Santa Fe Vile

One man tastes Southwestern knock-off food so you don't have to

Recovering from a hernia made Santa Fe native and current Seattle resident Warren Langford's stomach rumble. Hospital staples like mystery-meat hash and green Jello salad just weren't cutting it. He needed something a tad more familiar, but was "horrified" by the "ridiculous" number of knock-off foods labeled "New Mexico" and "Santa Fe-style."

Langford's boiling point reached, he launched a blog, laden with biting comments sure to make other Southwest foodie bloggers Hatch green with envy.  

"I started [it] because I love New Mexican food, and it's extremely hard to come by outside the state," he tells SFR.

He warns against canned "green chilis," whose flavor he describes as "slimy, water-flavored air" and labels items like Weight Watchers' "Santa Fe style" rice and beans "an old pile of diarrhea."

Armed with a smartphone, a debit card and a microwave, he's scoured the aisles of Mom-and-Pop shops, health-food stores and big-name supermarkets, documenting and tasting the worst the Santa Fe-style label has to offer: products like Foster Farms' "Santa Fe mini chicken cheeseburgers with creamy chipotle sauce" and FM Brown's "Extreme! Spicy Santa Fe parrot treats."

Not limited to the corner bodega, Langford has also taken his act to restaurants that offer "salads, weirdo egg bagels or whatever they drown in salsa bearing the 'Santa Fe' brand." He calls one recent "Santa Fe omelet" experience simply as "barfaroni." 

Two months into it, both his stomach and his psyche have had it.

"I get a little crazy," he admits. "I don't think anyone went to Santa Fe and asked the town, 'Hey, do you mind if we name everything with corn and black beans or any salad with tortilla strips after your city?'" he says. "If they did, that would be news to me. Who would they ask, the Fiesta Council?"

To cleanse his palate, the blogger makes yearly pilgrimages to Santa Fe. "Even bad New Mexican food is exponentially superior than the snake oil the big corporations are peddling outside the state," he says.

Langford hopes locals will defend their culinary history against products he calls "exploitative" and "racist."

"Why aren't more New Mexicans in an uproar about this? It's funny, because I've honestly never encountered another culture that takes such pride in its food. This is evident with the New Mexico green chile regulations," he says.

In between visits to town, Langford manages to offset the flotsam and jetsam with the few beacons of New Mexican cooking available in the Pacific Northwest, like the Emerald City's Bang Bang Café.

Run by Albuquerque expats, the "lovely slice of home" ships in green chile and other ingredients directly from the Land of Enchantment. 

"They have the only breakfast burrito in the city worth eating," he says. "It's about the size of a Nerf football, and it's damn good…even by New Mexico standards."

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