Real Things our Friend Ryan’s Abueulita has said to us about Christmas

To borrow the local parlance, we were not born here all our lives, though we’ve been in Santa Fe a looooooooooong time and love it here and would both kill and/or die for it. And knowing that, one of our favorite things is the culture we get to engage with thanks to our Hispanic friends who’ve kindly invited us into their lives and homes now and again. Yes, we love this all the time, but we particularly love it at Christmas because our friend Ryan’s grandma is THE BEST. She’s a veritable treasure trove of holiday thoughts and recipes and she usually gives us red chile fudge every year (we haven’t been able to muster the courage to ask about it during the pandemic, but fingers crossed). The following are actual things she’s said to us around this time of year. We think they’re valuable.

“Oh, sweetie, you’ve gotta make more enchiladas in December than you know what to do with.”

She lives up to this, too, because we’ve looked in the freezer she keeps in the garage, and it’s soooo full of gigantic pans of enchiladas. From what we’ve seen, grandma prefers red chile enchies to green, but as she’s also told us, “If you ask your family what they want and make it, you’ll feel good for weeks.”

“There’s a big difference between fudge someone bought you and fudge someone made you.”

Jokes about making things with love abound out there, but it’s true. When someone crafted something with you in mind (and didn’t poison it), you can tell. It’s especially evident in fudge, which is honestly a lot easier to make than most people think. Abuelita also likes to put red chile in her fudge, and when she has gifted it to us, it’s usually a half-and-half mix between chile and no chile. We also know (because we cared enough to ask) that she’s been using the same recipe since the early 1970s. But no, she wouldn’t let us share it with y’all. We did find this recipe for chile fudge with “Albuquerque” in the name, but we can’t vouch for whether it’s as good. It’s straight up probably not.

“I used to hate Christmas when my husband was working, because you didn’t know if he’d be home or if he’d have the energy to celebrate with us. Don’t work at Christmas, mijo. You’ll regret it.”

We for sure don’t see ourselves on our deathbed thinking we should have worked more, so we just think this is solid advice, food or not. When we asked Abuelita if her husband had a favorite food for Christmas, she got very serious and said “Anything I made. Anyone who told you different is a liar.” Abuelita’s husband is, sadly, no longer with us.

“I don’t know about an open fire, but I love chestnuts. Here, eat these. Hey! Sit down right now and eat these chestnuts!”

According to our research, eating chestnuts at Christmas was a tradition well before Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song” hit the world in 1946, and Abuelita couldn’t tell us when her family started roasting them. Instead, she said, “They were just there, I think, always. I wish I knew. Try some, though.”

“Yeah, popcorn balls look like they’re gonna taste good and everything, but are they worth your teeth, sweetie? I only have a couple [teeth] left, so I’ll tell you—they’re not.”We’ve seen popcorn balls in all shapes and sizes and with all kinds of things in them (like M&Ms, weirdly...though it works), but with this sage advice we cut them out at Christmas. We know food-based newsletters should maybe not steer you away from food, and that you might not know Abuelita, but trust us—she’s right.

“I’ve never eaten no goose for Christmas because they’re mean, and I bet mean animals taste bad.”

This might be our favorite, mainly because geese ARE mean. Once a flock of them attacked our brother. Like, they seriously came right at him and our dad had to jump in and fistfight them. In reality, he probably just screamed at them, but our brother was about 7 at the time. He was also tiny, so as you might imagine, the geese probably would have flown off with him to someplace weird and he’d be some sort of monstrous goose-boy. Anyway, Abuelita always told us that her ideal Christmas dinner was turkey or ham. When we asked why she’d want to have turkey again so soon after Thanksgiving, she said “Don’t be a smart-ass.” We ate some more of her fudge and apologized. “That’s OK, mijo,” she said. “It’s your job to ask questions. But I’m very old and I know what’s what.” Agree. We ultimately learned that during her best or favorite Christmasses, Abuelita had both turkey AND ham. “Some years were kind of lean, you know?” she told us. “Some years we didn’t really have either, but that was OK. You know why, mijo? It doesn’t matter as much what’s on your table, you just need to tell people you love them.” Abuelita is still kicking, by the way. We’ll miss her this year, but understand it’s for the best. In the meantime, we’re gonna maybe make some fudge for her if we can get it together. It won’t be as good, we just know it. But it doesn’t really matter what’s on your table.

Oh, one quick addendum, though—we understand that for some people this time of year, it very much does matter what’s on their table. If you’re able, please donate something to The Food Depot or The Empty Stocking Fund (applications for those who need the Empty Stocking Fund are closed for the year, but those who can afford it can always give something). Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re lucky, and many of us have more than we need. Pass it on, please, friends, if you can.

Also

-Our spies (by which we mean our co-worker) tell us that it appears a new pizza place called Esquina is popping up next door to or as part of Paloma on Guadalupe Street. Umm, so we’re talking about pizza and tacos on the same block? In the same building, even? What is this? A city designed by The Fork when we were 12? PS: If you didn’t know, Paloma’s pastry chef Jessica Bransford is a sweets genius.

