Cookbooks as time capsules and why we collect them. Current title holder for Guinness World Records for largest collection of cookbooks (2,970 as of July 14, 2013) Current (unofficial) total as of February 12, 2019 is 6,567.
Music – “What’s Cooking” from What’s Cooking by The Wolfe Gang. Released: 2010
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
“The Vintage Cookbookery” website is up and a work in progress! Please visit it at http://www.vintagecookbookery.com. I will be posting a series of articles about cookbooks as time capsules, why we collect them, and how they reflect cultures, trends, technology and food history. Please join in and add your comments! On October 23rd, 2015, I surpassed the 5,000 mark. What’s left? Just keep collecting! (As of January, 2019, the collection has grown to 6,533)
From Cindy Renfrow’s “Take a Thousand Eggs”, to Gil Partington’s “The Punk Vegan Cookbook”, cookbooks run the gamut and are packed with social history. Forget ‘Social Studies”….just read cookbooks if you really want some history!
Music – “Fighting 17th” from Backdraft [Silver Screen Edition] by Hans Zimmer. Released: 2005
In honor of September 11th, I am re-posting this post from 2014…
Every so often I come across a cookbook featuring recipes from firefighters around the nation. It seems like firehouse cooking (and firehouse chefs) are imbued with an aura of mystery around their food. After all, it is a select enclave of men and women, who enjoy the fruits of the chef. It seems natural that these dedicated individuals, who go to bat for the rest of us and keep us safe should have camaraderie among them, and why shouldn’t this extend to that most basic of human needs, eating and sharing food?
Photo Credit: ilovelasvegasmagazine.blogspot.com
Meandering around the internet lately, I have looked at one of the most FAQ asked about firefighters: does the city/county pay for the food they cook at their stations, while on their shifts? In just a random sample of information from about two dozen firefighting stations across the US, the answer was a resounding “no”. It appears that the common theme is that each of the firefighters assigned to a station contributes a fixed amount out of his or her own funds for food, determined by mutual agreement.
Most firefighter kitchens have several rotating chefs and many have their own specialties. Some stations have essential appliances paid for them, for example a refrigerator and a stove, but the firefighters must pay to equip it with pots, pans, and the like, not to mention the food.
Photo Credit: uncyclopedia.wikia.com
A search of news items across the country has also raised another FAQ: why do I see the firefighters parking their fire engine in the grocery store parking lot and going in to shop? Well, think about it. These men and women are on duty, ready at a moment’s notice to assist you. Would you rather they drive in a private vehicle, start shopping, get a 911 fire call and drive back to the station to get the fire truck? Not! “Be prepared” is a good motto. As a matter of fact, in my grade school, Kipling Grove Elementary School, our motto was from Elmer, the Safety Elephant, whose placque in the main hall admonished us daily to “be prepared”.
According to the Internet, there were 48,800 registered fire departments in the US as of 2012. These fire departments employed 1,129,250 firefighters, which include career professionals, volunteers and those paid per call. Also in 2012, according to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) there were 1,375,000 fire calls placed to these departments, however, these departments also responded to numerous other calls: 21,705,500 calls for medical aid, 2,238,000 false alarms, 360,000 hazardous materials, 1,326,500 “mutual aid” and 694,000 “other hazardous conditions”. “Other” calls accounted for another 4,155,000 calls for a grand total of 31,854,000 calls made to US fire departments in 2012! It’s a wonder they ever get time to eat, let alone cook!
Photo Credit: howtobecomeafirefighterusa.com
In my collection, I have several cookbooks featuring firefighters: “San Francisco Firehouse Favorites” by Calvello, Harlow, Sackett and Sarvis; “Firehouse Food” by Dolese and Siegelman; “The Firehouse Cookbook” by Kite, and “Fire House Cook Book” by Kipp Rix.
