Hey, nerds, here’s an interesting news item: Bueno Foods turns 70 on May 18. What?! That’s outta control, especially since we figure at this point we’ve eaten about 70 tons of the company’s chile. But, no, furreal here, Bueno, if you’re reading this, congratulations. Truly! It’s not often that a local company makes good and does good and isn’t gross in its practices—and it’s even less often that a company’s product lives full-time in our fridge and freezer (don’t sass us, people who buy it fresh—we’re doing our best here!).
If you’re interested, there’s a pretty cool history page on the company website that delves into the story of the Baca brothers, who founded the company. These dudes were in WWII, they were down with Piggly Wiggly; there are some pretty cool photos. It just makes us look to that Autumn Roast green we have at home and think about how we’re part of this long legacy of radical chile-ness that other states (especially Colorado) couldn’t even begin to understand.
That’s kind of the incredible thing about chile—as much as other places try to do it like we do in New Mexico, no one can come close. It’s baked, fried, battered and smothered into our DNA here, and that even includes folks who didn’t grow up here but came, saw, conquered those X-Mas enchiladas the other night like it was their J-O-B. This makes us part of a long lineage, even if chile seeds dating back over 6,000 years have been discovered in Mexico and Peru.
We learned some other interesting facts about chile. For example—did you know a bunch of yahoos try to spell it like “chili?” Wack. But in actually interesting news, we discovered that only mammals respond to capsaicin (that little something extra that gives chile its spice). Seems birds don’t give a shit about it, and though they’ll eat chile if and when they must, they’re impervious to the spice. Wow!
You might already know chile’s crammed with vitamin C (and we do mean the ’90s-era recording artist, but also the actual vitamin), but we’re talking about 107 mg per pepper—compare that to the dumb old orange which clocks in at around 69 (nice) mg. In other words, next time you’re feeling a cold coming on, wring a bunch of chile water into a glass and drink up (this is not actual medical advice).
In the end, chile is spicy because the peppers actually don’t want to be eaten. Hot-ologist scientists theorize capsaicin was developed by chile peppers as a defense against fungi that, like us, was all like, “Slap that shit on some tortillas with melty cheese, and baby—you’ve got a meal going.” See, bugs will poke holes into fruits or peppers to get at the sweet, sweet innards. This allows mold to get all up in there and, knowing this, chile developed capsaicin to slow the spread of microbes. Scientists even found that chile growing in more insect-heavy areas tends to be way spicier than not, so the next time you’re at Tia Sophia’s sweating it out over a particularly spicy Brekkie B, know that that batch had to survive crazy amounts of bugs and molds to make it onto your plate.
We even heard tell of chile that was spicy enough to burn through gloves, of medicinal purposes, of that thing that happens when something spicy kind of clears out your sinuses and you get all chile high and slump down in your chair to light a cigarette. It truly is a miracle food.
And that’s why we must protect it from consumer nonsense, plant diseases and people from Colorado who pop down to act like our state’s proud culture is some kind of footnote in the story of their kicky summer trip to places cooler than their bougie-ass, assing-ass cities like Denver. Pshshshshst. Denver. Anyway, in a fascinating 2003 paper/study from New Mexico State University (which, to this day, has one of the best chile/agricultural programs in the dang world), chile docs and experts were already worried about diseases and consumer-based decimation. Think of it like when Sir David “Emmer-Effing” Attenborough says “a sea of sand” in reference to a desert, and swallow the following analogy: You know how we’ve practically fished the ocean to nothingness? How we all like sushi and salmon and tuna so much that we’ve eaten them away to a scant whisper of their former non-farmed glory? Well, we’ve kind of done that with chile—and that paper we were talking about is old enough to buy smokes now! That’s not even getting into wilt diseases and climate change and smug Coloradans, so what’s the solution?
You might think it would be to eat less chile, but we actually think there’s another solution. Before we say what we came to say, note that we’re not a scientist or doctor or even all that great at growing plants—but that’s actually kind of our point: We’re going to need more people interested in the survival of chile to get schooled and get working. As we say, NMSU has an excellent program (and it’s adorably called the Chile Pepper Institute), so as the post-pandemic world phases to more sustainable methods of existence (ie, the many people who turned to gardens, bread-baking, homesteading, etc.), we’re hopeful a new generation of farmers armed with more knowledge than our dumb weekly newsletter will hit the fields and breed some kind of self-replicating super chile.
We can only imagine Bueno Foods will be on the forefront of whatever happens chile-wise over the next 70 years. Honestly, Bueno, we know we kind of went on a tangent there for a loooooooooooooong time (apologies to readers, too, but it was a fun ride, right?), but we really just wanted to say happy 70th. You’re an actual part of our regular life, right on down to using your little empty chile tubs for leftovers. Three cheers for the Baca brothers—a million cheers for chile!
Look, we’ve been to the past. We’ve been to the future. We’ve been all around the afterlife. And you know...the best place to be is here. The best time to be? It’s now. And all’s we can say is...
