Last week an 11-year-old informed me that New Mexico was the only state to have an official smell and they asked me to guess what it was. Not to brag but I got it right on the first try, you probably did too. I trusted my informant, but I am a reporter after all, so I decided it was a good idea to verify the information. I found out that not only am I about six months behind the news, but New Mexico was the first state to sign a bill declaring roasting chiles as the state aroma; not smell, but close enough.
I’ve been waiting for the chile roaster to make it to Magdalena and if anyone knows when he’s coming, please email me. I like to order the extra hot chile, it’s very satisfying to get that look from the roaster that says, ‘are you sure you can handle it?’ I swear it’s the hot stuff that keeps me healthy through the winter. Winter in the mountains isn’t the same without a spicy crockpot stew that makes your nose run.
There was a point when I was curious enough to look up if eating chile was an addiction and it turns out spicy food does lead to a natural high. The chemical compound that makes chile hot, capsaicin, sends messages of burning pain causing our body to release endorphins to relieve the pain. We get a dose of dopamine that gives us a rush of joy and pleasure. That’s why some of us can’t get enough of it.
It’s fascinating that certain smells can evoke emotions and transport us back in time. The way the earth smells just when the rain starts to fall, the dusty smell of a book and the aroma of abuela’s kitchen.
Thinking of fond memories and grandparents. I am guilty of missing every single Grandparents Day, including last weekend. Although I didn’t know either of my grandfathers, I was lucky to have two very strong-willed and feisty abuelas.
If you knew my grandma, Lucy Pino, you won’t be surprised to hear that we did a lot of arts, crafts, and gardening together. I remember recreating our own Macy’s Day Parade in her living room with cardboard, glitter, and fabric scraps. She would tell me stories about growing up in Magdalena, like how she would volunteer to do the housework so she could sneak her books and read while everyone else was outside harvesting wood or caring for the animals. I can still hear her laughter.
On my dad’s side, my Mama Rosa, was a widow who raised 13 children in a new country. Life forced her to be a strong and strict woman, but with me she was tender and sweet. Even though I was the 41st out of her 50 grandkids, I’m convinced I was her favorite grandchild. She would hand make me dresses and dolls that my other cousins didn’t get, and if one of my primos tried to take my doll away, they’d get in big trouble with her. What I’d do to sit at her kitchen table to eat her sopitos fresh off the comal, just one more time.
For all the grandparents out there spending time and loving your grandchildren, thank you. I want you to know that you are making memories that will stay with us forever. Happy Belated Grandparents Day!