Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The mystique of New Mexican Cuisine

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The mystique of New Mexican Cuisine

By Mei Wong
The Daily Magi
October 11, 2046


New Mexican cuisine is the regional cuisine of New Mexico. Part of the broader Southwestern cuisine, New Mexico food culture is a fusion of Spanish and Mediterranean, Mexican, Pueblo Native American, and Cowboy Chuckwagon influences. "New Mexican food is similar to but not quite the same as Mexican and Tex-Mex" foods preferred in Texas and Arizona. New Mexico is the only state with an official question - Red or green? - referring to the choice of red or green chile that one gets with many local meals.

Chile, beans, and corn have been described as the "basic ingredients of New Mexico cooking," and all are locally grown. One of its most defining characteristics is the dominance of the New Mexican chile in red and green varieties, depending on the stage of ripeness when picked. Other distinctive elements include blue corn, the stacked enchilada, and sopapillas into which honey is added moments before eating.

The New Mexico chile, especially when harvested as green chile, is perhaps the defining ingredient of New Mexican food compared to neighboring styles. Chile is New Mexico's largest agricultural crop. Within New Mexico, green chile is a popular ingredient in everything from enchiladas and burritos to cheeseburgers, french fries, bagels, and pizzas, and is added to the standard menu of many national American food chains. In the early twenty-first century, green chile has also become increasingly available outside of New Mexico.

Before the arrival of Europeans, New Mexico's current borders overlapped the areas of the Navajo, Mescalero, and Chiricahua tribes. The Spaniards brought their cuisine which mingled with the indigenous. At the end of the Mexican-American War, New Mexico became part of the United States, and was strongly influenced by incoming American tastes. This distinct history—combined with the local terrain and climate—has resulted in significant differences between the cuisine of New Mexico and somewhat similar styles in California, Arizona, and Texas.

New Mexico's population includes Native Americans who have been on the land thousands of years. Many residents in the north and the capital, Santa Fe, are descended from Spanish noblemen and explorers who came in the 1500s. Mexicans arrived later. "Anglos" and African Americans traded and settled after the Civil War. Most recently, Asian and Indochinese immigrants have discovered New Mexico. When New Mexicans refer to chile they are talking about pungent pods, or sauce made from those pods, not the concotion of spices, meat and/or beans known as Texas chili con carne. While chile, the pod, is sometimes spelled chili, chilli, or chillie elsewhere, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico made this state's spelling official by entering it into the Congressional Record.

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