Guest Blog by Lynn from New Mexico Enchantment
There’s something to be said for comfort food. We all have fond memories of certain foods. These foods may symbolize special events or people in our lives or are associated with feeling loved and cared for.
When I left my home state of New Mexico, and moved 1500 miles away to Washington state, I didn’t realize how much I would come to rely on comfort food. It didn’t even occur to me how much I would need a taste of home now and then.
It didn’t take long for me to feel totally estranged from my previous life. I knew no one, I had no support system and worst of all, I had none of the food that was a staple of my life- New Mexican food. Trapped in the endless damp, gray winters I would start feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Where did my 360 days of sunshine go? Where did my warm middays go? And worst of all, why are there no decent Mexican restaurants?
I could justify not having chile relleno platters and sopapillas but I couldn’t stand not having any chile. Such a simple dish and so versatile. There was no way I was going to spend my time in Washington without it.
Red chile soon became my source of comfort.
I think my parents knew the move would be hard on me and my mom began sending me care packages of red chile powder. She would send a different brand every time until I found the one I liked the best. Then she sent it more frequently. That simple act made a huge difference to this expat desert rat.
When those long, dreary winters started I would start my routine also.
My process was perfected over the years. I tried tons of variations until I found the red chile recipe that was everything I knew red chile to be. Robust, spicy, and a hint of cumin. My movements in the kitchen fortified me almost as much as the finished product. It was always the same, once a week at least. Some oil and a touch of butter in the pan browning diced garlic. Mixing in flour to make a brown roux. Adding red chile powder and water. Stirring, stirring, stirring. Adding some salt and cumin, stirring some more. Turning the heat down and letting it simmer. Soon enough, the whole house was filled with the rich aroma of the southwest.
Red chile smells warm. It really does. That comforting aroma enveloped my soul from the crushing gray outside. Winter doldrums couldn’t touch me when I had red chile on the stove.
I cannot even describe the good it did my psyche to ladle steaming red chile on a pile of fries topped with cheese. Or to watch pork and hominy swim around in it as posole cooked. Pulling hot red chile enchiladas out of the oven couldn’t have been more fulfilling. And when there was only a spoonful or two left in the container, well, those scrambled eggs got a spicy little oomph.
After 6 long years in the Pacific Northwest I finally left and said goodbye to those depressing winters forever. My red chile recipe came with me. No matter where I go I will always make red chile. I learned the hard way that comfort food is called comfort food for a reason. Red chile is like a balm to my homesick moments and I am so grateful to have a taste of home when I need t.
What is your special comfort food? What is the story behind it?
I’m Lynn and if you’d like to see more of why I love New Mexico, come visit me at http://www.newmexicoenchantment.com.