Never having had the pleasure of tasting Prickly Pear Lemonade before, I had no idea it was so good! We experienced this taste sensation at Rancho de Chimayo.
Our delicious drink was made from the Prickly Pear cactus, which comes from the genus 'Opuntia'. The dictionary describes it as having "flattened, usually spiny stem joints, yellow, orange or reddish flowers with ovoid, often edible fruit."
I would highly recommend trying this unique lemonade--you might also want to taste some prickly pear jelly if you happen upon it on your travels through the southwest.
Rancho de Chimayo served up our drink with a slice of orange with a pretty paper flower stirrer.
We were traveling with friends, one of whom ordered a bottle of Sol Beer when we stopped for lunch at the Eating House restaurant in Pajoaque.
SOL BEER is an import from Mexico and is light and bubbly, like champagne. The first barrel, produced by the Cuauhtemoc Brewing Company in the late 1890's, won first prize at the Chicago and Paris World Fairs.
The Moctezuma Brewing Company of Monterrey acquired the original company in 1985 and now has breweries in Tecate, Navojoa, Guadalajara, Toluca and Orizaba, Mexico. I've read that SOL is also available in Texas.
Both the brewery and beer garden can be toured--visitors receive a free glass of draft beer.
I had to look twice to realize I was watching two small tractors with shovel attachments clear the streets of Santa Fe after a fairly decent snowfall.
Coming from the Northeast where there are BIG snowplows and cinder trucks, these seem too small to do the job. But, they must accomplish what they set out to do because the roads were perfectly passable after an afternoon and evening of snow.
Please click to see the entire picture.
This pinyon tree was pointed out to me as we walked along the streets of Santa Fe. We had noticed the wonderfully aromatic fragrance of the pinyon wood when the fireplace in our room was lit.
After searching the internet for information on this tree, I found out some interesting facts. New Mexican Pinyon trees are widespread, usually growing below the elevation of 7500 feet. They do not often grow beyond 20-30 feet and can be wider than they are tall. These trees commonly live 350-450 years, not producing cones until after 100 years old.
The pinyon tree which grows in New Mexico, provides edible pine nuts to much of the American Southwest. It was a major food source of the Native American indians who lived in this area. Since this nut nourished animals, too, numbers of nuts buried for later use often germinate. In this way, the pinyon pine relies on these creatures to help the species spread.
Early Europeans credit the pinyon nut for preventing their starvation. The Pinyon Jay and the tree seem to benefit each other--one provides the nuts and the other's beak has evolved to expertly pluck the nuts from the cone. However, some seeds fall to the ground and eventually are covered over, enabling them to grow.
This bit of info. came from an article by Stuart K. Wier on earthlink.net
I had to travel to New Mexico to sample my first sopaipilla! Actually, I understand that I could have found these in Texas, but I've never seen them.
Sopaipillas are flaky puffs of fried dough that can be used to sop juices off your plate or as a dessert drizzled with honey or cinnamon and sugar.
That first bite was telling...I knew I would have to seek these little treasures out wherever they would be. My sopaipilla was with honey, but anyway they come I'm willing and anxious to try them again.
When you're traveling to the southwest, search for these tasty treats!
When traveling through the Southwest, you'll see strings of dried red peppers hanging from storefronts or from porches of private homes. These are "ristras". This tradition is said to be meant as a welcome to visitors or to bring good luck for the year.
The ristras come in all sizes and some can be quite long. In January, we found them in circular shapes, which ressemble wreaths. We were told that these can also be brought into one's kitchen to add a little color and cheer to the house.
New Mexico is chilies country and the popular deep and bright red of the dried chilies is prevalent in Santa Fe as in most other cities in the state. The traditional string called a ristra They are popular with the locals for decoration as well as for spicing in their southwest cuisine but it's obviously one of the main souvenirs sought by tourists as you see them for sale everywhere.
The Burning of Zozobra is not some rite that's been practiced for centuries, it's a fairly modern creation by a very imaginative artist named Will Shuster.
Will was one of the 'Cinco de Pintores' who settled along Canyon Road in the l920's. He got the idea to celebrate Autumn and the end of the tourist season. The bonfire has evolved into quite a spectacle and coincides with opera season and Fiesta de Santa Fe.
This painting represents the burning of Zozobra, which has become an important part of the Fall social scene here in Santa Fe.
One facet of the Old West style towns I love and very prevalent in New Mexico due to the high amounts and sun and heat are covered pavements. Tourists love the way they look and they are very practical if visiting in the warmer months when it might otherwise be far too hot to shop during the midday when it's certainly too hot to do much else. Santa Fe has a nice twist on the theme by painting the wooden parts bright hues in start contrast to the adobe red clay the main structures are made of. It makes for great photographic opportunities.
