Yesterday I posted about homophones — words that sound exactly the same, but have a different spelling and a different meaning. Today, I thought I would feature some homophones in a different light: Chilly means it’s cold outside; chili is a spicy meat and tomato stew, often made with beans and served with cheese, onions, and cornbread; chile is the pungent, sometimes hot fruit integral in several ethnic dishes.
Earlier this week I was reminded of a fun song featured in a Disney movie — Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo tells a wonderful tale of magic-making making magic happen! A little of this and a pinch of that — that’s how I feel when I try a new recipe, especially if it turns out GOOD! It’s like magic!
But wait, THERE’S MORE! Yes, it sounds pretty boring to talk about cooking — but I’ve only been a “homemaker” a little more than a year, so a day without burning water is a mighty fine day! And yes, I have burned water. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be. More to the point, there are fun and delicious foods which are difficult for a New Mexico native to find in Tennessee! Things I took for granted — green chile stew, tamales, stacked enchiladas — if I wanted a taste of home, it was going to have to be homemade.
And that was the tricky part. I had very little experience in the kitchen (there are so many amazing things in there). I could microwave popcorn, but homemade biscuits (with homemade buttermilk as an ingredient) was well out of my wheelhouse. Turns out the big firebox was an important part of making biscuits. Measuring spoons and cups and bowls — apparently there’s a science to baking and the proportions need to be exact! To consider something more difficult was daunting.
But I was brave! And I was hungry. I had developed a taste for spicy, authentic New Mexican food in my adulthood. I grew up on Tex-Mex, which is great! Chili and cornbread is still one of my favorites. But Tex-Mex is not the same as New Mexican. Green chile is still fairly novel to Texas. Who knew? In order to satisfy my fiery palate, I was going to have to don this mantle of “homemaker” and learn to cook! But first, I had to import green chile!
“Why don’t you just buy some at the grocery store?” one might ask. A fair and valid question: the stores in my small Tennessee town only carry small cans of green chile. I didn’t necessarily want fresh-picked chile to roast, peel, and package. Canned green chile and green chile sauce are fine for some things, but for green chile stew, you MUST have a decent quantity of green chile, at least two cups — a full pint! — I prefer more, and it needs to be roasted. Canned green chile does not have that roasted texture or flavor one craves.
Frankly, fresh is a pain to deal with — literally — you do not want to get green chile juice in your eyes or nose! If you’re preparing a bushel or two (and it’s pointless to do less) at some point, there will be contact. Frozen was my preference: not growing up on New Mexican cuisine, as mentioned previously, kept me ignorant of green chile until later in life. Therefore, I was satisfied with frozen, and I was not a connoisseur, nor emotionally attached: There were no memories of my mom, my tias, and my abuela gathering together to peel green chile. Tamales, yes — but that’s a tale for another day.
I found a place that would ship frozen Hatch green chile at a not unreasonable price. So I ordered, and then wondered what was I going to do with all that product? I needed to find some recipes!
Did you ever feel like a mad scientist? It was a little like that. Reading recipes, lists of ingredients, temperature this, saute that. Yup, Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, indeed! Gathering all the accoutrements of a modern homemaker (including sharp, scary knives!) I was ready to tackle this thing. I had conquered homemade biscuits, I felt that if necessary I could make tortillas, but this was the BIG LEAGUE now. Could I make green chile stew?
I was pleased to learn that while baking may be an exact science, there was a lot of leeway in this stove-top cooking deal. Especially if you paid attention and didn’t burn stuff! Between Facebook and a couple of friends back in New Mexico, I was ready for battle! I attempted New Mexico Green Chile Stew with frozen green chile, in Tennessee — and it was good! Good enough to take to a potluck supper. Good enough that there wasn’t any left! You should try it!
(CONFESSION: The linked recipe is not the one I used. However, I will be glad to share my recipes with you. I find many of them online. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!)
I have accepted a challenge to post to Medium each day for thirty days as part of the Ninja Writers May Post-A-Day Challenge. If you enjoyed this, I would ❤ a “recommend heart” from you. In addition to the writing I do for submissions, exercises, letters, texts, emails, and my regular (but neglected) blog here, this is quite an undertaking; one I have been assured is doable! I have a “writing buddy” who is encouraging, funny, and talented! She helps me stay on track. (Are you listening, Song? That’s YOU!) At the very least, I am honing my craft as a writer and hope to entertain, encourage, or educate you in the process! Thank you for reading!
Please feel free to join me in my journey! I am learning as I go and welcome your comments. Send me a Tweet @sylviah_s!
Coming soon — An author’s page!