Monday, January 30, 2012

National Corn Chip Day

Let’s Celebrate Fritos and Frito Pie!

There’s no doubt that Fritos are the quintessential American corn chip. There is simply nothing quite like the tasty snack. In 1932, Elmer Doolin was so taken with the bag of corn chips served with his lunch in San Antonio, Texas, that he paid $100 for the recipe and started the Frito Corporation. His company refined the chips, mechanized the process, and then moved the company to Dallas to market the product. The new company was named the Frito Company and in 1961 it merged with the H. W. Lay Company to form the snack king corporation called Frito-Lay, Inc. Although there are many brands and types of chips, no one has been able to copy the distinctive taste, texture and crispness of Fritos. And so, when a recipe calls for Fritos, nothing else will do.

Original Fritos ingredients are limited to whole corn, corn oil and salt. Fritos are now made in the following varieties: Original, Barbecue, Chili Cheese, Flamin' Hot, Tangy Roasted Corn, Sabrositas (lime & chile), Scoops (wider chips intended for dipping), Pinch of Salt, Dirty Mexican Chicken, and Ranch Style.

The classic Frito pie is this: a single-serving bag of Fritos, opened lengthwise and topped with chili or chili beans, Velveeta cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. For the hearty, green chiles and/or jalapenos are added.

As to its true origin, some say Frito pie actually did get its start at the Woolworth’s on the Santa Fe Plaza in the 1960s, as a dish created by lunch counter worker, Teresa Hernandez. Corporate lore at Frito-Lay, however, claims that Daisy Dean Doolin, mother of the man who first bought the rights to market Fritos in 1932, not only perfected her son’s product, but also created the Frito pie recipe as a way to help market the corn chips. Regardless, this dish is extremely popular throughout the Southwest, especially Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. ~Jean

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Tamale

A tamale (in Spanish, “tamal”) is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of steam-cooked corn dough (masa) with or without a filling. The most common filling is pork, but chicken is also used, in either red or green salsa or mole. Tamales can also be filled with cheese, sliced chiles, or other ingredients. The tamale is wrapped in a corn husk before cooking. Tamales are a favorite dish in Mexico that take several hours to prepare and cook. In Northern New Mexican cities and towns, many locals market homemade tamales in shopping areas and supermarket parking lots. For those who love tamales, but don’t have the time or skill to prepare them, this is an easy way for them to enjoy the classic Mexican treat. ~Jean

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aimee’s Haiku for January

snowing blowing through
upsy daisy limbs askew
when the year is new

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Roast Pork with Sweet and Sour Chile Cilantro Sauce


Pork Roast
1/3 cup coriander seeds
1-1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 lb. center-cut boneless pork loin roast, butterflied

Chile Cilantro Sauce
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup caribe (crushed New Mexico red chile flakes)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Pork Loin
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coarsely crush coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee/spice grinder, then stir together with bread crumbs, oil, pepper, and salt in a small bowl.

Turn pork so a long side is closest to you and season with salt and pepper. Pat one third of seasoned crumbs onto pork, leaving a 2-inch border along top edge. Starting with side nearest you, roll meat into a cylinder and tie securely with kitchen string. Coat pork with remaining crumbs.

Roast pork on a rack in a roasting pan in middle of oven 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer diagonally inserted at least 2 inches into meat registers 155°F (approximately 1 to 1-1/4 hours more). Let pork stand, loosely covered for 10 minutes.

Make sauce while pork roasts:
Simmer bell pepper, caribe, honey, lime juice, and salt in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened or about 30 minutes. Cool sauce to warm or room temperature, then stir in cilantro just before serving.

Slice pork and serve with sauce.

Note: Sauce (without cilantro) may be made two days ahead and chilled, covered. Heat over low heat until warm and stir in cilantro.


For Authentic New Mexico Chile visit the Taos Unlimited Food Section

Friday, January 20, 2012

High Desert Plants & Wildlife, The Wild Burro, Part 6 in a Series

A “wild burro” is an unbranded, unclaimed, free-roaming burro found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS), administered rangelands. The greatest number of wild burros live within the arid deserts of the Southwest. Wild burros are descendants of pack animals that wandered off, or were released by prospectors and miners.

The wild burro was first introduced into the Desert Southwest by Spaniards in the 1500s. Wild burros have long ears, a short mane and reach a height of up to five feet at the shoulders. They vary in color from black to brown to gray. Wild burros can survive in a wide variety of desert habitats as long as they are within 10 miles of drinking water.

