By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist
We have a state of emergency. Flooding in Hatch has damaged a good part of that town’s claim to fame. While our beloved green chile did all right elsewhere, Hatch is the Chile Capital of the World.
Our official New Mexico state question is : “Red or green?” which refers, of course, to the all-too-important matter of how you want your chile, or more specifically, your enchiladas. In fact, when someone accuses you of being one of those “Greens” or a member of the Green Party, they’re really talking about your chile preference. And when someone calls you or someone else a Gringo, they’re really saying “Green-go” as in “Green is the way to go!”
When one takes a preference for green, the name Hatch naturally comes to mind. Local grocery stores have been using the Big H name to lure patrons to their giant chile roasters. But with the mouth-watering smell of roasting Hatch chile in the air, it doesn’t take much to create a line at these roasters.
I brought home a small bundle of Hatch chile the other night and the first idea that popped into my daughter Laura’s mind was a quick snack, one of her favorites, a roasted chile inside of a tortilla. As for me, my green chile weakness is chile rellenos. I had just planned to top some chopped green chile on my porkchop, on top of a bed of grated cheese that night, but with my friend Bernard sitting by and Laura also listening in, I made the mistake of saying that those leftover chiles would make great chile rellenos.
I saw Laura’s eyes light up and when I asked Bernard if he would like a chile relleno, expecting him to say no, he said he wouldn’t mind “tasting” one. Next thing I know, my meal-in-a-minute has turned into a full-scale chile relleno operation. In the end, it wasn’t my best batch of chile rellenos, something I’m still trying to perfect, but I have to say it was well worth the effort. Another mistake I made was buying a small bundle instead of buying a bushel like Bernard plans to do.
While some Hatch chile made it out of the fields before the floods, though, there was significant damage. So expect to see a price increase in Hatch chile. The good news, however, is that although Hatch is the self-proclaimed Chile Capital of the World, the majority of our official state vegetable, or fruit (yes, some people want to call it a fruit) is actually grown in other parts of our enchanting land.
I always tend to lean toward the side of the green, so as a result, I’m not very fond of a lot of the spicy Mexican candy coming out, which is laden with red chile. When I went on a recent trip with my daughter’s church youth group, two students, Justin and Ricky, kept asking me if I wanted some of their fiery hot red chile candy and I refused each time. First they asked if I wanted chile gum, and then a chile lollipop and then a chile jawbreaker. Finally, I peeked into Ricky’s backpack, which was stuffed with these wrapped dulces, and said, “Man, you’ve got a whole piñata in there!”
As for our precious green chile, it can also be found in strange places, sprinkled on nuts and mixed into jellies and stuff like that. But most of us “Greens” like to keep it simple. We are happy with a green chile wrapped in a tortilla — just ask Laura — or a green chile stuffed with cheese and deep fried in an egg batter. Just ask Bernard.
When we get right down to it, we are a green state when it comes to chile, so real Nuevo Mexicanos always answer the red or green question with “Green!”
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: