New Mexico nurtures the soul and the spirit with a landscape so intensely beautiful and varied that everyone within her boundaries is inspired to reach beyond the ordinary. Cooking and food preparations that would be considered mundane endeavors in other places receive a touch of magic there. The spice of imagination is in the air. Special recipes uniting all the elements that feed the body and soul are created regularly by cooks blessed with a knowledge of tradition and a desire for innovation. New Mexican cooks have had the challenge of inventing a cuisine for dining in such places as the shadow of the sacred Taos Mountain. This is a mountain that talks to people, whispering to kindred souls that they can find their true home in her embrace. Uninspired food will not do.
What is a suitable dinner menu when you are surrounded by the animated red-clouded sunsets of White Sands? What is a suitable snack under the night skies of Chaco Canyon where the Milky Way is a thick cloud of stars suspended between heaven and earth that hums with songs of light? New Mexico can convince the most pragmatic people that they are having out-of-this-world experiences, that they have entered a mystic realm. It is scarcely possible to find a corner of the state that is not enchanted, or a place where food is not revered.
Perhaps special appetites are created from the experience of stepping inside a surreal Georgia O’Keeffe landscape and seeing the world she painted from the inside out. The gold and purple mountains, the hills of splattered colors, the meander of blue rivers across red canyon floors, the prickly green of juniper, cedar and sage are the reality of the countryside around the artist’s home in Abiquiu. Does an elegant squash soup, horno-baked bread, green salad and a local wine best combine the sophisticated simplicity of this world? On a near diagonal line from Abiquiu across the center of the state to the southeast, highways run across the plains of Peter Hurd landscapes. His snapshots of this reality transported to canvas make us yearn for vision of cowboys on horseback. Is this the place for a cowboy supper of beans, biscuits and beefsteak? Somewhere in between these opposing landscapes, and slightly to the north, are the high mountain pine forests and Pueblo Indians of the Taos Society of Artists’ canvases. Do the colors and shapes call to mind a supper of grilled trout, blue corn tortillas, chiles and posole?