Did You Know / Did You Care #2

Most U.S. states have official state mammals (Colorado’s is the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, for instance, and New Mexico’s is the black bear) and official state birds (the lark bunting and greater roadrunner for Colorado and New Mexico, respectively), as well as other official state designations (fish, butterflies, fossils, etc.) Did you know/care that New Mexico is the only state with an official question: “Red or green?” It refers to the what kind of chile you prefer to accompany a meal, red chile or green chile. Red chile, which is commonly made from green chiles that ripen to red and are then dried, is usually hotter than green but that’s not always the case.

Nancy and I went to the Downtown Growers’ Market in Albuquerque on Saturday, Nov. 6. She got a bag of dried pinto beans (Nancy’s big on beans) and a small bag of chicos, which are dried and lightly smoked kernels of corn that can be added to stews along with the aforementioned frijoles. And when we sit down to a bowl of it, we can also ask each other: red or green?

This ristra, which is basically a bouquet of dried red chiles, and many more like it were on display at the Downtown Growers’ Market in Albuquerque. When southwestern cooks need to add a bit of heat to what they’re making, they break a chile or two off of the ristra and grind it into la comida.

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