Oni’s pecan dashi ramen offers a full-bodied vegetarian broth using local ingredients. Photograph courtesy of Oni.
I AM SAD TO SAY THAT MY CULINARY SKILLS have not improved one teaspoon over the past year. I can claim no sourdough starters, cache of cookbooks, well-stocked bar cart, or even a shiny new air fryer. The closest I got to new kitchen adventures was indulging in episodes (seasons, actually) of The Great British Baking Show, Chef’s Table, and MeatEater on Netflix.
While not a bad home cook, I’m much more adept at eating. And with an entirely new culinary landscape to explore in New Mexico, my wife and I ordered a lot of carryout—sauté pizza from Taos Pizza Out Back, shepherd’s pie from Harry’s Roadhouse, in Santa Fe, ramen from Oni, in Albuquerque, and so many green chile cheeseburgers, smothered burritos, and tacos that Guy Fieri would be jealous.
In an endless stream of #whateverdays, we found excitement in unwrapping some new dish, and comfort in knowing there wouldn’t be a pile of dishes waiting in the sink. Like most people, we missed eating at actual restaurants or grabbing a beer with friends. But throughout the pandemic our family has been extremely lucky, so it also felt good to support local businesses and our neighbors when we could.
For a while, Fridays meant celebrating another week by eating through the menu at Santa Fe’s La Choza. We enjoyed the tamales, enchiladas, and chiles rellenos (and don’t skip the queso with red chile beef), but I was most impressed by the efficiency and care of the curbside delivery. Each car was greeted at a valet stand, given a numbered parking spot, and quickly met by a server.
Despite the to-go containers, masks, and social distancing, there was something homey about it all, like stepping through your grandmother’s front door. It’s the same kind of hospitality, resilience, and creativity you’ll find throughout this month’s “How We’re Eating Now” cover story.
With so much upended about our lives in the past year, it seems natural we would turn to our kitchens, gardens, and takeout for connection, community, and green chile stew for our weary souls.
As Indian Pueblo Kitchen chef Ray Naranjo says, “Food is the first being that you’re introduced to in a culture.” It’s also how we tried to make sense of the chaos and how we move forward. My kitchen wish is that we carry the lessons we’ve learned with us.