Back in the 1950s the late folk singer Pete Seeger put music to the first eight verses of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, and like clockwork every August I’ve got The Byrds singing Turn, Turn, Turn bouncing around in my head. You know how it goes:
“To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted…”
And now is the time to roast what has been reaped. As sure as swallows will return to Capistrano and buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio, chile roasters are returning to Socorro sidewalks and roadside stands.
Can you smell them now, roasting away with that sweet aroma wafting through the air? It’s a fragrance that’s unmistakable, and with something that intoxicating, it’s a wonder it’s not illegal.
I’m talking about the best Joe Parkers, Big Jims, Barkers, Sandias and jalapenos to be found in the state.
I guess there’s probably well over a couple of dozen chile growers in Socorro County, with some selling at stands and others that ship ’em off to restaurants and packers and the like.
One time a few years ago we bought 30 pounds of green chile fresh from the field, unroasted, in a big burlap bag from Glen Duggins out at his place in Lemitar, and ended up spending the better part of a Sunday roasting them ourselves in the backyard on a Weber barbecue grill. And then, there’s the family affair of peeling, chopped and bagging ritual, spreading those drippy chile juice fumes all over the kitchen.
Of all the varieties, any chile is the best chile, but it must be not only from New Mexico but from Socorro County farmers, for a chile that comes in a can from a company that named itself Hatch does not a great green chile necessarily make. Why am I talking like Yoda here?
Case in point; the Sichler family has been growing and selling chile for 145 years in the middle Rio Grande Valley, and I’ve just learned they’ve re-opened their produce stand at the crossroads in San Antonio.
In Escondida, the Rosales family has been growing and selling chile for over 50 years, and Mario joined his dad in the business almost years ago. Rosales, like Sichler, also has a wide variety of fresh produce.
The aforementioned Duggins always has a nice crop coming from his Lemitar chile fields, as well, and there are so many others. Smaller chile growers can also be found marketing and roasting their lovely green goddesses at the Farmers Market.
For some, the phrase “fruit of the vine” connotes wine, but for me, it’s chile, because other than being the perfect ingredient to virtually any dish, green chile is packed with good things, all healthy.
It’s better even than penicillin. No, on second thought, that’s taking it a bit too far, but maybe better than yerba mansa. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t want to take it intravenously. That’s reserved for coffee.
The thing is, you can add green chile to just about anything, like popcorn or ramen or biscuits and gravy or pizza and even apple pie.
To quickly change the subject, yesterday would’ve been the 214th birthday of U.S. President David Atchison, born on Aug. 11, 1807, in Kentucky. Because of an odd constitutional rule, and overlooked by most historians, Atchison was president for one day, March 4, 1849. For the rest of his life Atchison, a senator from Missouri, bragged that his was “the honestest administration this country ever had.”
Speaking of presidential quotes, one of my favorites is from Thomas Jefferson who once wrote, “Coffee, the favorite drink of the civilized world.” Jefferson knew what he was talking about and what’s more, another new article I read on medicadaily.com shows that coffee is really good for you, antioxidant-wise. I’m up to four cups a day and as this is being written I’m on my fifth.
Not unlike Jefferson, I hold that coffee is the most sociable drink we have – more so than a libation of the alcoholic variety – a beverage that cries out “sit down and let’s talk.” Like ol’ Luther Broaddus would say each time I saw him, “Come on by the house. I always have a pot of coffee on.”
But wait, there’s more. Benjamin Franklin wrote that coffee “excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.” On the other hand, Albert Camus, the guy that wrote The Plague, once said, “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?”
Sounds like me first thing in the morning. Without my morning coffee, I’m just a dried-up old chunk of coal.
Wait, we were talking about green chile, weren’t we?
Green chile, put that in your pipe and smoke it.