“Firehouse Food” by George Dolese and Steve Siegelman
Dorothy Kite, in her book “The Firehouse Cookbook” says, “One of the first things a rookie learns is that in order to eat at the firehouse, he must learn to cook”. And, George Dolese and Steve Siegelman in “Firehouse Food” note that, when firefighters eat together, they’re “…creating a moment of happiness in a tough, stressful world. No wonder their food is so satisfying”.
“The Firehouse Cookbook” by Dorothy J. Kite
“Smoke and Fire Black Beans”, “Blackened Red Snapper”, “Smoked Turkey Club”, “Night Watch Snack” and “Kamikaze Gumbo” are just a few of the recipes from these cookbooks. No one ever said that firefighters don’t have a sense of humour!
“Fire House Cook Book” by Kipp Rix
In “San Francisco Firehouse Favorites”, the authors relate some of the culinary comments from firehouse chefs: “Never cook a turkey more than two hours; just adjust the heat”, or “Never blow your own smoke” (don’t brag!). They also note that one of the San Francisco firefighters insisted that his cigar ashes improved the flavour of his Burgundy pot roast.
“San Francisco Firehouse Favorites” by Calvello, Harlow, Sackett and Sarvis
Below is the recipe for “Smoke and Fire Black Beans”, courtesy of Steve Feiner, Truck No. 16, San Francisco Fire Department, from “Firehouse Food” by George Dolese and Steve Siegelman. The “smoky” flavour comes from both the ham hocks and the chipotle chile.
1 pound (2.5 cups dried black beans)
8 cups water
1 pound smoked ham hocks
1 medium white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 canned chipotle chile en adobo
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
Pour the beans onto a rimmed baking sheet and pick through them, discarding any small stones or foreign matter. Rinse them in a colander under cold water and place the beans into a large pot with the water, ham hocks, onion, garlic, bay leaf, oregano and chipotle. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.
Remove the ham hocks, and once cool enough to handle, pull the meat away from the bones, discarding bones, skin and fat. Shred the meat and add to the beans. Season to taste with salt and continue to cook for 15 to 30 minutes until the beans are very soft and creamy. Discard the bay leaf and ladle the beans into individual bowls, or serve family style.
The next time you see a fire engine parked at your local grocery store, remember: they’re not shopping for dinner on your dime, or on your time!
The names of the cocktails were pretty tame: “Florida Punch“, “Bobby Burns Cocktail“, “Frozen Daiquiri” and the like.
Many of the cocktail books from the 1940’s through 1970’s, went the extra mile: in addition to recipes for imbibing, many had sections on drinking songs such as “Cigarettes and Whiskey“, which is a long way from the old “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall“.
Also common in these cocktail bibles were suggested party games (“Tricks and Funnies“) including drawing with a mirror, the five coin problem, and in one guide “College Humor and Party Games” (charades, eye spy, talkathon) and more.
Many books provided information on how to properly stock your home bar and earlier books usually featured a nice selection of toasts for your event, for example, “To-Morrow Can Wait”…”Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter, Sermons and soda water the day after”.
There is even a toast to lawyers: “Here is to the lawyer – a learned gentleman, who rescues your estate from your enemies, and keeps it himself“. Those pithy remarks are from the 1904 “Grein and Pahls Drink Mixer’s Manual“, which I also have in my collection (Price: One Dollar in 1904).
Bartending has become an art, with “flair” bartenders juggling a myriad of bottles of alcohol with flourish and pizazz, much to the thrill of their audience.
Alcoholic beverages have been around for a very long time. Early Babylonians and Egyptians were brewing beer, mead and wine for thousands of years (long before prohibition reared its’ ugly head in the USA and was ultimately, a dismal failure – happily!)
