It was bound to be noticed at some point. A cursory glance at something rumpled and starved within a plastic container on the middle shelf wayward towards the back. Out at last, of this less than air tight time capsule, are two packages with labels expertly torn and saved for now-once future reference: Guajillo and Pasilla Chili Pods, the remnants from a party long and in fact approximately two years ago. It matters not that it is days after the Vernal equinox and the outdoors have taken on the chirpy tones of a Lilly Pulitzer print. I am taken by the smooth mahogany contours, the resiny aroma, and the deep brittle contours of a landscape southward facing. Something more yet less tangible calls out to me: reminiscent of the paper thin etching of a moth wing under night light or the hollow feeling of neglect and wither. It is precisely the un-nameable loss of something available never used. It is of sudden paramount importance to give this food the proper attention, to allow its purpose to unfold to fulfillment.
With diligent efficiency water is boiled and the desiccated chilies are stemmed, split, and shaken before being plunged into a long overdue quench of moisture. Onions and garlic are systematically sautéed and pureed with the newly supple magenta flesh. A bit of soaking water, some salt, oregano, sugar and allspice. Easy magic. At once the sauce is deep and rich, assertive- coming from yesterday, from a forgotten place like a rabbit jumping out of a hat.
In this moment I actually have good intentions to bring some uncustomary precision to my sauce. I gather the names on the labels, sure to be helpful clues to pinpoint my next direction. Then a kerfuffle of sorts, inconveniently the names of some peppers transform when dried from fresh. Frankly this nonsensical change in title leaves me perplexed. But before I can balk too much, the confusion reaches a climax as I realize that the images on my computer screen don’t match the faces once in their labeled baggies. Are my Guajillos in fact, Anchos? Mine are admittedly ungainly giant raisins, not smooth as leather coronets. Several differing images leave me even more in doubt. And now, it seems rather pointless to make distinctions between types at all.
The irony here is the care with which I structure the physical artifacts of my life, with the sole aim that others might easily locate and retrieve objects from chili peppers to books for me. I memorize where objects are in relationship to another and keep items bundled together in the hopes that this intuitive organization will facilitate this process. Then there is the steady stream of details I am happy to dispense about where, when, how, and why. Still- this one got away, twice. First, by being overlooked and existing beyond its prime; and second, when inadvertently becoming a question. How many others are out there?
To recognize that this tight armature of existence has many black holes is a bit unsettling to consider, and that I do in small turns. Our slow warming weather gets broadsided by flurries and freezing cold. Maybe the newly dubbed Earth Magic Heat Sauce would be good with tamales or even a little ice cream. A corn pudding frittata fusion might be delightful. I can’t help thinking again about the delicious meanderings of a creative process which spills out well beyond form. It is spring again, which for many is welcomed reassurance. But it is also a time of new beginnings, a stroll through unchartered territory, a no man’s land yet to flourish. For those with a smidge of courage, not-to know is freedom from ordinary constraint and perhaps permission to dive into questionable puddles.
Earth Magic Heat Sauce-
5 Dried Pasilla Chili, seeded and stemmed
3 Dried Guajillo Chili, seeded and stemmed
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tbsp. of brown sugar
½ tsp of salt (to taste)
½ tsp of allspice
½ tsp of oregano
Directions: Place chilis in bowl and soak in hot water until supple. Meanwhile fry up your onions and garlic until there is a little color. Place the softened chilies and the remaining ingredient in a blender and whirl with some of the reserved soaking water until sauce is thinned to your preference. Taste and tweak. Then fire up the pan once again, adding a little oil and then "fry" up the sauce for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to deepen.
Corn Pud-ttata Fantastico:
1 onion sliced and fried
1 C of rice milk
1 C of corn kernels
½ tsp of salt
½ tsp of ground cumin
4 Tbsp of amaranth flour
2 roasted poblano peppers, stemmed and seeded
½ C chopped cilantro
¾ c pinto beans
1/3 C feta cheese crumbled
Directions: Place milk, corn, eggs, salt, cumin, and amaranth flour in a blender and whirl until the corn is properly pulverized. Grease a 9" pie plate and place fried onions, poblano pepper strips, cilantro, beans, and feta into the bottom. Pour the corn filling over and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden and set. I believe this was about 40 minutes. Cool and slice. Nice on a bed of watercress and some Earth Magic Heat Sauce tempered with plain yogurt/sour cream.