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Green Chile - Do You Love It?

Enchilada pie recipe with green chile highlighted
Tawnya Gibson

Green Chile Green chile (that’s chile with an ‘e’ on the end. Never an ‘i’.). Do you love it? Do you hate it? Are you completely indifferent or are you not even sure, exactly, what it is? Do you have a moments pause when you wonder if people are just talking about green bell peppers and why are they so special? Completely understandable.

I grew up in southwest New Mexico, unarguably the green chile capital of the world. Every fall you can smell the roasting from all corners which permeates everything you do and everywhere you go. The smell is definitely fantastic and even a bit intoxicating but, still, even with my background, I won’t pretend to be a green chile junkie. Growing up, green chile went into everything. Maybe that’s why I don’t consider myself an over the top fiend. It was simply a way of life. In my blood and a given, despite what was being served It was a staple in stroganoffs, meatloaves, roasts, bean and cheese burritos and eggs. I’m certain I was introduced to eating chile far before I could speak, but I would need to check in with my mother to confirm. It was a way of life in my tiny town and a definite staple in our authentic New Mexican foods.

It was nearly every Saturday that my mom would put on a pressure cooker pot of pinto beans and make cornbread, both with green chile accents. Burgers in restaurants, fast and slow, were served with chopped and roasted green chile along with the more traditional toppings. In fact, green chile burgers were invented in New Mexico and if you want, you can google and then follow the green chile burger trail through the state and find your own personal favorite. Or you can walk down the street and pass on the burgers and find green chile stew or a breakfast type hash filling sopapillas to the brim. The choices are diverse and endless.

My personal favorite is green chile stew. It’s as ubiquitous as chicken noodle soup in New Mexico and happily served for heartbreak, colds and in celebration and mourning. Ironically, in what seems a deep betrayal to my home state and generations long traditions, the best green chile stew I’ve ever had was actually in downtown Denver. It was neither heartbreak or illness that brought me to this stew, but a simple hunger on a long vacation day and a thought to try it and see if it was up to par. It was. And then some. I’ve spent years trying to chase a close replica to that bowl of goodness and while some are close and most divine, I often long to have another and finally tease the secret out of the bowl.

In addition to everyday food stuffs, my mother swears by eating things with chile in them when you have a cold. Looking it up, it seems there is definitely truth behind this and she has science backing her up. Not that any New Mexican needs science backing up their good common chile sense, but it was still nice to see repeated articles on the side of generational history. Consumption of chile while ill seems to help thin the mucus and clear sinus passages, easing symptoms. It’s also rumored to help protect lungs from other, worse ailments as well, warding off pneumonia at the end of these pesky viruses. Due to this, it was a routine decongestant in our house, which as a lover of chips and spice, I rarely argued.

It’s also been shown that eating chile lowers your body temperature, keeping you cooler when it’s hot outside. It seems counterintuitive, but I’ve survived enough desert summers to see some logic behind this particular claim. It’s also said endorphins are released as you eat green chile, so eating this can literally make you happier. I know the majority of one state that would whole-heartedly agree with that statement! Add to these, the dozen or so other rumored medicinal properties and we see green chile is one little hardworking overachiever.

My personal favorite random green chile fact, however, is the rumored anti-aging properties. I come from a long line of women, who, despite a lifetime of hard work and the New Mexico sun, have fantastic skin. I always blamed (or thanked?) simple genetics or a good moisturizer, but maybe it was actually our steady from birth diet of green chile? Who am I to argue? Now, back to finding that perfect green chile stew recipe… This is Tawnya Gibson for Bread and Butter.