So, in the words of an unknown author, but taken from “Grein and Pahls Drink Mixer’s Manual“, edited by Paul E. Lowe,
“Drink to-day and drown all sorrow, You shall perhaps not do’t to-morrow; Best while you have it use your breath, There is no drinking after death”
“A Guide to Pink Elephants” (Richards Rosen Assoc, Inc., New York, 1952) “10,000 Drinks” (Paul Knorr, Sterling Publishing, New York, 2007) “Playboy’s Host & Bar Book” (Thomas Mario, Playboy Publishing, Chicago, 1971) “Bar & Party Guide” (Sirkay Publishing, Los Angeles, 1972) “Grien and Pahls Drink Mixer’s Manual” (Joe Grein & J. Pahls, Inc., Chicago, 1904)
Music -“Big Numbers” from I’ve Got Music in Me by Jack Hartmann. Released: 1995
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
What does the number 6,648 signify? Well, I really wish 6,648 was the $$$ my insurance company had paid me after a (presumed) drunk driver plowed through my front yard around 9:00 pm, on Tuesday, May 28th, tearing up shrubs and cactus, moving huge landscape rocks, and destroying about 1/3rd of my beautiful pinon tree before coming to a crashing stop….against the side of my 1995 Saturn, which was parked in the driveway, minding its’ own business.
However, it didn’t happen like that (no surprise there!) The owner of the vehicle (and presumed driver) fled the carnage and, as is so common here in New Mexico, was uninsured, despite the fact that it is illegal to be without vehicle insurance. So, what else is new? New Mexico is an amazing state: it nearlyalwaysplaces 1st or 2nd in things that are bad: no insurance, drunk drivers, car thefts, homicides, worst child welfare, etc.
So, then, what does the number “6648” represent here? According to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) “6648” is the ID for a gene, which “…is a member of the iron/manganese superoxide dismutase family. It encodes a mitochondrial protein that forms a homotetramer and …”, etc.,etc., etc.
…or if you don’t like cruising, how about taking MNE Train #6648to New York Penn Station?
“6648” is also a flight with Virgin Australia. Lastly, if someone came up to you and asked you to divide 46,539 by 7, your answer would be “6648” (people often stop me on the street and ask me this question)
However, none of these “6648“s are the ones I’m referring to in this post. As many of you will have already surmised, “6,648” is the current number of cookbooks in my collection. You just had to know that was coming, right?
Music – “Recipe Hoe Down” from Big Bad Bantam Rooster by Tasha Platt. Released: 2009.
I have often found it amusing to pull some of the “community” and “regional” cookbooks from my collection to find common themes in terms of recipes, and there are many.
A “community” cookbook is a collection of recipes submitted by members of a particular local group, usually intended to be sold as a fund-raiser or as memorabilia, for example, a PTA, church, sports organization, etc. So, then, what is a “regional” cookbook? “Regional” describes things, which relate to a particular area of a country (bigger than local but smaller than national). A few samples from my collection include: “What’s Cooking in Kodiak“, “Utah Dining Car Cookbook“, “San Antonio Sizzles“, “The Great Minnesota Hot Dish“, “River Road Recipes“, and “Best of the Best from the Great Plains“.
However, does “Avocado Pineapple Mold” really reflect the regional cuisine of Kodiak, Alaska?
Hard to imagine a popular regional recipe in Kodiak, Alaska is “Avocado Pineapple Mold Salad” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)
Can “Seafood Supreme” be all that common in landlocked Utah?
…or “Louisiana Gumbo” in “San Antonio Sizzles“. Conversely, in “River Road Recipes“, published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, LA, I came across a recipe for the traditional British “Toad in the Hole” and one for “Chow Mein” (always a Southern staple!)
“Toad in the Hole”, the popular British dish. Also popular in Baton Rouge? (Photo Credit: http://www.ocado.com)
Another southern staple, if community cookbooks are correct: chow mein.
You might expect this to be in a recipe from a Baton Rouge cookbook, but “Toad in the Hole”? (Photo Credit: http://www.allposters.com)
“Spaghetti Pizza“, “Taco Pizza” and “Seafood Salad in Mini Cream Puffs“, were hiding inside “Best of the Best from the Great Plains Cookbook“, which features recipes from North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
On the other hand, “regional” also reflects not only the available resources for human consumption, but the people, who live in that area. If you look at “regional” cookbooks in that light, every region is packed with a diverse population representing numerous cultures and the recipes they bring are reflected in these cookbooks. Not so strange after all!
