Good Man never laughs when I do.

But I crack myself up every time. I think being able to make your ownself laugh is the key to a long life.

Side note to Ephraim: I realize yesterday I promised to try and keep it classy on the blog today. I failed miserably. I’ll try again on Monday, ok?

What is wrong with this picture!!!?!??!

Ok, I recognize this is a terribly blurry iPhone photo, but take a look at this.

What you may not be able to tell from that photo is the label on my avocado, purchased at my just down the street local supermarket, says “New Zealand Hass”.

What. The. Eff?

I live in CALIFORNIA for crissakes!

We make very fine Hass avocados RIGHT HERE. For the love of pete, people grow them in their backyards!

Why I gotta eat something grown halfway ’round the world?

I didn’t even think to look, I saw Hass avocados, and I grabbed two soft ones off the top. I naturally assumed that since these babies are so plentiful locally that California grown would be on the shelves.

But noooooo!

And I’ll tell you this…it’s a terrible avocado too. Stringy and bland.

I am ticked.

The only redeeming value for that grocery is that they also carry this:

It is to weep.

That may be the only item I procure from those folks from now on.

(Apologies to Avelino and Meredith, fellow ex-pats. I’m guessing DC grocers don’t sell the good stuff. I tip a loaded chip to you both!)

Music, sweet music, to my ears

“The green chile harvest should begin in earnest in the next two to three weeks, said Stephanie Walker, extension vegetable specialist at New Mexico State University.”

“As long as the weather keeps cooperating, we’re going to have an excellent, excellent crop.”

Oh yes.


: sniiiiiff : Oh yeah, that’s the stuff

Earlier today, in a meeting at work, one of my teammates was given a gift from our clients. It was a really nifty wool stadium blanket.

Another lady asked to look at it, and when it landed in her hands, she brought it to her nose and took a good deep smell.

Just writing that…I know you know that smell, right? Nothing else smells like wool.

I smiled, because I was across the table and I knew exactly what she was smelling. I thought to myself about my own memories of the smell of wool.

Usually winter, outside, snowy day in Albuquerque (the only time it would be cold enough to wear a wool sweater). That perfect storm of smells combined, wool, a snowy day, a bit of sweat and the dirt on my mittens (that got there from making a snowball to lob, offline, at my brother).


So then this got me thinking about the deep associations made from odors, both good and bad.

But I was thinking about good…about the smells I deeply love.

The first that immediately came to mind was leather. I mean, unless you are a PETA advocate, who doesn’t love the smell of good leather?

Just that smell can dredge up lots of happy memories.

Like…the combined smell of leather and saddle soap you get upon opening the door to a tack room. Especially when I was taking riding classes at NMSU, because that tack room had rows and rows of saddles, all smelling nice.

Or…back when we first started dating, The Good Man had this black hard-leather jacket. It’s now too big for him and I think he recently gave it away, but I can easily remember that smell. Hugging him really tight, sinking my face into the shoulder of that jacket and inhaling deeply, tattooing the scent of cute boy and leather deeply into every single cell of my being.


Or, or….how about the smell of a new baseball glove? So many kids will get a new glove and spend lots of time with that thing firmly over the face inhaling. Nothing like that smell.

But I seem to be stuck on leather…

What’s another good smell?

Oh, I know! So…up and down the peninsula here, they have tons of Eucalyptus trees. Early in the morning or very late at night (depending on what side of the nightclub you’re on), when you get the heavy damp fog, it makes those trees let go that very distinctive scent.

The moist, cool damp and Eucalyptus smell… when I travel somewhere else, and then come home, I always latch on to that smell first. It’s SO the Bay Area. Easily identifiable by anyone who has ever lived here.

Here’s an easy one for all the New Mexico folks…the smell of chiles roasting. Utterly identifiable…for miles. So reminiscent of home.

Summer rain on hot pavement. God I love that smell!

Sheets washed with Downy and dried on the clothesline. Haven’t done it in years, so who knows if it smells good anymore? Doesn’t matter, in my memories, it’s always fantastic. I think it helped being in NM because stuff dried really fast and didn’t pick up too much environmental yuck.

Home baked cinnamon rolls served on Christmas morning.

The soap and water smell of my husband just after he emerges from the shower. So delicious! (ok, that’s two about The Good Man, sorry!)

This is kind of funny, but how about the first time you noticed the distinctive smell of money? For me, it was after getting paid allowance for the first time with the kind of money that folded, not jingled. That dollar bill smelled like potential to me.

Aw, heck, I suppose I could go on all night this way.

I’m sure there’s some scientist who would explain how odors can make such vivid memories (like here), but I don’t need to know the science.

Right now, I’m sitting on the couch, watching a baseball game…thinking of how the yard smells on a nice July night like this. Garlic fries, hot dogs and marine layer.


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