Here’s what we do in Logan for Labor Day weekend: Put Up Our Chile. And yeah, we do some other stuff – there are garage sales throughout the Village to take advantage of the Ute Lake crowd, there are afternoons on the water, there are barbecues and dinners. But what we do most of all and what trumps other activities is putting up our chile.
It doesn’t just start with the putting up. The process starts about a week beforehand for those of who are lucky enough to be on Chris Flannagan’s speed dial. “Bunny, you want chiles again this year?,” Chris asks. “Of course,” I reply, “two (or three or four) bags of Big Jim Medium.”
Some years I vary on the type, but I’m always happiest with my Big Jim Mediums. So this year I say yes to two bags.
Then Chris, our Logan High Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor, and a friend or two, take pickups and horse trailers to Hatch, where they load up burlap bags of chile (275 bags this year), which are then driven home to the parking lot next to the car wash. They take our FFA’s two chile roasters out of storage, and on Thursday night before Labor Day weekend, the roasting begins.
I could probably get my chile somewhere else, maybe for less than $35 a bag. But part of the fun is in the experience, the getting to write my check to those smiling FFA girls under that blue tent, getting to watch kids I know dump chile out of the roasters into the trash bags while I visit with my neighbors at the check-out table (I’m always taken back to the days when we had to do our chiles on the grill – the hours and hours of the adults standing around the grill while we waited for just one delicious chile to sprinkle with garlic salt and taste. . .).
Part of the magic is also getting to smell that amazing aroma of roasting chile throughout the Village of Logan for the entire weekend. Sometimes the aroma doesn’t last that long – in the past two years, they’ve run out before 10 a.m. on Saturday.
As my readers know, I love green chile. With a passion. I picked up my chile at 7:45 a.m. this morning. I’ve already taken my bags home and had pureed chile with garlic for lunch (just dipped it up with some jicama and then some tortilla chips). Now I get to go home and finish the process of peeling and bagging my 50 lbs of chile. It’s an annual ritual with it’s own brand of zen peacefulness. Sometimes I do it with friends, and sometimes Dave’s around to help. But what I love most is standing at my kitchen sink, looking at the lake, remembering all the countless years in the past when I’ve stood at a sink somewhere peeling chiles. All I can say is Thank God I live here in New Mexico. This is an annual ritual I never want to miss.
By the way, if you ask nicely and if he agrees, I’ll give you Flan’s phone number for advance ordering next year. It’s a real tragedy when they sell out before you get your bags purchased.
I’d love to hear your own chile ritual stories. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how you celebrate chile season. Because, believe me, it’s worth celebrating!