Diversity in food is reflected in many community and regional cookbooks, thanks to a cornucopia of food traditions from many countries. (Photo Credit: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com)
Music – “Don’t Eat Food That Has Fallen on the Floor” from Hey Kids, It’s Birthday Party Time! by The Family Party Song Singers. Released: 2010
Most of us, who have ever hung out in the kitchen for any length of time, or who have read cookbooks, knows how critical sanitation is in food preparation. I looked through some of the cookbooks in my collection, to see how this issue has been addressed over the years.
Why can’t a slice of bread ever land on the floor clean side down? (Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com)
In “Principles of Food Preparation” by Freeland-Graves, published in 1979 and written for culinary professionals, the author indicates that one should not put wet items such as peelings, leftovers or scrapings in the wastepaper basket. It not only encourages rodent infestation, but also “irritable janitors“.
H.L. Nichols, Jr., in “Cooking with Understanding” (1971), after discussing the issues of food, which has been dropped on the floor, he suggests that if the floor was freshly washed and “spotlessly clean”, you can salvage the food for serving. However, he also notes that “It is not necessary to tell your family that part of their dinner was processed on the floor. If you feel like chatting about it, it is tactful to wait until after eating”. Nice touch.
“Just scrape it off the floor and serve it to Table Four. They’ll never know” (Photo Credit: http://www.usatoday.com)
Then, there’s the infamous “five-second rule“, which suggests that if food dropped on the ground has been there five seconds or less, the food is still safe from nasty germs and other assorted disgusting things. I wonder if the germs know they have to wait five seconds before launching an all-out attack?
“I’ve only got 5 seconds to pick up this food….which do I want the most?” (Photo Credit: http://www.time.com)
There are a lot of ideas about food safety, some right, some wrong and some ridiculous. Some folks seem to think leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad, according to http://www.foodsafety.org. How offensive does the odor have to be before one might eschew the food? I never throw good food away that can be re-purposed into another meal. Take it from me: the freezer is your friend. Germ infested food is not. Now, go out there and mop your floor!
“Stereotypes” from Hyrrs – Festive Hymns Made Feminist by Goldstein. Released: 2017
Sexism is generally described as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex“. Synonyms include chauvinism and bias. So, of all the venues to find incidences of sexism, cookbooks would not generally come to mind for most people. However, in my cookbook collection I have several cookbooks, which I would deem “sexist” in one fashion or another. The earliest one dates to 1925 and features some interesting observations about the male sex!
“Feed the Brute!” by Marjorie Swift, 1925
In previous posts, I have often referred to my favourite cookbook in my collection: “Feed the Brute!“, written by Marjorie Swift in 1925 and published in London. In her introduction, the author acknowledges that”the brute” works very hard to support his family, and “…in connection with culinary affairs at least, the most important member of the household“.
Concerning the poor housewife, who slaves over a meal to serve “the brute”, Swift comments on the notion of appreciation. According to her, the “average” man “…disapproves and leaves one in no doubt as to the depth of his disapproval, he appreciates – and says nothing“. Ain’t it the truth. (Is that a sexist comment?)
One of her most eloquent comments once again concerns the male sex. She notes that “The well-fed man is a happy man – and a very easily “managed” one too. And since we women know that to maintain harmony every man however clever, however efficient, however charming, must be “managed,” let us feed him well first and manage him afterwards.”
Concluding her introduction to the book, Swift tells women to “Feed the Brute!” in order to create and maintain happiness of home…” Geez. What a woman has to do to pacify the brute.
