Santa Fe's 400th birthday party (more like 402nd, but I'm told fibbing about age is common) will be a monster, lasting for 16 inexplicable months, but it all gets under way on Labor Day weekend.
The festivities begin with a "cultural festival" that daintily pooh-poohs the issue of colonialism and operates under the premise that our Native American buddies are happy to celebrate the founding of a Spanish outpost in their midst. Golly, things sure did suck around here until the Europeans showed up—let's party! Native American bands Black Eagle and Blackfire will be on hand to prove it. Big draws like Lila Downs and Ozomatli (why don't they just move here already?) will also be around for a stress test of their multiculti credibility. Concerts cost cash but other events are free.
Among a slew of allegedly cultural events, the Santa Fe School of Cooking has collaborated with Santa Fe 400th organizers to create Sabores de Santa Fe: A Tapestry of Taste. Ten Santa Fe chefs and food gurus will offer demonstrations, workshops and tastings at Fort Marcy Park on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5 and 6.
With a big name like Mark Miller—creator of Coyote Café—dropped into the middle, it's easy to imagine cries of contemporary culinary colonialism filling the air, or at least the secret blog posts of the bitter and lonely. But chef Rocky Durham of the Santa Fe School of Cooking has made it clear that 400 is an arbitrary number for food lovers, and Sabores is really a celebration of the cuisine of the Americas.
Chocolate historian Mark Sciscenti demonstrates how chocolate spread across the early Americas like heroin and discusses its use in New Mexico from about AD 1000 onward. Lois Ellen Frank, author of Foods of Southwest Indian Nations, discusses, uh, foods of Southwest Indian nations and offers up Picuris Pueblo-raised bison stew. La Boca owner and chef James Campbell Caruso tackles the Spanish influence on indigenous cuisine. Michelle Roetzer of the Santa Fe Community College culinary program examines corn in all its multipronged glory. Fernando "Man in the Black Hat" Olea of Bert's Burger Bowl and Bert's La Taqueria fame chronicles the migration of Mexican food traditions, and Brent Bolton, a walking, talking master of the Dutch oven, demonstrates "cowboy cooking along the Santa Fe Trail." Bolton will be serving apple upside-down cake, biscuits with gravy and blue-corn buttermilk corn bread because, despite his funny little cowboy hanky, he is a real man.
Other luminaries, including BBQ provocateur Cheryl Alters-Jamison and Edible Santa Fe publisher and general badass Kate Manchester, make presentations and/or serve up the goods. Miller is slated for some kind of "exploration" of chile.
Navigating the culinary events calendar at santafe400th.com is enough to make one wonder if we've accomplished anything in the past 400 years, so beware that presentations will take place at different times over the weekend, beginning at 10 am and ending in the early evening.
Durham, who drops contemporary food bombs like green chile relleno ravioli with red chile pesto—may the baby Jesus bless his soul—wants the Americas to be taken more seriously as a culinary crucible. He notes a lot of credit for the development of modern cuisine is given to the French and Italians but, "5,000 years ago, when the proto-French were hiding in the woods and eating each other, people over here were saying, 'Would you like another tamale?'"
The commemoration of Santa Fe's founding remains a mysterious event, with grand tourism aspirations, rusty definitions of "culture" and a vision of Santa Fe that few actually recognize. But among the individual talents participating in Sabores, a truer melting pot is discernible and the city's distinct flavors begin to come through.
Sabores de Santa Fe
Sept. 5 and 6
Fort Marcy Park