Enchanting Stories of New Mexico - Episode 39 - From Solar Eclipses to Breakfast Burritos

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Episode 39 - From Solar Eclipses to Breakfast Burritos

Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World. Today is World Green and Red Chile Day. It runs from January 1st to December 31st. Every day is Chile Day.

A couple days ago on Saturday there was the big solar eclipse which was quite visible in all of New Mexico with the center of this eclipse being right there in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I was in Las Cruces, and it was quite dramatic here if you had the ability to look at the sun without eye damage by having eclipse glasses, which we did. In fact, we went to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park Northeast of Las Cruces. It was amazing how many families were able to do the seven mile on a dirt road journey, but I tell you it was well worth it. We hiked up to an amphitheater above the main building. The guides had extra glasses so everyone got to see at 10:36 a.m. Saturday the entirety of the solar eclipse.

One thing I was thinking about amid all the people locally and from afar, how the solar eclipse might have been if it was hundreds of years ago, yes, they had these same solar eclipses back then. In Native American culture many cultures understood the dynamics of eclipses and predicted them accurately in the last few centuries. Not all, though.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was one of the very first European tourists to come through Southern New Mexico. OK, it wasn’t New Mexico at that time since Don Juan de Onate had not come through and wouldn’t for sixty-three more years. Now it was not Cabeza de Vaca’s intent to see the wonderful environs of our little slice of paradise, but he got stranded in Florida after a shipwreck in the present-day Tampa Bay area of Florida. The local Native Americans took the Spaniards prisoner and over seven years he and three others, the only survivors moved east to west. The way he got free of the first captors was that he knew of a solar or lunar eclipse coming up and said he was all-powerful and a healer of note. As one of the officers on the Spanish ship commanded by Panfilo de Navaez, he had the astronomical data about eclipses. Remember Christopher Columbus on his fourth and very last voyage got the Jamaica natives to provision him out of a bad situation by being able to predict a total lunar eclipse March first, 1504. He was armed with the facts.

Evidently Cabeza de Vaca and his companions did much the same. So that group of Native Americans gave them supplies and sent word that very powerful Europeans were coming. They made it to present day Galveston and turned north. The went through Cloudcroft and then down to El Paso. Yes, none of these places existed then. Up to Las Cruces and then West to Tucson and down to Mexico City. Afterward he wrote a book of his adventures which, imagine this, is still available to buy. You can read the adventures as he wrote them. Still in print and it is quite interesting.

One more note, when Cabeza de Vaca came through Southern New Mexico, he wrote in his travel book afterwards that what impressed him was that the Native Americans in our area made bread by grinding up Mesquite Beans and he was interested to note that they always added a small amount of river dirt for flavoring. Now friends I like to make bread but have never made Mesquite Bean Bread though I chew Mesquite Beans when I am out walking and unlike others, I have done so since being a kid on my grandfather’s ranch and I like the taste. Oh yes, and I have never used dirt as a flavoring, and I would suggest never ever doing it.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

About this time every year I think of a column I wrote in 1992. It is a story of perception and what to us in America may seem a charming and quaint tradition but might not be to other people. The story is from a friend named John, an Immigration Intake Counselor for Vietnamese Refugees in Long Beach, California, in the early 1970s. John spoke Vietnamese. His job at the Immigration Intake Center was to help the people coming through the center understand what they needed to do. For those people in the 1970s, it was the first day of their new life in the United States of America. Most didn’t speak English and were fleeing the oppression and death in their homeland. John wandered around talking to immigrants. He showed immigrants that Americans were good people, and they were safe in America. John listened to the people chatter about this wonderful America. He heard a thousand times how these people were so glad and grateful they made it to the safety of America. First thing each morning John would work on his daily reports and paperwork to the music of these people walking by his office and talking happily. Except for one day.

One day in late October, John was busy working on a pile of paperwork when he became aware that the people walking outside of his office were agitated. He could tell by the tone in their voices that they were not happy. He looked up from his desk and saw frightened faces walking by as they talked excitedly.