In the book, “Pre-Hispanic Cooking” (Cocina Prehispanica), by Ana M. de Benitez, first published in 1974 and translated into English by Mary Williams de Varela, there is a brief paragraph in the introduction, titled “Cooks” (Guisanderas). At the end of the paragraph is a quote:
“A woman who is not good at her duties is tiresome and annoying for she cooks badly, is dirty and swinish, greedy and sweet-toothed and cooks tortillas badly, and her dishes are burnt or salty or sour, and she is completely vulgar and coarse”(Tlaloc (Cod. Vaticano, A)
This burned tortilla was likely the work of a dirty, swinish, greedy and sweet-toothed woman. (Photo Credit: http://www.nivens.me.com)
“Pre-Hispanic Cooking”, by Ana M. De Benitez, 1974
Fast forward to the 60’s and the 70’s. Jinx Kragen and Judy Perry penned “The How to Keep Him (After You’ve Caught Him) Cookbook“, noted as “An irreverent and affectionate guide to the well-stuffed spouse”. In their introduction, the authors note that “It’s true that men are much maligned, and at times rightfully so, as thoughtless, feckless creatures“.
“The How To Keep Him (After You’ve Caught Him) Cookbook, by Jinx Kragen and Judy Perry, 1968
Further, they comment that “Honestly. What he does care about is what goes into his stomach, that you still look like the girl for whom he gave up his precious bachelor days and that you don’t greet him at the gate with an inventory of domestic difficulties” No sexism here. Just truth, right?
In 1974, Cory Kilvert wrote “The Male Chauvinist’s Cookbook” and gets right at it in his introduction. “When you step into the kitchen to compliment the chef, whom do you find yourself addressing? A woman? Certainly not. You find a man, a chef. These two words are synonymous. Cooks, on the other hand, are women, and this title never had – nor will ever have – the prestige or “panache” as chef“. Tell that to Cat Cora or Alex Guarnaschelli! Chapters include “Appetizers Guaranteed to Appetize Her“, “A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine, and Pow!”and “The Morning After“.
“The Male Chauvinist’s Cookbook”, by Cory Kilvert, 1974
Check out the cover of vintage 1972 “How to Boil Water”, by Betty Jane Donahoe. Note the position of the woman’s left pinky stuck in the gentleman’s ear. Ick.
“I’ll do this myself. Women shouldn’t handle knives”
And, finally, two pithy quotes:
“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” (Pat Robertson)
“If a man is talking in the forest, and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?” ( Jenny Weber)
Once upon a time, tomatoes tasted good…..really good. Now, unless you lovingly plant them in your backyard yourself and nurture them to fruition with care, the tomatoes you purchase in your local supermarket will have about as much taste and texture as a wad of cotton balls in your mouth. You know…what you taste and choke on, when you’re sitting, helpless in the dentist’s chair. Yecch!
One of my recent acquisitions was “The Good Cook’s Book of Tomatoes“, by Michele Anna Jordan, published in 1995, but updated in 2015.
“The Good Cook’s Book of Tomatoes” by Michele Anna Jordan.
Talking about tomatoes, the author notes that “Nearly every supermarket in the country features mounds of these pale, mushy tomatoes whose taste bears not even a shadowy resemblance to what we seek”. She goes on to ask, “How did this happen?”
This is typical of the “supermarket” tomato. A bare touch of red color, pasty in texture and with virtually no taste. (Photo Credit: http://www.sciencemag.org)
Barry Estabrook, in his book, “Tomatoland“, talks about the commercial production of “supermarket” tomatoes. As most of us already know, ethylene gas is sprayed on unripe green tomatoes, which causes them to turn red.
As the author notes: “Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone that regulates plant growth. When applied to fruits, it initiates the ripening process and causes the fruit to turn red. The chemical also affects the flavor by increasing sugar compounds and decreasing acidity within the fruit. This chemical is emitted naturally by plants in fields, but only when the plants naturally want to ripen” The key here is “…only when the plants naturally want to ripen”.
