Today we’re awarding the Golden Chile to someone who speaks eloquently and passionately for all us non-native heat-lovers. We may not have the genes of chile-popping people, but we’ve more than made up for it with a profound love—obsession might be a better word—for the feeling that peppers give us. That warmth! That kick to the senses! That anything-but-subtle reminder that, yes, we are very, very lucky to be alive!
Her name is Thomasina Miers and she’s the author of the aptly titled, Chilli Notes: Recipes to Warm the Heart (Not Burn the Tongue) and the co-founder of Wahaca restaurants.
She was recently featured in this beautiful “Nowness” video, preparing preserved peppers and speaking about her bottomless love for culinary heat. As our mission is to “Spread the Chile Love,” we couldn’t agree more with what she has to say. You can follow this link, or click on any of this post’s larger images to see the video: Preserving Chilies with Thomasina Miers on Nowness.com
They called her The Pepper Lady. I mean, that speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Her ‘real’ name was Jean Andrews. A native Texan, she did it all – a well-recognized illustrator, author, cook, collector and world traveler. Born in 1923, she got her bachelors, a masters and then earned her doctorate (she started that when she turned 50). She wrote books about wildflowers and sea shells but she’s perhaps best known for her books on peppers.
I came across Red Hot Peppers at Nicholas Potter books here in Santa Fe. I’d heard about her but surprisingly didn’t have any of her books. I snatched this one up, if for no other reason than the copy on the jacket, “A Cookbook for the not so faint of heart.” Here, here.
Turns out Jean – who died in 2010 – knew a heck of a lot about peppers. She travelled around the world tracing their path once Columbus brought them back to Europe. During her own travels, she brought back seeds from South America, Africa, and India and grew them back home. She loved chile so much that – according to an article I read – she even had a red Mercedes 380 SL with the license plate “Pequin”. Nice.
Go online and nab one of her books. Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums or The Pepper Trail: History and Recipes from Around the World are two. Enjoy them for the recipes. Enjoy them for the illustrations – Jean’s own. But most of all, enjoy reading the words of someone who was full of life and full of love for chile.
Willing to travel for the right one. Promise a new life of fun and adventure.
If we’d written a want ad, that’s what it would have said. But who needs an ad when there’s eBay? So when we got this mad idea that Los Chileros de Nuevo Mexico, our chile and Southwestern food company, needed a school bus (note: needed not merely wanted) we hit the world’s favorite second hand shop.
And we came up with a recently retired yellow school bus in Branson, Missouri. Chuck – the shark – handled bidding and we got it. We flew out and drove back. Let’s just say that miles-per-gallon is not the best-selling-feature of our bus.
A little paint (okay, a lot) and a new-look interior and voila – the Los Chileros bus was ready to hit the trail. We’ve gotten some eye rolls and strange looks (could there be some bus envy going on?) but you know what? It always gets noticed.
Which is how we feel about chile. Chile takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. The ho-hum becomes hee-hee. It adds some spice – literally – to life. Not convinced? Try our Chile Roasted Potatoes and see how the humble spud gets a new lease on life with a healthy dash of chile. Then keep your eye out for our bus. Who knows…we might be coming to your town.
CHILE ROASTED POTATOES
Serves 6-8, with the slight possibility of leftovers
2 pounds new potatoes, skin on
5-6 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp Los Chileros Organic New Mexico Red Chile Powder
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
Preheat oven to 400°F. If the potatoes are small, leave whole. If a bit larger cut into halves or quarters. Toss them in a baking dish with the olive oil and the other ingredients. Roast for about 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Check for seasoning (you can add more salt and chile powder if you want). Remove the bay leaf. Place the potatoes and garlic cloves in a serving dish. Let your lucky guests remove the garlic from its skin and enjoy with the chile potatoes.