|Hatch green chile season begins in August and is over by the end of September.|
In July of last year Linda was feeling much better than she had felt earlier in the year after enduring six intense rounds of chemotherapy and ten radiation treatments to combat breast cancer that had metastasized to her lungs and bones. The chemotherapy seemed to bring Linda to the brink of death before she rebounded gradually. After nearly five months of feeling horrible and being mostly confined to a wheelchair, Linda had graduated to a walker and was getting around on her own two feet (much to everyone's elation). She was even smiling again (hallelujah).
The dates of the market fit quite nicely in between Linda's routinely scheduled bi-weekly doctor's visits. And to everyone's satisfaction there had been no recent changes to her medications and she was tolerating quite well the myriad of pills she took daily. The future looked brighter than it had in a long time.
|Yours truly on the left wearing my new Heishi necklace and |
Linda on the right holding a Godfather cocktail.
As with all great road trips, one thing leads to another. It didn't take long for us to figure out how to extend a quick weekend getaway in to what looked more like a mini vacation, or as we like to say, "Sistercation". If we were going to go all the way to Santa Fe, we agreed that we might as well tack on a couple of additional days and travel further north to Taos. If we were going to go to Taos, then Linda wanted to visit Chimayó to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary. Linda worked the internet like a champ to put together a complete itinerary for sightseeing and dining. She scoured websites, read restaurant reviews and secured reservations for lodging and meals.
|Linda and I enjoyed the performance of this fancy dancer champion.|
I employed a couple of photo apps to create a painterly effect.
The oncologist asked Linda if she had experienced any recent headaches or dizziness. Linda confirmed that she was asymptomatic. As a precautionary measure the oncologist prescribed a steroid that we needed to pick-up at the pharmacy in the morning on our way out of town. Linda was directed to take the medication, if needed, to counteract headaches or vertigo, should those symptoms suddenly occur. Linda and I mulled over whether we should cancel the trip. We mutually decided to override our concerns and to move forward with our plans. With the oncologist's blessing we were cleared to travel with the caveat that we needed to stop every 60 to 90 minutes so that Linda could stretch her legs and walk around a bit to get her blood moving.
|Our favorite event that we attended was the Indian Market Haute Couture Fashion Show.|
We understood from Linda's diagnosis at UCSF in Feburary that her stage IV breast cancer was treatable but not curable. We also understood that metastasis to the brain is fatal. Doctors will attempt to pacify a patient with statements that invariably start with, "Every patient is different and we do not know how each individual will react to a treatment." The doctor decides upon a course of action and if the treatment doesn't work then the next step is to try something different to see if it works. A treatment plan is just an ongoing experiment punctuated with many questions and few answers.
What we knew for sure is that cancer spreads quickly in the blood-rich environment of the brain. If there was one brain tumor then there were likely multiple brain tumors that were at this point too tiny to see on the scan.
We decided to move forward like everyone does by putting one foot in front of the other or, in this particular case, by shifting the car into drive while watching the miles speed by through the windshield of Linda's black Honda Civic Coupe (that she nicknamed Little Blackie after the protagonist's horse in the novel True Grit.)
|A photo-worthy dilapidated truck with Taos mountain rests in the background.|
Last year we purchased about 20 pounds of fresh, flame roasted Hatch chiles at the Rialto Park farmer's market. Linda and I brought the fragrant chiles home, removed much of the charred skins with our fingers and then froze the prepared chiles.
Some of the chiles I left whole and froze individually on sheet pans. My plans included making chile rellenos, which are roasted green chiles stuffed with a mild white cheese, dipped in batter and fried until golden. Also, a large portion of chiles were diced by hand with the aid of a chef's knife and then frozen in one and two cup portions. I planned to make dishes such as Green Chile and Cheese Soufflé and Green Chile Stew.
What I particularly like about New Mexican food are the green and red chile sauces. Where many Mexican food eateries in the southwest seem to skate by using canned red sauce for enchiladas and smothered burritos, New Mexico is fanatical about preparing sauces from scratch. Linda and I happily ate New Mexico cuisine for every meal of the day and on several occasions we ordered our entrees Christmas-style, which means a dish is served doused with both red and green chile sauces.
|The garden at the Fechin House, Linda wearing her new Heishi necklace, and Mexican sunflowers.|
The visitors to the market were clearly turquoise aficionados and stacks of bracelets—easily worth thousands upon thousands of dollars—covered the arms of women and men alike. Linda adored the ostentatious fashion statement and proceeded to boldly wear every bracelet she brought with her for the rest of the trip. She continued to do so after we returned to Tucson, too. More is more, and more is better—clearly better—in Santa Fe. People watching is definitely a part of the spectacle during the Indian Market.