More “supermarket” tomatoes. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Global Warming Images/REX/Shutterstock (2005361a)(www.thedailymash.co.uk)
The problem is that although the tomatoes turn a pleasant red color (sometimes), after being sprayed with ethylene, the fruit does not actually ripen. Estabrook also points out that exposing immature fruit to the ethylene results in fruit with “poor eating quality“. No kidding!
Some of my regular readers might remember my post, “The Terrible Tale of the Tomato Tragedy” (May 6, 2016) in which I recanted the horror of losing almost all of my carefully planted tomato seeds in a portable greenhouse, indoors. For weeks, watering, fertilizing, thinning, moving them for optimum sun, etc. until the fateful day came to put them outside to begin “hardening off”.
Alas, in the wee hours of the morning, without any warning, the formidable, but unpredictable canyon winds came roaring through our property, relentless and endless. The sound of the crash of the toppled greenhouse outside my bedroom window at 3:00 am was my first clue that my precious seedlings were in trouble. Of more than a hundred seedlings, I managed to save about 20. Heartbreaking.
This year, I have ordered transplants for my garden. The variety of tomatoes available is astounding! Much research has been conducted over the years to not only bring back that luscious tomato flavor we all crave, but also to breed them to be disease and pest resistant. A tough call, but great strides have been made.
From Territorial Seed Company out of Cottage Grove, Oregon, I ordered 4 transplants, primarily for containers, which I have in my courtyard. I have ordered from them previously, with good results. In a few months I’ll be receiving the likes of “Lizzano Transplant Tomato“, “Ruby Crush Transplant Tomato“, “Red Racer Transplant Tomato“, and “Artemis Transplant Tomato“.
I can hardly wait! You can order directly from them online for immediate and delayed (according to your climate zone) purchases: http://www.territorialseed.com.
Also this year, I ordered some additional transplants from a company I was unfamiliar with until I received their catalogue: Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Company, located in Greendale, Indiana. From their collection I will be receiving “Early Girl Tomato“, “Iron Lady Tomato” (I wonder if this is named after Margaret Thatcher?!), “Celebration Tomato“, “Gurney’s Ruby Monster Tomato” (I just love it when the word “monster” is used to describe vegetables!) and “Sweet Million Hybrid Tomato“.
Music – “The Popcorn Song” from Fun Songs for Happy Kids – Favorite Lullabies, Rhymes, Stories & More by The Fontane Sisters & Howdy Doody. Released: 2012.
Well, here we are. Saturday, January 19th, 2019 is NATIONAL POPCORN DAY! What are YOU doing to celebrate this annual event? It comes but once a year, so be prepared.
W.C. Fields once said, “The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves“. Now, that’s lazy! There is an unproven theory that an Indian named Quadequina brought a deerskin bag of popped corn for the first Thanksgiving feast on October 15, 1621. In 1948 and 1950, anthropologist Herbert Dick and botanist Earle Smith discovered ears of popcorn in the Bat Cave of west-central New Mexico. So the story goes.
Bat Cave, located in west-central New Mexico (Photo Credit: National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers)
Americans eat a lot of popcorn per year and there are hundreds of flavours out there. I remember going to the movies as a kid and getting a small cardboard container with some slippery yellow fluid drizzled over the popcorn. I’m not certain what it was, but it was probably not butter! So, tomorrow, get out your popcorn poppers or Jiffy Pop bags (do they still make those?) and pop away!
Harry Kalenberg creates his own version of “pop” art, using magic markers! (Photo Credit: starlocalmedia.com)
Music – “Christmas in New Mexico” from Christmas in New Mexico by Jerry Dean. Released: 2013
(This is a partial re-post from 2013 with some great additions!)
Christmas in New Mexico
December, 1994 was my first Christmas in my new home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although our neighbourhood and surrounding neighbourhoods had the usual strings of Christmas lights, Santa Clauses and snowmen cutouts and the like, I was surprised to find that many residential areas, businesses, city buildings, hotels, etc., put out thousands of “luminarias” on Christmas Eve. There were so many of them, especially in neighbourhoods around what is called Old Town, the city started running Luminaria Tours.
