“Comidas de la Navidad” In Northern New Mexico
By ROBERT NARANJO
Northern NM – One can find a slow-roasted Christmas ham or a turkey at many homes in northern New Mexico for a sit down lunch or dinner with family on Christmas Day, but there are also “local” foods that make the holidays uniquely New Mexican. Here are some of the most popular.
Many of Northern New Mexico’s homes take on an aroma of biscochitos (sugar cookies) during the Christmas season. Although today oil or butter is used in the ingredients, “purists” insist that using lard gives them the “melt in your mouth” texture and adding anise gives it bursts of that spice’s unique flavor. New Mexico’s “Official State Cookie” is number one when locals were asked what food they love most at Christmas time.
Incidentally, there is a small ongoing debate on how “biscochito” or “bizcochito” is spelled. This is America, spell it how you care to, it’s still going to be a popular Christmas treat for all.
Next, “posole,” with accompanying “chile rojo” (red chile) came in as the second most popular food in northern New Mexico during the Christmas holiday season. Posole or “pozole” , what people in ancient mid America or Central America referred to it as, is found in nearly every New Mexican home, not just in northern New Mexico.
Again, the “purists” cook “posole“ with menudo (intestines of sheep, usually) but people sometimes use pork shoulder, because one has to love menudo, known as the “Breakfast of Champions,” to enjoy it. You’ll find both versions, menudo style or with cuts of pork in northern New Mexico. Either way, it’s a holiday mainstay.
Next was the “tamale.” A home-made “
tamale”with “plenty of meat” as a filler is tops with northern New Mexicans during the Christmas holiday. And, it goes with everything. On the side and quiet, but delicious. It’s versatility is “value added.” When cooled it’s perfect as a hand-held for lunch, it’s just as good with a little salt, warm or cold, much like pizza. New Mexicans, wherever they live can’t go without their tamales so the Postal Service and UPS handle many packages of frozen tamales being sent to family around the nation this time of year.
“Empanaditas” or turnovers, are a popular food that can be quite versatile. They can be stuffed with mincemeat or with fruit, usually apple. “Empanaditas de carne” or meat turnovers are just plain good and if you see any served during the holidays, try one with either sweetened mince meat or fruit, it’ll be sure to delight.
Empanaditas. Courtesy images
There were many other Christmas foods in northern New Mexico that were mentioned. One long time favorite is “Sopa” or bread pudding. It is made with raisins, nuts and sweetened with caramelized sugar is a holiday treat found in northern New Mexico. It can also be made for other non-holiday family events. In Mexico, it’s called “capirotada” but it’s made pretty much the same way, an employee at a local grocery store explained. If sopa or capirotada is served at a family or friend’s home during the Christmas holiday, try some. It’s delicious.
Another holiday food that is standard in northern New Mexico is “panocha” which is “sprouted wheat flour” according to the labeling. This is a delicacy (get your heads out of the gutter!), that is sweet, has a slight sandy texture and it sticks to the spoon and to the roof of your mouth. It’s not as common as it once was so you’ll be lucky if you find a home in northern New Mexico where you can sample it. But if you do, you’ll be a fan instantly.
While we’ve only covered foods, a favorite holiday drink that came up when asking people in northern New Mexico about their favorite Christmas foods, eggnog was mentioned a lot. Served out of the carton with no liquor is good but usually a rum, whiskey, or other liquor accompanies it.
Oranges, apples, peanuts, nuts, popcorn balls, and Christmas candy were also mentioned as popular during Christmas time in northern New Mexico.
Everyone has their own favorite food during the holidays and that’s what make it special, memorable, and traditional. Do you have one not mentioned here? Let us know.
Have a safe and special Christmas holiday, from all of us at the Valley Daily Post.