Does anyone else notice the ways in which it seems the world orders itself into common patterns and themes? Or maybe it’s just that our lives order themselves like that, with ourselves as the impetus. In fact, that seems quite a bit more likely. Either way, I find it amusing when themes emerge in our lives through no conscious intention of our own. Perhaps it’s just the power of suggestion, and nothing more mysterious than that. Take for instance last weekend. Through no intent on either of our parts, Kate and I had an Indian themed Saturday evening. We’d decided that we wanted to go to a movie that we’d previous seen a preview for, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It looked like an interesting story, and it had the added bonus for Kate of including one of her favorite actresses, Maggie Smith. Once we’d found a theater that was playing the movie, we set about trying to figure out where to eat. Which didn’t take long because the movie theater was in Evanston, and I remembered an Indian restaurant we had particularly liked when we’d been there for a movie once before. So the plans were set.
What we realized partway through dinner though, is that we felt like we were in a theme book club. I’m sure you’ve heard of the kind- they read a book that is set in a particular country. And for the discussion, they meet at a restaurant serving that same country’s principal fare. The idea, I suppose, is that it somehow enhances the conversation, eating the food from the place you’ve been reading about. At any rate, we laughed at ourselves a little bit for doing that kind of thing unintentionally. Not that anyone else in the restaurant knew what we were planning to go see, but we knew, and that made us a little embarrassed. Granted, we hadn’t done it on purpose. We would have eaten at the same restaurant, Mt. Everest by the way, no matter what movie we happened to have chosen. At least, I’m quite sure, but perhaps not entirely certain. In either case, we liked both the movie and the food. And it probably was just a strange coincidence that the movie, and our dinner, were both Indian.
More recently, we were subject to this phenomenon again over the past weekend. Though admittedly, it was possibly less phenomenon, and more just a married couple thinking in similar ways. This happens more and more the longer we are married. After eleven years, it seems like it already happens to us a lot. Maybe we both saw a commercial for something in the Southwest. Who knows. Anyway, Kate will be working late all this week training interns, which means I’ll be in charge of my own food for the week. I’ve had several weeks of practice at being in charge of my own food while Kate is doing trainings, and am actually sort of enjoying the challenge. And not just because it gives me the opportunity to make a few of the meat dishes that I like, dishes that only get made in Kate’s absence. This week, for some reason, I settled on making a staple of New Mexican fare, Green Chile Stew. It’s a wonderfully hearty stew using primarily green chiles for flavoring the broth. You basically roast a bunch of green chiles, remove their skins, stems and seeds, chop them up, and add those to water. To this chile broth, then, are added chunks of pan seared beef, potatoes, onions, and a bit of garlic. The final product is a heartily chile pepper laced stew. The pepper pieces fairly dissolve into the broth as it cooks, so the it ends up a green color similar to the color of the peppers (poblano, in this case, though in New Mexico they’d use Hatch peppers). I love this stew, and make it as often as chance and desire allow. Even in the summer, which isn’t really the season for good chiles. It is a love that will be tested, though, since I can only seem to make this stew by the gallon.
I wasn’t the only one, though, looking to the Southwest with my menu planning for the week. When I looked Kate’s shopping list, short because of her busy week, I was surprised to see that she had added green chiles to her list of ingredients for Sunday dinner. She informed me that we were having Navajo Tacos. They are similar in form to a tostada, but with Native American fry bread instead of a tortilla underneath. Kate makes hers with black beans, cabbage, green chiles, chipotle sour cream, and cheese, and of course, homemade fry bread. They’re seriously pretty amazing. You take balls of the dough, and make them into small rounds much like a tortilla shape, and then just put them in the oil until they’re a golden brown. The trick is to get them out before they become too crispy, something I’m not totally adept at yet. Though I think they did turn out well last night. If you’ve never fry bread, it’s a bit like an elephant ear, without the powdered sugar you would get on it if you were at the fair. It’s a delicious change from a tortilla on what is otherwise basically a taco.
When we were done cooking dinner Kate remarked that with the Green Chile Stew simmering on the stove, and the fry bread aroma hanging in the air of the kitchen, we had made a fair approximation of the smells of her childhood in New Mexico. Strangely, we hadn’t really consulted with each other when deciding what we were making. It just happened, our Southwest themed culinary journey. But it doesn’t really matter I guess how it happened, especially because it had such mouth watering results.