John stepped to the door to catch some of their conversation. He heard them say they were going to kill their headmaster for talking them into coming to this terrible and evil land of America. Several said the Communists were right about how awful it was in America. John was in shock. He had never heard of things like this. Another group said the same things. John made his way through the crowd. The normally happy people were sullen. On his way to report this his American perception came into focus.

While he didn’t participate, he noticed the staff had decorated in celebration of Halloween. Several were dressed in full costumes. These poor boat people’s first view of an American was a woman dressed to the hilt as an evil witch with purple skin. It was touch and go for the next hour as John and the rest of the counselors explained this quaint American tradition.

At last, everyone settled down. He heard several groups comment that Americans were good people but wow, they did crazy things. John says he has never liked Halloween all that much since that day. I bet the Vietnamese Immigrants also have a story to tell about their first day in America which was Halloween. I wonder and have no way of knowing if they picked up that custom or not. When I was teaching at Albuquerque High School in 1976, I had several of the boat refugees in my classes and one was on my Table Tennis team that year. Shuckins, I never even once though to ask him about that story. It's too late now, but know that not everyone loves Halloween.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

I was asked one day about the very famous Southwestern Breakfast Burrito. The question was, who invented it which got the answer that it was probably invented long before the regular use of Tortillas and Chile but a New Mexican Restaurant in Santa Fe, Tia Sohpia’s had it on their menu in 1975. I had already been eating Breakfast Burritos long before then. My Tia, my aunt, Shirley in Roswell had it on the breakfast table in the 1960s at their house west of Roswell on Pine Lodge Road where my brother, sister and I would stay during the Summer break. Uncle Ralph and Aunt Shirley liked beans, cheese, eggs, onions, and lots of Chile almost every meal. She even made Green Chile Quiche which was and is delicious. Now when I make breakfast burritos, which I do often, I also add bacon, tomatoes, hash browns and whatever tasty stuff is handy. Let me assure you none of the burritos I make go to waste, more often than not, I find myself making one more batch because they are so good, especially with my favorite Red and Green Big Jim Chile Sauce. Red and Green together is often called Christmas Chile and I just call it very good to eat.

Boy, that make me hungry thinking about the Chile and Onions that come from our growing area. I really appreciate the generations of farmers in Hatch New Mexico that have enabled Chile with an e to be a household taste. Speaking of Sun-Dried Hatch Red Chile, it is one of the best tastes of the Fresh Chile Company. Now with it getting more into the Fall and the nice taste on a cooler day of Posole, well now if you are making posole, this Sun-Dried Hatch Red Chile is what brings out the best taste of New Mexico.

The Fresh Chile Company has a new product that can take a good Hotdog and make it Extraordinarily Great. It is a taste sensation which combines Mustard, Pickle Relish, Medium heat Jalapeño and Sweet Onions. This condiment in a jar has lots of flavor and a very nice kick to it with medium heat Jalapeño. The name you will find in the Fresh Chile Company website is Hatch Jalapeño Mustard Relish. One more thing that is great about The Fresh Chile Company. It has Freeze-Dried Hatch Green Chile in 3, 6, and 12 packs. What I like about the Freeze-Dried is that no refrigeration is needed. It is so convenient, especially for people hiking. I really like this product and it really takes the flavor of dips and sauces to the max.

One more taste delight. It is called the Game Day bundle. It involves Hatchup, Sweet and Spicy Mustard and Sweet and Spicy BBQ. These three sauces will really pick up the game day grilling and eating. For people who like French fries with catsup, wait until you use some Hatchup which is Hatch Red Chile with catsup. It is ever so good and tasty. The Red Chile has just enough kick to really improve all kinds of treats.

One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces or is in our slice of paradise. They can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop. There is a big sign over the entrance saying The Fresh Chile Company.

This is Michael Swickard with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts, If you have something or someone you want me to talk about, write to: michael@freshchileco.com

Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better as long as it is Hatch Valley Chile.” Bye for now.

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