There are some places that just exude a certain character. A vibe that is unique to the locale.
Austin, for example is weird. And Austinites are very proud of the collective weirdness that is their city. Kind of like what would happen if Seattle,WA and Berkley,CA got together and had a baby. It is very much a college town, and as the state capitol, also a haven for political crusaders. Left-wing nuts and right-wing nuts, and every persuasion in between. Lobbyists with a cause. And a Mayoral candidate who was most recently employed as a cross-dressing “working girl”. The world’s oldest profession, after all. This gentleman ran under the slogan “Keep Austin Weird”. If I lived in Austin, I probably would have voted for him, if for no other reason than he was honest about his intentions. I am not going to go into the many and varied foods available in Austin, because Two Chicks and a Fork do a great job of that. Check out their blog for some great critical reviews of what they are eating in and around Austin…
Some other cities, that I think have a stand out vibe uniquely their own…
New Orleans—Jazz greats and southern gentility, voodoo queens and vampire lore—all comingle nicely for a sometimes haunting, always distinctly New Orleans feel. The city just feels like a very old soul, where someone can connect with the history, traditions, and even ghosts of their ancestors. And the food culture is amazing. The influences of the French, the Spanish, the African cuisines….all bubbling away together in a stewpot of culinary delights. The Acadian and Creole dishes that made them famous continue to influence modern cuisine, with new chefs rising through the ranks in New Orleans in some of the most renowned restaurants in the world (Brennan’s, Galatoire’s, Commander’s Palace, Antoine’s etc..). If it weren’t for oppressive summer humidity, and of course, the whole under the sea level thing, I could live there very happily.
San Francisco—I always thought I would hate San Francisco if I ever saw it. Too big city for a country girl. Too liberal for a God-fearing conservative chic from Texas. Oh man, I was way off base on this one. San Fran is my favorite big city. The vibe is hip, friendly, healthy, and fun. There is so much to see, and do. Staggering views, and lovely weather–never too hot, and never too cold. The people were friendly, and diverse, and tolerant. The best meals I have ever had I had in San Francisco. Excellent food at great prices. I can’t wait to go back.
But of all the places that really sing to my soul, New Mexico may sing the loudest. The art scene in Santa Fe, the skiing and shopping in Taos, the scenery in Angel Fire. Who doesn’t love beautiful mountain scenery, and a good layer of fresh powder? There is an air about the place that oozes serenity, and peace, and being one with God, with nature, with your own spirit. But it is so much more than that. Of all the different blood lines I have floating around in my Heinz 57 self, I feel the most connected to my Native American ancestors. People at one with Mother Earth—in harmony with the other living things around them. Utilizing resources responsibly, and with utmost respect. People who worked hard, took care of their loved ones, and honored their ancestors. The food of the Native American cultures was beautiful in its simplicity, and honored the land from which it came. Incredibly good food, prepared off the land. In New Mexico, the food cultures of the indigenous people seem to have survived, and even flourished more so than in any other place in the United States. Navajo Fry Bread, Posole, Green Chili, Blue Corn, all have become part of the fabric of American food culture, and many are now often included in haute cuisine creations. Any visit to New Mexico would be sinful without eating green chili dishes.
One of my favorites is green chili pork posole. Pork meat and posole stewed with copious amounts of chopped green chilies…Hearty, warming, redolent of the land and people from whence it came…
Here is my recipe for it, and now is the time of year to make it! Enjoy!
Green Chili Pork Stew
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast or country style chops
- salt and pepper
- 2 T olive oil
- 3 T chicken base or bouillon
- 3 cloves crushed fresh garlic
- 2 pounds frozen posole (Wal Mart freezer section)
- 2 pounds frozen brick diced green chilies (Wal Mart freezer section)
- 2 cups chopped cilantro
- juice of 1-2 limes
- salt to taste
Salt and pepper the meat liberally. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add meat and brown. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add water to cover, and chicken base. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, and water to just cover–simmer on medium low for 3 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste, and additional lime juice if desired. You should be able to taste the tartness of the lime juice a bit.
Garnish: crumbled Mexican cheese (queso fresco) or shredded Monterrey Jack, diced avocado, crushed tortilla ships.