-Word on the street is that Sushi8 is hiring an experienced someone or other, and the job description we saw on Facebook sounds like they’d be willing to train the right person in the ways of Japanese recipes. In slightly sadder news, an earlier version of the job listing included being male as a qualification for employment, but according to our editor, who spoke with a reader about the ad, the ownership understands its faux-pas and has since corrected the language. Yay! Learning!

-Looks like local restaurants are getting into the Christmas dinner game, and we’ve already received an email from Rio Chama about their prix-fixe meals for families and not for families. Here’s a link, you decide what’s right for you.

-The Santa Fe Brewing Co. returns to our li’l newsletter this week for its Holiday Food Fund Drive. Basically, if you donate to the fund when you stop by the Brewing Co., you’ll not only get 10% off your purchase, you’ll know you’re helping out The Food Depot. There was also a Christmas tree decorating grudge match between employees on Dec. 11, and we only wish we’d seen that. L’sigh.

-Outback Steakhouse in Santa Fe used to inhabit this one building down Cerrillos, but now it’s outta there because America (or something)? We’re not even sure what’s what with this, as in, is Outback just gone? Aw, who cares. Not to worry, though, for Josh Baum and Ann Gordon, owners of The Ranch House, are takin’ it over with an Italian eatery kind of thing called Rustica. Expect it next year and expect that if they’re even half as good at Italian as they are at BBQ, it’ll be excellent.

-Looks like chef Peter O’Brien, formerly of the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, is off to newer challenges at SkyFire, the restaurant at Bishop’s Lodge. Apparently the swanky resort is on a trajectory for a spring opening. Also, we love nonsense names for things like SkyFire...it implies the the existence of some other restaurant called Groundwater. Hahaha! L’Fork, you’ve done it again!

-Lastly in local news this week, has anyone eaten in the Market Steer Steakhouse’s transparent domes? Is it like being in a Flaming Lips video without Wayne Coyne’s blasé attitude toward cultural appropriation? We wanna know!

If you watch this, we want you to think about the musicians who made this. How they must have felt. Sure, they probably made a good chunk of change, but at what cost? To be some sort of butt-rock Paul Anka kind of act that sings about steak chains with sincerity? No thanks. So long, Outback—welcome new local place Rustica!

More Tidbits

-HuffPost is out there asking the tough questions, like whether or not it’s bad to drink coffee on an empty stomach. Look, H-Po, if you’d wanted to know the answer to that, your good buddy L’Fork is right here to say no, it’s not. It’s never bad to drink coffee ever (this is not medical advice...read the tone of the newsletter, shit!).

-More and more we’re hearing about how gut health affects mood, depression, general well-being and so on. We feel guilty having laughed at Jamie Lee Curtis for hocking poop yogurt all those years ago, but if we’re gonna get our gut got, we’re more likely to look into things like saurkraut and probiotic drinks and this awesome piece on nailing kimchi in six steps from eater.com.

-We promise we’re not trying to alarm anyone by posting a link to the FDA’s online recall notices page, but we are having a weird kind of fun with it by scrolling through and noticing all the weird regional things from other places. We won’t spoil it, and we seriously hope no one gets ill or anything, we just like small differences between places.

-If you follow this link, you’ll find 500 ideas for amazing-ass gingerbread houses. We never even cared about them until our partner L’Forkette showed us this competitive baking show wherein the contestants made outstanding houses (we forget the name and Googling specific gingerbread house things is really hard). Anyway, we’re into it now.

-Stay calm, but Christmas margaritas with cranberries is a thing according to delish.com (they even have a recipe). Looks outstanding, so if you make ‘em, shoot us a photo. Y’all never send us any photos, jeeze.

We know it’s not an abuelita, but this-here fudge-making tutorial is about the easiest and shortest way to do it we’ve ever seen. Add some chile to taste and you’ve really got something. To answer your next question, yes, we do kind of hate this person, but whatevs.

-If you don’t know okinomiyaki, it’s an amazing Japanese dish most often likened to a pancake—but there’s sooooo much more going on with it. Over on bonappetit.com, Chef Harold (we didn’t catch a last name, sorry) gets to making some, and we’re putting it on our “Oh, dang, we want it!” list. Have you ever made this? We tried once and kinda failed, but it still tasted pretty good!

-Just because we think it’s weird, did you know if you type in eat.com to your search bar, it’ll take you to the Hellmann’s site? Those tricky mayonnaisey bastards! Turns out they have all kinds of recipes, though, so it wasn’t a total bust (we thought it would be something else).

Finally

The print edition of SFR went soooo food forward last week that they didn’t even do anything this week. Still, there’s some good stuff about books in there!

A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence

Number of Letters Received 32 *30 of which were vacation auto-replies

Most Helpful Tip of the Week (a barely edited letter from a reader) “You” *You, too!

Actually Helpful Tip No tips were given. No tips were taken. *L’sigh

Tip-Free, The Fork