Saturday, October 23, 2010

Roasted Chllis

In the fall here in Las Cruces and around, the summer’s crop of New Mexico chili peppers are being picked by the truck load.  There is a pepper festival in Hatch, NM just north of here, but it was before I got to Las Cruces.  I didn’t really pay attention to all this until I saw people carrying big gunny sacks out of a supermarket and some carried them to metal baskets rotating over a gas flame.  The air was filled with the most delectable smell as the peppers were roasted until the outsides were scorched and blistered. 

This is the smell of fall in southern New Mexico, a smoky, pungent fragrance that makes my mouth water for the food of this place.  It is as evocative as the smell of burning leaves in the places where there are trees enough to shed leaves.  A smell of the end of the summer growing season, of cool nights even here in the desert.

I rushed into the supermarket and bought a small package of the roasted peppers, took them home and peeled the now loose and charred skin under running water, and started to cook with them, chopping into salsas, seasoning other dishes, and decided I needed a winter’s supply.  I bought 20 lbs and had it roasted at a farmer’s market down town and drooled all the way home as the car was filled with the smell.

So begins the winter of learning to cook with chili peppers, something I’ve wanted to do better, and now I’m in chili pepper heaven, every kind of pepper, and every possible spice and materials to do it, enchilada city, and mole sauce and there is frozen pozole in the freezer waiting for the first cool day.

We are now well into framing the second of nine houses that will be built this winter, and more and more volunteers are arriving in their RV’s, but soon we will be over crowded.  The new RV parking lot, which doubles the spaces to 10 is not ready yet, and on the 31st a full roster will arrive.  No idea where we are going to put them, we are doubled up as it is.  There is some possibility that the new lot will be done by then, but otherwise it’s going to look more like an RV storage lot than a camping place.  I don’t mind, but I think some are feeling a little squished.

Up until now, my construction experience was in bits and pieces of hands on and the theoretical understanding that I got from working with plans.  Here, I have been part of everything and done a lot of it myself.  I’m learning a lot, especially the gap between the rosy ideal on a draftsman’s desk and the vagaries of the actual construction process.  For example, we went and carefully measured where the plumbers had places the pipes to be filled around when the slab is poured.  Seemed to be right on the money, but then I watched them pour the cement and push and drag it around the pipes. There was no way the pipes were going to stay put, so we had to adjust some of the walls.

Today, with an army of students from NMSU and the homeowners, we set the roof trusses on the second house, so we are steaming along.

I joined a local singing group that is affiliated with NMSU, it’s a student group but they let in community members too.  They’ve been working on the music since Sept, and I have a lot of catching up to do!!  The director is strict and amusing, and I’m really glad to be singing again. I apparently didn’t forget how. She asked me to try out for a solo choir doing part of the music, but I chickened out.  It’s two weeks until “production week” which is the week of performance and we are going every night from 6-10.  I’m going to be pooped that week.