Cooking With Myra: Two-thousand miles of food and fun
By Myra Starkey
March 26, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 25, 2013 at 10:26 p.m.
As we rolled back into our driveway, the odometer registered 2,054 miles. Taylor had zeroed it as we started the journey eight days before.
We had completed a round trip from South Texas to Taos, N.M., from near sea level to mountain passes up to 11,000 feet and from what seemed like early summer here to tromping around in snow there. This was no heroic accomplishment.
We drove it in a comfortable Ford F-150. Almost 200 years ago, folks did it on horses and mule-drawn wagons, braving hostile Comanches and waterless expanses. We only had a week off work, so we took the truck.
Santa Fe, N.M., is a gorgeous town that sits on the edge of the mountains in the high desert at an elevation of 7,000 feet. The weather is cool and dry. The skies are of the deepest blue, and the houses and buildings are adobe brown and blend into the landscape. The area was first occupied by the Pueblo Indians in about 1000 A.D. and was settled as a colony by Spain in 1610. We arrived 403 years later and were hungry and ready to eat.
Our first stop was at the convention center downtown for the annual Bead Show. I loved it because I enjoy stringing my own bead necklaces and earrings. There were vendors from all over the country, and they have beads and other things to put on necklaces from all over the world. Our friends, Robert and Mary Ann, had arrived the day before. Robert and Taylor are not into beads, so they left the womenfolk behind so they could do something more manly.
That evening, we went to a quaint Italian restaurant, and I ate more than I should have since I had skipped lunch. My sleep was restless that night because of excess food, high altitude and a strange bed. Taylor had found and reserved a small, very old adobe house to rent. Adobe is simply brick made of mud, which is then plastered inside and out. This makes for great insulation from noise and temperature changes.
The next morning, we were up early for a true New Mexican breakfast at The Pantry. This is a roadhouse diner that has been around since 1948. I don't know why we were up so early. I was on vacation and tried to remind everyone present of that fact. Mary Ann and Robert are like country folks who just love to get up even before the crack of dawn.
In fact, they have probably already had coffee and read the newspaper and fed the chickens before daylight. Anyway, aside from their fondness for getting up so early, we have much in common with them and greatly enjoy their company.
I had a large bean burrito filled with chorizo and smothered in red and green chili sauce, New Mexico-style. When one orders both colors it is called "Christmas sauce." The red had a deep, musky flavor, almost earthy tasting and the green had a tart, spicy taste. I had fried potatoes on the side.
Mary Ann and Robert split a burrito, and I noticed that although they were struggling to finish I was having no trouble at all. Taylor intercepted my plate when I was almost done so he could have a taste. He had ordered boring and non-adventurous eggs over easy with a side of bacon.
We had New Mexican food for several more meals after that. It usually involves this red and green sauce. They use lots of peppers in their food. They don't roll up the tortillas when they make enchiladas but rather stack them flat with the ingredients between the layers.
Instead of serving Mexican rice as a side dish, they serve spicy hominy. That would probably be the case since corn would be raised in their arid environment rather than rice being grown in the wetter climates of Texas.
I felt so happy to be in the sunshine with no schedule. Being on vacation means you don't really have to look too often at your watch. Your stomach will tell you when it is time to eat, the cloud in your head when it is time for afternoon coffee and the heaviness of your eyes when it is time for bed. And if not for an early rising spouse, who would know when it would be a good time to end one's slumber?
We'll continue this adventure next week as we head north to Chimayo and Taos.
I wanted to recreate some of the food from our New Mexico adventure. I was laden with New Mexico red chile pods, ground red chiles and several cookbooks. I hoped I could master the sauce since the red and green sauces are the basis for many of the meals.
I prepared a rib eye steak rubbed with red chili powder, garlic and drizzled with olive oil and lime juice. The Santa Fe slaw is a colorful side, which shows up with many variations and is a perfect accompaniment to a meal. Serve with a side of posole.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.