I grew up in NM, and moved away a few days before turning 22. I never put a lot of thought in NM culture. That is, until I went out for “Mexican” food in Colorado and was grossly disappointed. What I failed to notice was that there is a difference between Mexican and NEW Mexican food. How is a girl to know? In Albuquerque, all the New Mexican restaurants say “Mexican” food, hence my confusion!
So you might ask, what is the difference? What is New Mexican food? For one, it’s delicious. I figured I would share a part of the culture that people may not know (unless you’ve been to NM).
Green chile is made from chopped, roasted chile peppers (usually from Hatch, NM). They smell so good when being roasted. Red Chile is made from dried chiles that have been ground. No vinegar is used in Chile Sauces. My mom adds some tomato sauce to red chile sauce to thicken it and give it some extra flavor. I could eat it with a spoon. Most traditional NM dishes come with pepitas (or chopped, fried potatoes) and pinto beans…covered in cheese and chile sauce. Also, sopaipillas or puffed, fried bread is served and usually free at the end of each meal in a New Mexican restaurant. Most people put honey on it, but some entrees come with meats in the sopapilla (or stuffed sopaipilla).
Here are a few other dishes I happen to LOVE:
Green chile, cheese, sausage, evaporated milk, cream of mushroom soup. It’s a dip for your chips! YUM.
This isn’t the best photo. I should have taken one of my mom’s enchies. Corn or flour tortillas (I like flour), with chicken or beef (I like chicken), rolled. Covered with cheese and red and/or green chile. You can get flat ones too. Enchiladas are one of my favorites!
puffed, fried bread… put honey on it. DELISH
Meat rolled in cornmeal, and put into a corn husk (served with red chile)
This is a photo of a burrito, and often it’s served this way. It is marinated cubes of pork in garlic, red chile, and oregano.
Salsa…NM salsa is different from Mexican salsa.
It is made with chile, and can be thicker at certain restaurants. It is WAY hotter than Mexican salsa in a lot of cases. We joke here that you run out of salsa before you run out of chips (meaning we put tons of salsa on a chip!)
This is what’s on the NM flag. The Zia or ancient sun symbol. It is supposed to symbolize the sun, with rays pointing in 4 directions. (it is from the Zia Pueblo/Native Americans) The Zia Native Americans believed that the giver of all good gave gifts in groups of four. Notice that each ray has 4 lines as well.
- The four directions – north, east, south and west.
- The four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter.
- The day – sunrise, noon, evening and night.
- Life itself – childhood, youth, middle years and old age.
All of these are bound by a circle of life and love, without a beginning or end.
This sign is very special to me because the sun is a very special entity.
So there you have it, a little NM culture. I’m sure I left things out, so feel free to add whatever in the comments section!