Originally from Africa (where they were called the Wild Ass), these pack animals were prized for their hardiness in arid country. They are sure-footed, can locate food in barren terrain and can carry heavy burdens for days through hot, dry environments.

Early prospectors relied heavily on burros as they trekked long distances across the deserts in search of gold and silver. Many of these burros survived, even though their owners perished under the harsh desert conditions. Many more burros escaped or were released during the settlement of the West. Because of their hardiness, wild burros have thrived throughout the North American deserts, and their numbers have increased to perhaps 20,000.

Federal protection and a lack of natural predators resulted in thriving wild burros that grow in number each year. BLM monitors rangelands and wild burro populations to determine the number of animals, including livestock and wildlife, the land can support. Each year BLM gathers excess wild burros from areas where vegetation and water could be negatively impacted by over use.

These excess animals are offered for adoption to qualified people through BLM’s Adopt-a-Horse or-Burro Program. From 1973 through 1999, BLM has used this popular program to place more than 25,000 Wild Burros into private care.

Learn more about Wild Burros in the Plants & Wildlife section of Taos Unlimited

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Movie Locations of the Great Southwest: Part 1 in a Series

The Last Picture Show (1971)

This movie is perfect for January discussion and viewing. It’s set in such a bleak, dead-of-winter reality, you can almost feel the chill as you watch it. That’s why I chose The Last Picture Show as the first in our series of excerpts from Movie Locations of the Great Southwest.

My thoughts on the movie:
Since the first time I saw this movie (in the theater, like you had to back then), it has been one of my all-time favorites. With the brillance found in all Larry McMurtry stories, it captures the isolated, small Texas town of the 1950s to a T. And the cast is unbelievable! Just to see the first on-screen and almost-first on-screen performances of Cybill Shephard and Jeff Bridges is worth the price of admission, but here we have so much more! The stories of the characters are sad, funny, pathetic, charming, and depressing... and it makes for a really good movie experience. Today, some people may not get the depth of this film and the reason it is so amazingly good, but at the time, the critics and industry folk got it and awarded it accordingly.

I almost drove down to Archer City to witness some of the filming of The Last Picture Show, but decided to use my gas money for another road trip. I’ve regretted that decision for a long, long time. I think it could have been one of the best experiences of my life, but I was young (only 20 years old) at the time, and other adventures were calling me. But, oh, to have seen Archer City! ~Jean

Movie Synopsis:
A group of 1950s high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that has been slowly dying, both economically and culturally, along with its older generation of cynical, hardened, and hopeless townsfolk.

Location Site: Royal Theater, Archer City, Texas
The Royal Theater is the iconic image most connected to The Last Picture Show. It is located at 116 S. Sycamore Street in Archer City. When filming began, the theater itself had already fallen into great disrepair, and only the outside facade was used in the movie. The production crews for The Last Picture Show (and its sequel, Texasville) spent considerable money and effort to prop the building up for filming purposes. But, ironically, the inside shots that were supposed to be the Royal Theater were filmed at a then still-active theater in nearby Olney, Texas. More...

See the entire feature about The Last Picture Show in Movie Locations of the Great Southwest on Taos Unlimited

Monday, January 16, 2012

National Hat Day... was Yesterday

We honor National Hat Day with the celebration of the Cowboy Hat!

The Cowboy Hat has become so iconic that it can be worn virtually anywhere in the world and receive immediate recognition. Before the invention of the cowboy hat by John B. Stetson, cowpunchers of the plains states wore hats leftover from previous occupations. Top hats, derbies and Civil War caps, as well as tams and sailor caps were all worn in the early days of the western frontier. The first cowboy hat was designed in 1865. As the story goes, John B. Stetson (and some of his companions) went west to seek the benefits of a drier climate. During a hunting trip, Stetson amused his friends by showing them how he could make cloth out of fur without weaving.

After creating his fur flannel, Stetson continued the joke by making an oversized hat with an enormous brim. But he, and his company, noticed that the hat would be useful in protecting the wearer from rain and sun. Stetson decided to wear the hat on his hunting trip. He was so happy with the outcome, that he continued wearing it on his travels throughout the West. In 1865, he began producing the first line of his oversized hats, and before long, his "joke" became known as the cowboy hat. The original Stetson hat sold for five dollars. Today, the cowboy hat is a link to the Old West, lending its wearer an air of rugged individuality and playful enjoyment that still rings of Stetson’s humorous invention. ~Aimee

