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15 Signs You Grew Up Eating (New) Mexican Food in New Mexico

Categories: Mexi Meals

smotheredburrito.jpg
Smothered burrito bought from a food stand during the Hatch Chile Festival--OLD SKOOL...
While everything New Mexican is in right now because of Breaking Bad and the emerging hipster paradise that is Albuquerque, longtimers of the Land of Enchantment know better than to let hype ruin their culture. After all, this vast, epic state has been on-and-off trendy since the days of Charles Fletcher Lummis, through Georgia O'Keefe and the Southwestern cuisine movement of the 1980s, exporting New Mexico's resources for easy consumption in the form of terrible salads and turquoise. But while fads come and go, NM remains as confoundedly beautiful as ever--especially when it comes to its foodways.

It's a hell of a land, with food that seems familiar to non-New Mexicans as Mexican food but that New Mexicans know as New Mexican food, which is a bit Mexican but not completely Mexican...um, what? Let us explain this and other subtleties in the following listicle that should be a valuable lesson for non-New Mexicans and a validation for New Mexicans...enjoy!

See also:

15. You've Never had a Santa Fe or Southwestern Chicken Salad in Your Life

southwestern_salad
McDonald's
Mickey D's Southwestern salad

During the 1980s, as I always explain in my lectures on Mexican food, it seemed every other "Mexican" restaurant had agaves out front and statues or silhouettes of howling coyotes or Kokopelli inside. The last national remnant of that era is something alternately called the Southwestern or Santa Fe salad, usually with chicken in it. When I gave a lecture at the legendary Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe some years back, I asked the audience if anyone had ever had such a salad; no one raised their hand. When I told everyone about how the salad now represents New Mexican cooking nationwide, people got PISSED.

14. Your Grandparents did Matanzas, Your Parents Saw Them--But You Only Know About Them Through Books

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Photo by Professor Salt
Behold, the snout!

Matanzas are an Hispano tradition in which a pig is slaughtered, then processed to become food, lard, and everything else to last a village through the rest of the year--I wrote about it in my ¡Ask a Mexican! column some years back. It's been the stuff of academic discussion, folklore documentation, documentaries--and it's a quickly disappearing way of life, although the current locavore movement is interested in keeping the tradition alive. But more on that in a bit...

13. Reading the Word "Panocha" on a Menu Doesn't Make You Snicker

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Panocha from Chimayó, which makes it holy panocha...

Panocha is a sprouted-wheat pudding made with brown sugar that pops up in New Mexican restaurants during Lent, which is now. In Mexican Spanish, however, "panocha" is slang for "pussy," leading to many hilarious misunderstandings over the decades. Here's my treatise on the subject in my ¡Ask a Mexican! column--oh, how I love sweet, sweet panocha!

12. Your Favorite Cookies are Biscochitos

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Biscochito stand somewhere...

This anise-flavored, usually star-shaped, cookie is a Christmas tradition so beloved across the Land of Enchantment that the New Mexican government deemed it the state's official cookie--the first cookie in the country ever to earn such an honor. Take THAT, Famous Amos!

11. You've Been "Eating Local" for Over 400 Years

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Wikimedia Commons
Santuario de Chimayó

New Mexican food is the oldest regional American cuisine in the United States, beating those pilgrims of Plymouth by more than half a century. By necessity, New Mexican food was about local and organic long before hipsters made it cool. And the locavore movement means that New Mexican cuisine is probably treasured now more in the state than at any point in a generation. Even better? Actual New Mexican cuisine--as opposed to the excesses of the Southwestern cuisine movement during the 1980s--is starting to become popular nationwide, as evidenced by the cult of the Hatch chile roast--which we'll get to in a bit...

My Voice Nation Help
46 comments
Paul Mizban
Paul Mizban

No where to get New Mexican style food in OC after Anita's in Fullerton closed down.

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

And we did one almost a decade ago, then 5 years ago—you can look it up!

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

It was in there—read it again!

Yolanda Alejandre
Yolanda Alejandre

With a Grandmother from NM and living there for a few years. Nothing beats the tortillas, flat enchiladas, atole, carne adovada (not grilled) and posole and especially green chile stew. How could you forget green chile stew?

Lon Hall
Lon Hall

way to go, Gustavo. Although big fail for me. I read that article while having lunch at Tapas Restaurant near Juan Wayne Airport, eating carne con chorizo, bola con aioli and drinking Sangre del Toro vino tinto. So much for my Nuevo Méjico cred.

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

How did we post it a month ago when it was only published Wednesday?

Antonio Maldonado
Antonio Maldonado

As I enjoy a freshly baked biscochito, nice! VIVA NUEVO MÉXICO!

jgattheoc
jgattheoc

Where can you get a big bag of these roasted chiles in Orange County ??

