Tasting New Mexico
BY CHERYL ALTERS JAMISON AND BILL JAMISON
It’s possible, if such a thing could be measured, that New Mexicans like a hearty breakfast as much or even more than Americans from other states. A substantial percentage of our most popular restaurants specialize in the meal, and they offer a broad variety of robust morning dishes virtually unknown beyond our borders. New Mexicans may not cook a big breakfast at home most of the time, but when we have a chance to jump-start the day properly we relish a good feed.
The allure may go back to the early years of Spanish settlement, when people with sufficient leisure often enjoyed two breakfasts. The first, shortly after awakening, was always light, but the second was much more ample. In her 1846 journal about traveling in New Mexico, Susan Shelby Magoffin described a typical day of meals in the home of friends. “We take coffee about 7½ o’clock, breakfast at 10, and dinner at 5—with fruit between meals. Our dishes are all Mexican, but good ones, some are delightful. . . . The courses for dinner are four, one dish at a time; for breakfast two, ending always with beans. Brandy and wine are regularly put on at each meal.”
Few New Mexicans sip brandy at breakfast anymore, but we still eat beans along with good helpings of eggs, meat, cheese, tortillas, and potatoes. Each of these staples, alone or together, often comes loaded with chile, making it a fine way to get fired up for the day.
A Bowl of Blue
Called chaquewa or chaquehue, or sometimes atole (a name usually reserved for a similar beverage), blue-corn porridge in some form dates back centuries as a nourishing New Mexican meal. It remains particularly popular today in the pueblos, where it is most often a breakfast dish. Folks who didn’t grow up with it, and even some who did, like it best with the addition of some kind of sweetener, and perhaps some raisins, nuts, or a splash of warm milk. Anyone who enjoys oatmeal or other warm cereals should give this a try. If cooking just for yourself or for two, it’s easy to reduce the recipe proportionately.
4 cups water
2 cups fine- ground blue cornmeal
¾ teaspoon salt
sugar, brown sugar, or agave nectar raisins,
pecans, or piñon nuts
warm milk, optional
1. Bring water in a large saucepan to a boil over high heat. Pour cornmeal in slowly, stirring as you go. When the cornmeal is incorporated, add salt and turn the heat down until just an occasional bubble breaks around the edges. Stir regularly until thickened into a cream-of-wheat-like porridge, about 10 minutes.
2. Spoon into bowls and offer sugar and other mix-ins on the side. Eat right away.
Excerpted from the Museum of New Mexico Press Book Tasting New Mexico by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, with contemporary photography by Sharon Stewart. Paperbound with flaps; $29.95. 220 pages, 15 black-and-white and 9 color photographs. This and other publications by the Museum of New Mexico Press are available at bookstores and museum shops, including the Museum of New Mexico Foundation Shops in Santa Fe, or by calling 800-249-7737, or at mnmpress.org.