Visiting some of New Mexico's pueblos is an excellent way to learn about the history and culture of the indigenous peoples. Because they are recognized as Sovereign Nations, they also are allowed their own specific laws governing conduct and accessibility, which vary greatly from tribe to tribe. For instance, some allow visitors to roam freely, some can be seen only on guided tours, and still others allow no visitors at all.
Beyond that, here are some common regulations you can expect:
• Kivas and other sacred places are usually off-limits - respect areas designated as such.
• Photography is often severely restricted or not allowed at all. Some pueblos allow still cameras but no video, and you may be asked to buy a permit for taking pictures. Never photograph the people unless given permission, or specific areas posted off-limits to cameras.
• Don't look into windows, doorways or enter houses unless specifically allowed to do so, don't climb on walls or ladders, and keep a tight rein on little ones.
• Check for pueblos that may be closed on religious days and if allowed to attend ceremonial dances, behave as if you would in church - no chatting during the dance or applause afterwards.
Best rule of thumb is to acquaint yourself with each pueblo's rules at the start of your visit and to remember that you are a guest in someone's home.
Spanish settlers brought the Catholic faith and its saints to New Mexico four hundred years ago. As colonial chapels were established and missionaries dispatched to this remote region, imagery was needed to familiarize the newly converted with the saints and their stories and to provide the churches with representations of their specific namesakes.
Spain being rather far away, it was tough for parish clergy to get their hands on existing icons so the alternative was to have them made. Carved and/or painted using indigenous materials by village craftspersons known as Santeros/Santeras, these often crude but unique and colorful folk art figures are called Santos and can be 3-dimensional (bultos) or two (retablos). Great skill with knife or paintbrush wasn't exactly mandatory so features often tend to be exaggerated to the point of macabre, and hues towards the positively lurid: it's all part of the charm. Very old Santos are prized by collectors and museums, and newer versions are still crafted for personal use or for their value as a traditional art form.
Catholicism being very prevalent among the large Hispanic and Native American population in the American Southwest, religious iconography is everywhere and created from all sorts of materials: tin, clay, wood, fabrics and even bottle tops or other reclaimed objects.
At the end of May, the prickly pear cactus was in bloom. It produces a beautiful tissue-like flower. The flowers I saw were yellow, but I've also seen red flowers as well.
Prickly pear is a common ingredient in Southwestern dishes. There's no limit to the types of dishes this cactus will end up in. You can find prickly pear cheesecake, cookies, jelly, salads, salad dressings, shrimp and beef dishes, breads, candy, salsa, or you can coat them with cornmeal and fry the s**t out of them. (Remove the spines before cooking.)
I wondered if the prickly pear flowers were edible as well, so I went to the internet, the most reliable source for everything you want to know. I found this statement by an "expert":
Now as far as I know just me and some other guy are the only people who have eaten these flowers. The other guy is dead. So this is more a query than a recommendation. I like prickly pear flowers. Do you? E-mail me at www.humannatures.com and let me know. They have the texture and mouth of yucca flowers. I've heard there is a lost tribe that imbibes almost totally on these blooms. But I have no substantive material on their safety and edibility. So unless you are a fool like me I cannot recommend this flower. All fools please e-mail me your comment.
New Mexicans love color and their favorite shades decorate everything that can possibly be painted, dyed or planted. Vivid chile reds, bright turquoise blues, sunny yellow, fiery orange, cool greens and rich purples are woven into textiles, brushed onto furniture and dinnerware, dabbled into artworks and heaped inside window boxes and pots. Maybe it's because they're such a perfect combination with terra cotta adobe walls, or maybe it's because it's impossible to be cranky when surrounded by all those cheerful hues but it's one of the things I love most about the Southwest.
Santa Fe's unique appearance is due to the thoughtful preservation of its historic structures and to a zoning code, passed in 1957, that dictates how new buildings must look. New construction within older sections of the city has to be styled after specific Territorial, Pueblo or Spanish architectural styles that are considered traditional to the original town. The result is a harmonious blend of old and new: colors and materials that reflect the treasured cultural heritages that make Santa Fe truly "The City Different". The zoning codes also eliminate eye-sore strip malls, disproportionate building sizes and heights, and boxy, boring office and apartment buildings - hooray.
While many of the structures look like adobe, they're usually concrete with a stuccoed overcoat. Tradesman skilled in the craft have become a bit scarce so real adobe has become very expensive to build. They also involve a certain amount of maintenance as earthen walls can take just so many rainy days before they need a facelift!
Chiles can be bought everywhere throughout Santa Fe for use in cooking or for decorative use. Santa Feans order either red or green chile. Red chile is dried; green chile is fresh. The red chile reputedly has more "fire," but I personally prefer the green. If you can't make up your mind, order your entree "Chrismas" style, with BOTH red & green chile!