A Bit of Cowboy Hat Movie Trivia: In the 1960s Doris Day movie, “Pillow Talk,” Rock Hudson’s fake Texan persona is named “Rex Stetson,” although he never wears a cowboy hat in the film’s New York City setting. Hudson did, however, succeed extremely well in impersonating a Texas oilman, making the sex-farce comedy one of the top box office hits of the year. In one piece of dialogue he tells Day that being with her is "like sitting around a pot-bellied stove on a cold, winter mornin'." Now, that's a real down-home compliment, if I ever heard one! ~Jean

Friday, January 13, 2012

Three Cultures of Good Luck


The Milagro
Literally meaning “miracle,” a milagro is a charm or talisman, sometimes offered to a particular saint, and made in their image. Milagros are also made to represent animals, an affected part of the body, or an object. Often connected with specific prayers, these charms originated with the ancient Iberians who inhabited Spain. Milagros have been used extensively in Spain and the Americas for centuries, and are made from many different materials, depending on local customs. They can be flat or fully dimensional, and fabricated from gold, silver, tin, lead, wood, bone, or wax. They are often made as a charm, to be pinned to, or nearby the statue of a saint.

In New Mexico, the majority of milagros take the form of small metal charms, and can be found adorning shrines and devotional niches. In recent times, milagros have evolved into charms used in jewelry which can be worn on the person, as an amulet, or purely as decoration.

The Ristra
Each year after the harvest, chiles, garlic and other produce are hung out to dry to save for later consumption. They may be made into a wreath, or tied at various heights on string, a form which is known as a ristra. Chile ristras can be found throughout New Mexico, conspicuously hanging from portals by the front door to welcome visitors and bring good fortune to the home.

Traditionally, chiles were also used as amulets to ward off malaria, the plague, the evil eye (mal de ojo), bad luck, and bewitchment. Thus, another part of the belief that chile ristras bring goodness or good luck in general. Originating in Mexico, this practice has spread throughout the Southwestern United States.

Native American

The Fetish
Zuni fetishes depict animals and icons integral to their culture and mythology. According to Zuni tradition, there were animals associated with each of the six directions which were carved for ceremonial use, as well as others with ceremonial meaning. Additionally, fetishes might be a power animal for the carver, embodying the spirit of the animal as protection and to lend strength to its bearer.

Other Zuni fetish carvings depict animals and reptiles such as the frog, turtle, buffalo, deer, ram, otter, and others. There are many more subjects of contemporary carvers, including dinosaurs, for example, which would be considered non-traditional. In addition, there are numerous insect and reptile fetishes which are integral to Zuni mythology and folklore, petroglyphs, and patterns of design in pottery: for example, dragonflies, butterflies, water spiders, and lizards.

Fetishes were carved from stone indigenous to the region, or procured by trade, the most important of which was turquoise, which is considered by the Zuni as the sacred stone. Jet, animal shell and coral were also frequently used. Other materials used include jasper, pipestone, marble, and organic items such as bone and deer or elk antler. There are some Zuni carvers who will not carve fetishes from bone or antler, considering the practice to be dangerous.

The Kachina
Kachinas are depictions of spirits, often in the form of a doll, traditionally made for ceremonial uses. There are virtually hundreds of Kachinas, some with meaning to one or several related tribes, while others appear almost universally in tribal legends.

Perhaps the most well known Kachina is the Kokopelli. Found also in the mythology of the Zuni, Kokopelli is a Hopi fertility god, also known as a prankster, hunter, healer, musician, dancer and storyteller. As a fertility spirit, many Kokopellis found as petroglyphs were depicted with an erect phallus, but contemporary Kokopellis tend to be more modest, wearing a long loincloth or tunic which covers the genital area. While many believe that Kokopelli was humpbacked, tradition has it that he carried a trader’s bag on his back.

In some Hopi tales, Kokopelli’s bag contains gifts that he uses to attract women. In others, he carries a baby on his back and leaves it with a young woman. As a trickster, he appears in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples. Kokopelli’s flute is similar to the flutes used in Native American religious rituals. As a hunter, Kokopelli may play the flute to attract the mountain sheep he is hunting. The Zuni call him a rain priest and connect him and his music with the gift of rain. According to the Hopi, Kokopelli warmed the land and the winds by playing his flute as he led them to their homeland. And lastly, some legends suggest that Kokopelli was a real ancient Toltec trader who played the flute and traveled routes between Mexico, the West Coast, and the Southwest.


