I’ve called New Mexico “home” for over twenty years and have no intention of ever leaving. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets; the cultural and linguistic diversity; the unique topography of high deserts; the glorious mountains; the long history of Native peoples and Spanish settlements; the adobe architecture; and the food …. Ah, yes! The food!
My favorite meal on a cold, winter day: a bowl of pinto beans from the Estancia Valley, gently stewed for hours in well-water, Mexican oregano and garlic. Then ladle a generous helping of red chile, and round it out with a chewy tortilla made with strong, brown hands and a generous heart. The red chile brings a depth of flavor difficult to describe. Left on the plants a few weeks longer than their green brethren to absorb the New Mexico summer sun, the mature, red chiles lend a sweet, smoky taste to everything they meet.
My roots stem from New England and Sicily. My father’s family immigrated in the 20th Century from another beautiful, sunny place with cacti and pinon/pinoli. My mother’s family represents the waves of immigrants that arrived in America: Dutch settlers in the 17th Century, Germans in the 18th Century and Irish in the 19th Century. I epitomize the American Melting Pot. For the last 350+ years, each of my ancestors brought their unique languages and cuisines to our shores and used local ingredients to adapt their Old-Country recipes.
I grew up in Colorado eating many of my mother’s New England foods. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook was the cookbook in our house. I inherited my grandmother’s copy and after it literally broke in half from frequent use, I was given my own copy (which also eventually broke in half from frequent use). I lived in Boston after college and honed by New England palate by exploring local ingredients and recipes: the rich array of seafood, apples, squash, berries, corn, molasses and other delicacies that were staples for generations of New Englanders.
The Sicilian culture of my father’s family was equally strong. The scent of frying onions and garlic whisks me to the kitchens of my grandmother, aunties, and parents. Early in her marriage, my mother received cooking lessons from her mother-in-law because Nonna did not want her “baby” to starve. As a result, my mother’s chicken cacciatore is the best I have ever eaten. So good, in fact, that I neither attempt to make it myself, nor do I order it in restaurants. Why bother? It is my father and his mother who taught me how to make the braciole from her Sicilian village – a recipe that has been passed down across an ocean and a continent and through many generations – linking me directly to her mother, grandmother, and other relatives in the old country.
I married a Southerner and have spent the last three decades exploring the foods of his region. (I love me some boiled peanuts – preferably from a roadside stand in a Styrofoam cup!) When I visit his relatives in New Jersey, South Carolina, and Georgia, I am struck by the incredible diversity of our country’s cuisines and foods. Whether it’s pork roll, grits or grouper, I’ve enjoyed and adapted these foods to my repertoire. And, as I’ve moved and travelled to different places around America, I’ve been enveloped by the local cuisine, farmers, ranchers, and food artisans – all contributing to my mental recipe box.
My cousin and I are foodies. We love to eat. Actually, I think we love to cook more than we love to eat. For us, cooking is a measure of our love for our friends and family. Our grandmother was like that. She would literally feed us breakfast in bed (seriously!) as she showered us with love and food. We were blessed to share our grandmother with each other, and we’ve been blessed to share our lives and this project together.
We started on this journey years ago and solidified plans in early 2017. United In Food started with the sentence, “Wouldn’t it be neat if we ….” and evolved from there. Our dream is to unite communities through their respective food scenes, creating a web of consumers and producers who come together to provide a sustainable community and economy. I invite you to join us on this journey! Drop by each week for our blogs – or, better yet, sign up for the newsletter – and peruse the information we’ve put together. Reach out and let us know how we’re doing, whether information has changed, whether we missed a market or class, or anything else you’d like to share with us. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to our family … our journey.
Pepper + Pixie, December 20117