Aron Muro
Aron Muro

Booooolchiit! You guys posted this same shit like a month ago! Why don't you do an article on the elote guys? C'mon maaan!

Aron Muro
Aron Muro

How many times have you reposted that article??

Amy Erikson Montano
Amy Erikson Montano

Lynn Maners, lol! I went to a Mexican restaurant in Germany, or should I say "Mexican"... long story short, they Mexican't do Mexican at ALL!

Martin Najera
Martin Najera

It cracks me up when people call it new Mexican food..es comida mexicana no me vengan con mamadas...is mexican food with a twist .

Donna Madril Leger
Donna Madril Leger

Sopapillas were a constant for us growing up in southwest Colorado Dianna T. Duran

Burqueno_By_The_Bay
Burqueno_By_The_Bay

Carne adovada is never cooked on a grill. It´s typically pan-browned pork stewed with water, garlic, oregano, salt pepper and lots of red chile. Use plenty of garlic and chile and cook until very tender. Another thing is our pintos. We serve them unmashed.

TheRefriedMexican
TheRefriedMexican

Gus what happened to the enchiladas apiladas (stacked enchiladas)? You can not have a top 15 New Mexico list and not include them! Pésimo.

Teresa Leon
Teresa Leon

Lucy Leon Sonia Chavez Magdaleno Rocio Mejia... Lol hungry?

Frank Holguin
Frank Holguin

Good post. They have a Lotaburger in El Paso now. I prefer Whataburger.

Edward Allison
Edward Allison

Idea, Food Network competition show of regional Mexican foods! Throwdown but no Bobby Flay.

Lynn Maners
Lynn Maners

I once had "sopapillas" in a "New Mexican" restaurant in Berlin; they were apple strudels!

Chris Rogers
Chris Rogers

And next week we're covering Tex Mex! WTF?

Dianna T. Duran
Dianna T. Duran

Am I wrong or did I not read about sopapillas in this article?

Dianna T. Duran
Dianna T. Duran

Thanks for this article Gustavo. I just attended a mantanza in my hometown of Socorro a couple of months ago....yummy!!!!!

Paul Mizban
Paul Mizban

You forgot the most important one: Enchiladas are flat. Not rolled. and they have an egg on top.

Erica Villa
Erica Villa

Green chile green chile on everything lol

Robert Arthur Reeves
Robert Arthur Reeves

I know you try to be universal in your tastes, Gustavo, but I'm happy we converted you. - uno gabacho Nuevo Mexicano

Arturo Navarrete
Arturo Navarrete

lots of similarities to the food from Chihuahua, but the food from Chihuahua is better :)

Adriana Martinez
Adriana Martinez

Natalie Martinez Robert Martinez Andrew Guerrero Alma Martinez Guerrero Martin Guerrero Daniel Cory Guerrero Sarah Vasquez Lili Granillo-guerrero to all my New Mexican familia.

Andy Au
Andy Au

I like sweet panocha

BongLeach
BongLeach

Good stuff! This really touches on the mainstays of New Mexican food and the culture. I invite anyone to this state, especially around roasting season, and enjoy the weather, food, people and culture that is definitely different than the rest of our country. Don't forget, when you order your plate of tamales, enchiladas or carne adobada, order sopapillas WITH your plate and not as a desert (no sugar). Eat them as you eat your dinner and if you really want to fit it, drizzle a bit of honey on top of your bite, you'll Thank me later.

Oh and I prefer red Chile (remember everyone it's spelled C H I L E)

Antonio Maldonado
Antonio Maldonado

Good stuff! This really touches on the mainstays of New Mexican food and the culture. I invite anyone to this state, especially around roasting season, and enjoy the weather, food, people and culture that is definitely different than the rest of our country. Don't forget, when you order your plate of tamales, enchiladas or carne adobada, order sopapillas WITH your plate and not as a desert (no sugar). Eat them as you eat your dinner and if you really want to fit it, drizzle a bit of honey on top of your bite, you'll Thank me later. Oh and I prefer red Chile (remember everyone it's spelled C H I L E)

Antonio Maldonado
Antonio Maldonado

OC talking about my home state eh? Definitely have to read this! Panoche XD

FyrDiva
FyrDiva

While I have been to "at least one" Chile festival not all Chile is Hatch. Hatch is a community like one of many across New Mexico that grow red and green Chile [True New Mexican pet peeve]

NM Carne Adovada is tooo different from Carne Al Pastor to even be compaired as similar.

Otherwise pretty spot on.

mcow1
mcow1

Interesting, the two mainstays I see all over New Mexico aren't listed, stacked enchiladas (instead of rolled, and with an egg on top) and Navajo tacos. However, I've eaten adovado all over New Mexico and don't think I've ever had grilled meat in it. Usually the meat is just cooked in the sauce until extremely tender. Much like tamale meat

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