The Horseshoe
When kept as a talisman, a horseshoe is said to bring good luck. The most common belief is that hanging it with the ends pointing upwards is good luck. Some feel this is because the horseshoe itself is good luck, and this keeps the luck in. Others believe that the horseshoe acts as a container which catches any good luck that happens to be drifting by. Many believers hold that to hang the horseshoe with the ends pointing down allows the good luck to fall out. There are others, however, who believe that the shoe should be hung with its ends pointing down, as it will then release its luck to the people around it.

Horseshoes were considered lucky in part because they were made by blacksmiths, which was considered to be a very powerful and lucky trade. Blacksmiths were thought to have special powers because they worked with elemental fire and iron. Iron was considered magical because of its superior strength and ability to withstand fire. Centuries ago, iron was used as a charm to ward off evil spirits.

Another aspect of the horseshoe that added to its good luck was the fact that it was commonly held in place by seven iron nails; seven being thought of as the luckiest number since ancient times. Life was thought to be divided into seven ages; a rainbow has seven colors; astrology once held that seven planets made up the universe; a seventh child was thought to have special powers; there are seven days in a week; the moon changes from one phase to another every seven days; and the body is completely remade every seven years.

The Wishbone
Sometimes called the “merrythought” in Great Britain, the wishbone is the collarbone of fowl, especially the chicken and the turkey. It is the custom to save this bone intact when carving the bird at dinner and to dry it over the stove or by the fire (or sometimes, to dry it for three days in the air, three being a fortuitous magical number) until it is brittle.

Once the merrythought is dry, it is given to two people (usually children), who pull it by the pinkie fingers until it cracks and breaks, each one making a wish while doing so. The person who gets the “long half” of the wishbone will have his or her wish come true. This wish must never be spoken out loud and must remain secret to the wisher or it will never come true. If the wishbone breaks evenly, both parties get their wishes.

The term “wishbone” is believed to have come from the ancient Italians who read the future in the bird’s entrails. It is believed that people also started thinking the wishbone was lucky because they were sure that hens and cocks were fortune tellers at soul, as proven in their ability to foretell the break of the day.

As an amulet the wishbone represents wish fulfillment and is sometimes artistically represented in gold or silver pendants or brooches. The term “getting a lucky break” originated from the wishbone ritual, referring to having received abundance or winning a prize. The wishbone has also been used as a fertility charm. Maidens would hang wishbones over the doorway in their homes to attract a suitor to their hearth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Adobe

Definition: “A kind of clay used as a building material, typically in the form of sun-dried bricks; a brick of such a type or a building constructed from such material.” Origin: “mid-18th century: from Spanish, adobar meaning ‘to plaster.’”

Adobe has long been the traditional building material of the Southwest. Structures made from it are undulating and sculptural in nature, yet their mass gives them a sense of permanence and timelessness. The word adobe originated in the Arabic language and was brought to America by Spanish colonists at the end of the 15th century. It is used to refer to the earth from which structures are built, the structures themselves, and the unbaked clay bricks made from the earth.

In New Mexico, archaeologists have discovered remnants of adobe walls built by Pueblo Indians that date back to 1200 AD, 400 years before the arrival of the Spanish. From that time, through the 15th century, there is evidence of two types of earthen walls. One was coarse adobe, which started with a stiff mixture of mud and was blended with anything from stones to pot shards. The mud was applied by the handful, layer on top of layer, until the desired wall height had been reached. A more sophisticated method made use of hand-formed, unbaked clay bricks. When the bricks were dry, mud mortar was used to hold the bricks in place on the wall.

Believe me, nothing can take the place of the feeling you get when you enter an old, well-maintained adobe structure. In the summer, it’s akin to walking into a cool, refreshing cave; and in the winter, there is nothing more delightfully cozy than sitting in front of an authentic kiva fireplace. Ultimately, it’s a big part of the process of truly being in touch with the wondrous and sacred land that is America’s Great Southwest. ~Jean

See our special feature about Adobe on Taos Unlimited

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tomorrow is... National Bird Day

Why National Bird Day?

• The beauty, songs, and flight of birds have long been sources of human inspiration.
• Today, nearly 12 percent of the world’s 9,800 bird species may face extinction within the next century, including nearly one-third of the world’s 330 parrot species.
• Birds are sentinel species whose plight serves as barometer of ecosystem health and alert system for detecting global environmental ills.
• Many of the world’s parrots and songbirds are threatened with extinction due to pressures from the illegal pet trade, disease and habitat loss.
• Public awareness and education about the physical and behavioral needs of birds can go far in improving the welfare of the millions of birds kept in captivity.
• The survival and well-being of the world’s birds depends upon public education and support for conservation.

To find out more visit the National Bird Day website

Monday, January 2, 2012