-May is apparently Santa Fe Bike Month (just in Santa Fe, probably not everywhere), and that means food discounts for people who do bike jazz (by which we mean “stuff,” and not some horrible new form of jazz where people repurpose old bikes into horrible instruments for smooth and/or fusion songs that suck worse than ANY jazz post-1978). We got sidetracked, but if you visit this site, you can get info on free stuff, like cappuccinos from Betterday Coffee, $5 off at the Cowgirl and more.
-Speaking of special months, Albuquerque’s Marble Brewery is celebrating Mom Appreciation Month this month and will donate $1 to the nonprofit Barrett Foundation for every six-pack of Pink Lemonade Lager sold in May. Said nonprofit provides shelter for women and children experiencing houselessness, so drink hearty, miladdos.
-The Fork drops Thursdays, and we’re here to tell you that on Friday this week (being May 14), the Santa Fe Indigenous Center is offering another food distribution session at its location at 1420 Cerrillos Road. The local nonprofit will have other goodies like diapers and family care bundles as well, and it works on a first-come, first-served basis (they do run out). You can always donate, too, if you’re so inclined and able.
-A radio advertisement we heard recently informed us that Susan’s Fine Wine and Spirits is moving out of its longtime St. Francis Drive location and into a super-secret other place. According to this ad, the shop will be closed June, July and least part of August, and at some point in there we’ll find out where the new spot will flare into existence.
-Oh. Our. Gee. We always love when we can mention ye olde Santa Fe Spirits, especially now that the local distillery has welcomed a new distiller named Natalie “Distiller” Dale. That’s not actually her nickname, but Dale has lived and worked in such places as Chile, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. This is a pretty big one for Santa Fe Spirits fans, and we look forward to Dale’s contributions, even though our heart already belongs to Santa Fe Spirits Business Manager Caitlin Richards.
-Oh, dang, our BFFs at Edible New Mexico announced the winners of the annual Local Heroes awards, which highlight the best of the best in New Mexico food. Find the full list of winners right here, but allow us to give a shoutout to Santa Fe winners like Jambo, Arroyo Vino (which recently faced a fire that’ll require renovations), New Mexico Hard Cider and Farm to Table New Mexico. There are lots of other winners, but Santa Fe por vida is what we’re saying.
Woooooooooahhhhh! We fully, full-on traveled back in time!
-USA Today is concerned there may be a chicken wing shortage. We’re curious—would such a thing be a major drag on your life, or is it, like, not so bad? Tell us!
-Over on Thrillist-dot-com, find a rather interesting world tour of sandwiches. We don’t know if we’ve ever mentioned we don’t eat meat, but there are at least a few sammies on there that would bring us back were we not of the mind that meat is pretty gross. Consider this a pro-meat item, however, everyone who writes to ask about meat.
-You’ll probably find a lot of stories about this in the coming weeks, but read here about how not every restaurant in the country is feeling super-pumped about a return to full capacity service. See, it’s scary. Life’s so weird.
-Vice’s Munchies imprint has a pretty solid mini-doc about Portland, Oregon-based sushi chef Yoshimasa Ikeda, whose Yoshi’s Sushi truck looks straight-up amazing. Ikeda himself is no slouch in the amazingness department, and we salute his commitment to delicious fish dish-ness.
-Oh, hello, Thai iced coffee recipe from Saveur-dot-com. You look delicious, and we would very much like to make and drink you. Yes, as it gets hotter out but we’re still exhausted from staying up late to work on what we’re calling “the pretty OK American novel,” we find ourselves in dire need of caffeine, but, like, cold. This should help and also be glorious.
-Ah, the never-ending question about what the eff “Use by” and “Best if used by” labeling on food means. According to our own research, these aren’t government-mandated features meant to help us avoid food-borne illnesses (and believe us, if you ever get food poisoning, you’ll KNOW), but rather a window manufacturers use to announce when they think their products will taste best. To expand a little, those eggs in your fridge with the stamp bugging you to use ‘em soon will be OK for a lot longer than that. In any event, Fooddive-dot-com has a story about a study about this, and it turns out most of us don’t really know anything about this conundrum and thus make weird assumptions.
-We’re admittedly not the best about eating non-New Mexican leftovers, but according to a new piece on HuffPost-dot-com, there’s science behind our aversion to what appears to us like old food. Money, mold, feelings, barometric pressure, math, economics, stats, GPA and all-around demeanor all play a role in whether or not we go back to the fridge for more.
In the print edition of SFR, newcomer William Melhado visited Plant Base Cafe, Santa Fe’s newest vegan/vegetarian joint and home to numerous fake cheeses. Excelsior!
A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence
Number of Letters Received
*That’s worse than last week!
Most Helpful Tip of the Week (a barely edited letter from a reader)
“Joe Cocker is cool!”
*Sure—ON OPPOSITE DAY!
Actually Helpful Tip(s)
“One thing I’ve been meaning to suggest is that you use your soap box to start getting restaurants in town to stop using styrofoam packaging and cups.”
-So sayeth Fork Fan Stephen G., and y’know what? He’s not wrong. We get that this is a tough time economically, but with non-styrofoam containers available, we wonder what challenging local restaurants to think green might yield. Failing that, maybe we can all get together and shame them online?
Hot as eff,
PS: We hid this at the end because we like full circle gags but think the song sucks.