This delightful book is filled with the distinctive regional recipes, family stories and dichos (sayings) that Callego Thorpe grew up with. It contains recipes for the herbal remedios her grandmother used for healing, as well as more widely known foods such as tamales, enchiladas, and posole. It is a fascinating record of a way of life and a way of cooking that can enrich the historical and cultural awareness of all Americans.
Sopa de Viejo
Old Man's Soup
6 flour tortillas, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh roasted green chiles, cut into strips
1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 qt. chicken broth
1/2 qt. milk
1 Tbsp. oil
salt to taste
Heat oil in a 2-quart pan. Add tortilla pieces and brown lightly, about 4 minutes. Add onion and garlic; cook 3 more minutes. Then add the chicken broth and milk, and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Add green chiles and cheese. Cook 3 more minutes. Serves 4 to 6. This was one of Abuelito’s favorite soups.
Abuelito was a great storyteller, and he especially loved keeping us up with ghost stories on hot summer nights, when we kids were sleeping outside on cots. He told us about La Llorona (The Crying One), a woman whose children died in a fire when she left them alone to go to a party, and the story called “Dancing with the Devil at Elysean Groves,” about a girl who disobeyed her parents and went dancing, only to discover that her partner was the devil. There are a variety of versions of these stories. Abuelito kept us in anticipation for days, as he told little bits of Aladino y la Lamparita Maravillosa (Aladdin and the Magic Lamp) each night until it was finished.
After I graduated from high school, my cousin Elaine, a friend, and I went to California to make our fortunes. We returned home after three months, flat broke, and willing to seek our fortunes in Tucson, instead. On the night of our return, Elaine and I decided to go to a local dance to catch up on everything we’d missed that summer. When we got home that night, Abuelito unlocked the door for us, and then hid around the corner with a sheet over his head to scare us, like he had done when we were kids. Later that night, he passed away, leaving us with sweet memories of the loving, tender man that he was.
BOOKLIST, JULY 1999
Other authors have documented the foods of America's Southwest, but none have so lovingly drawn the intimate connections between this kind of cooking and the society from which it springs. Thorpe and Engels have organized their recipes by seasons to show how the people, the land, and the food come together to bring life to the area's inhabitants. Their cuisine is a simple one, lacking the sophistication of cooking south of the border. For example, their mole sauce for chicken calls for just peanuts and chili powder instead of the long inventory of nuts, seeds, and chiles required in Oaxaca. Many of the recipes include a note on herbal medicine; others have short reflections on the recipe's significance in the family; still others conclude with an apothegm of local folk wisdom.—Mark Knoblauch