Beyond visiting and talking directly with the artists there is much to do and see in Santa Fe during the Indian Market. There are dance exhibitions, a film festival, music performances, art exhibitions, and other activities taking place in the parks, galleries, hotels, museums and civic center. Our favorite event, where we just so happened to snag front row seats by arriving early, was the Indian Market Haute Couture Fashion Show. I took about a thousand photos (I kid you not) of the models who strutted their stuff down the runway wearing gorgeous fashion statements created by Native designers.
|El Santuario de Chimayó is a Catholic church and pilgrimage site for seekers of miraculous healing.|
On a whim as we drove back to the resort after our first day of sightseeing in Taos, we stopped by a grocery store and purchased Scotch Whisky and Disarrano Amaretto to make impromptu cocktails for happy hour back at our well appointed room before enjoying dinner at the hotel's fine dining restaurant.
The base recipe for a Godfather cocktail is a 50-50 mix of whisky and amaretto poured over ice. No special equipment is required. The ice machine was down the hall and there were two glass tumblers in the room. The ratios of whisky to amaretto can be adjusted according to taste whether one prefers a stiff drink on the drier or sweeter side. We sat on the deck in comfortable wood chairs, sipped our cocktails and enjoyed watching a storm move in that brought a sweet sprinkling of rain and lowered the temperature to the point that we both had to put on a warm sweater and coat.
|A panoramic shot of a multi-storied, multi-tenant adobe building located on the Taos Pueblo.|
Pushing angst and what-if scenarios aside, we agreed that we'd make plans to return in twelve months and we hoped that our sister Juliette could join us. Juliette is a talented artist who has a deep appreciation for Native American design and craftsmanship and she also has a penchant for intricate bead-work.
Linda and I wanted something to look forward to, something that we could hope for, to discuss and make plans for, even though the future seemed more unsure and foreboding than ever before during the course of her illness. After Linda passed away at the end of March, I did not cancel the hotel reservation at La Fonda for this year's Indian Market. I held on to some sliver of hope that perhaps Juliette and I might make the trip together.
As the event looms nearer, I have come to accept that Linda is indeed gone and that this is not the year for Juliette and I to go on a road trip together to New Mexico. With a sigh passing through my lips, I must acknowledge that this particular situation is what it is. Linda's gone and I'm not going to Santa Fe in two weeks. A few minutes ago, with sadness and resignation, I cancelled the reservation. My husband said to me gently, "There's always next year." But that's not always a true statement, is it? There's only now. You must do things while you are able, before it's too late, like taking mini vacations with your loved ones and buying Hatch chiles while they're still in season.
Preparing Hatch Chiles
We stopped in Hatch on our way back home to snap some photos and wander through the touristy shops. I planned to buy chiles but bought a cookbook instead. It would be easier to purchase freshly roasted Hatch chiles locally in Tucson from my favorite farmer's market vendor, Kris Young of Red's Roasters then to purchase chiles from the proprietress of the shop, who was doing her absolute best to thwart a sale by not being helpful, or kind, or remotely interested in engaging with a potential customer. I reminded myself to not take her rejection personally. After all, who better than my sister and I at that very moment to realize that you never know what someone else might be going through. Be kind because kindness matters.
1 to 2 pounds (or more) fresh Hatch Green Chiles
Gas/charcoal grill or oven
|Breakfasts on the road: Left, Huevos Rancheros Christmas-style at Taos Diner II, and|
Eggs over easy with a Chile Relleno and black beans at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe.
If I am roasting the chiles myself I usually choose to fire up the gas grill. It's just as easy to prepare two pounds of chiles as it is one pound. Might as well roast extra and freeze portions for future use throughout the year until chile season rolls around again.
While the grill is pre-heating, I wash and dry the chiles and then transfer them to a big bowl. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the chiles and toss to evenly coat each chile with a thin film of oil.
Over medium-high heat, roast the chiles in batches, rotating and turning the chiles every so often until charred on all sides. Transfer the charred chiles directly to a large paper bag and seal by rolling down the top to trap the steam. Alternatively, transfer the chiles to a big bowl and cover the top with a plate or plastic wrap... whatever works to trap the steam emitting from the hot chiles! Continue to add chiles to the container and reseal after each addition until all the chiles are finished roasting.
Cover one or more sheet pans with waxed paper. Coat the waxed paper with a thin film of oil. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, about 20 to 30 minutes, remove as much as the charred skin as you are able. I personally don't like to rinse the chiles under water, but I do keep a large bowl of water nearby to occasionally rinse my fingers as I work. Transfer the skinned chiles to the cookie sheet. I like to cut a small slit near the stem of the chile to remove and discard the cluster of seeds. The chiles are now ready to use in a recipe.
Linda adored preparing Hatch Green Chile and Cheese Soufflé every year during Hatch chile season. Her recipe contains directions on how to roast the chiles in the oven.
You can also freeze the prepared chiles on the waxed paper lined tray. Leave some space between the chiles so each one freezes individually without sticking to its neighbors. Once frozen, the chiles can be placed together in a freezer safe Ziplock bag.
You can also take a portion of the chiles, remove the stems and the clusters of seeds and roughly dice. I like to freeze the diced chiles in increments of one or two cups in freezer safe containers.
|In accordance with the state's nickname, New Mexico is indeed a land of enchantment.|