Christmas Lights in Canada
Luminarias in Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Christmas Eve
In 2004, my husband and I took my Mom, who had moved here in 2003, on one of the tours and it was incredible. As far as the eye could see, thousands of luminarias lining sidewalks, on rooftops and parapets, in parks and plazas, around and on top of churches: they were everywhere. It was pretty awesome and looked like a fairyland. Christmas in New Mexico is a candle sellers dream!
Some people refer to them as ‘farolitos’ (little lanterns), but they are one in the same. In northern New Mexico, the farolito is the bag with the candle inside, but in the southern part of the state, the same thing is called a luminaria.
True luminariasare a New Mexico tradition and are small (sandwich size) paper bags, filled with a couple of inches of sand. The top of the bag is folded over a bit for stability and a single white votive candle is placed inside. When lit, the golden glow lights up the dark night in a quiet and peaceful way. That first year, I wanted luminariasfor our yard, to experience the tradition.
Filling the Lumarias with sand and a votive candle. Thousands are sold around Christmas
Early in November, you could drive around Albuquerque and see signs posted for purchasing luminarias by the dozen (filled and candle included), from church groups, charitable organizations, youth groups and just about everyone else.
I purchased 6 dozen of them, which were delivered the week before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, 1994, my husband and I placed them around our yard, lining the sidewalk and garden and patiently lit them, one by one. Fortunately, it was not windy, which can sometimes be a problem. How the candles never end up torching the bags and setting the yard on fire is still anathema to me, but it’s been going on for a long time and you never read of a luminaria fire from the Christmas Eve tradition.
The Spanish, Mexican and Native American traditions are strong in New Mexico, and Christmas is a time of feasting. Posole is a Southwest tradition at this time. Posole is dried hominy and it may be made as a dish in itself, but is more often featured with boned pork, onions, chiles and spices.
Posole, a traditional Christmas tradition in New Mexico, made with dried hominy
Other popular holiday dishes include Pumpkin and Chile Soup, Carne Adobada(pork chops marinated in red chile sauce), Red Chile Tamales and Albondigas Soup (a type of meatball soup with red chile).
Red Chile Tamales
Albondigas, meatball soup
Biscochitos(the traditional spelling is Bizcochitos) (New Mexican sugar cookies) are also a Christmas specialty in New Mexico.
Bizcochitos or Biscochitos, New Mexican Sugar Cookiesark
The “River of Lights” in Albuquerque – Another Holiday Tradition!
One of the most incredible holiday events in Albuquerque began in 1996 and is sponsored by the New Mexico Biopark Societyin partnership with the City of Albuquerque. The “River of Lights” is an incredible, sprawling, impressive display of lights at the Albuquerque Biopark Botanic Garden. There are 550 sculptures, with 12 miles of extension cords and 200 miles of light strings containing millionsof individual twinkling lights of all colours. The displays and animated sculptures range from a 1-foot flower to a 30-foot high Brontosaurus! Although it is hard to get a sense of the scale of this installation, the tractors, cows, cacti and many more are life-size, not to mention the Brontosaurus!
My husband I and toured this amazing display on December 12th and were awed by this spectacular work of art. Of course, it wouldn’t be New Mexico without a UFO, and there is a fabulous UFO hovering above the grounds, abducting a cow! USA Today has sponsored a “Best Botanical Garden Holiday Lights” (Reader’s Choice) contest and the “River of Lights” is among the top 10 nominees. Enjoy the following slide show!
Author’s Note: The Biopark “River of Lights” placed No. 8 on USA Today’s list, but as far as I’m concerned it should have been No. 1!
(all photos in the slide show by Sue Jimenez, 2018)
Enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year. Merry Christmas from New Mexico!Navidad Alegre y Felices Fiestas de Nuevo México!