Monthly Archives: March 2021

The Foods We Eat

Sometimes I really hate being the youngest child, the youngest grandchild. I feel like my kids got cheated out of a life with my parents. They did, no question. The best way I know how to share my parents is with the foods they would prepare. The foods that permeated our lives. Chile and beans, tortillas, biscochitos. These are the foods that mean so much to me, the meals my dad enjoyed. Dad always used his tortilla as his spoon. So these are the foods that I’ve passed on to my kids. While away at college, my youngest asked me where I bought my chile from in New Mexico. My usual place was closed due to Covid but I gave her the name of a different place. She ordered it for herself and then I made a video that we sent to her so that she would have directions. I thought, oh boy, my dad would have been proud. I sure was. When I post something to Facebook that I’ve made, my cousins all comment on it, making everyone feel that pull of our past, of our parents.

Hailey’s chile

Chile and Beans

We have so many family friends and relatives that would show up at our house on Sundays and Dad would make chile and beans. He would have sweat dripping from his forehead but it was a damn good meal. After my mother died, Dad stayed at my house for a bit. He would put himself on a bar stool next to my stove and direct me how to make chile. Thank goodness he did that. Dad had made chile for so much of my life but I never paid attention to the process. Now, I’ve taught my children to make it so that our tradition will continue.

New Mexican food is so different and so much a fabric of our lives, even those of us raised in California. My ancestors brought their food with them and each of our families eat in the same way. My father used to drive to New Mexico from California, just for a weekend, just to eat dinner. He’d leave California on a Thursday, get to New Mexico, eat dinner on Friday, eat on Saturday and make sure he had one more meal on Sunday then drive home, making sure he had his fill until the next trip.

Biscochitos:

When my parents married, my mother sat with her mother in law and watched her make biscochitos because she knew how much my father loved them. Now, my father didn’t like the flavoring of Anise, so my mother removed it and replaced it with vanilla flavoring. My father just loved those cookies. I made them with my mom a lot, as I was the youngest kid left at home and she needed help kneading the dough. I was glad I was there to help. The shapes of the cookies are made by knife and they were the shapes that my grandmother had used.

Traditional shaped biscochito cookies

Fresh Flour Tortillas

My mother made the best tortillas. She always used Bisquick and always kneaded them, taking off her rings and spent time getting them just right. She said that her friend from high school, Alice Garcia, had taught her how to make them. Once in a while, she would save part of the dough and turn them into bunuelos.  You can deep fry the flour tortilla and she would serve it with honey and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Pinto Beans

The first time I made a pot of beans, my kitchen filled with a smell so delightful that I said, “Oh my gosh, it smells like Uncle Fred’s house!” I was so happy. Being at my Aunt or Uncle’s houses were always great places. Our families would be gathered and the sharing food, people coming and going and the smell of pinto beans permeated the kitchen.

Calabacitas

My Dad was not someone who ate vegetables. Meat and potatoes? Yes. Vegetables? Never. But, once in a while, my mother would make zucchini and fresh corn. I just thought this was something my parents made. I had no idea that it had a name and no idea that it was a dish made in New Mexico.

Posole:

For me, this is all of my cousins. If it was holiday time, most of our family parties would include Posole (although my mother didn’t enjoy it and she was glad when my dad had it at other homes).

Lamb Riblets

When I was young, I didn’t understand that when my Dad made lamb riblets, it was food that came from a cute sheep. The smell of the kitchen was always peculiar, and my dad would open the oven door and the riblets would sizzle, grease dripping down to the bottom of the pan. My father always told us that his sister Dorothy would pluck the eyeballs out of the lambs and that she would eat said eyeballs. Just the idea of it was terrible. We are not the only family with that same story. Apparently our ancestors heritage, those who raised and ate goats and sheep, runs deep. Every family seems to have a similar story.

Jackie Jacques-Horton -” When I was staying with Uncle Fred, a buck walked past the window and Uncle Fred said, “Jackie, get my gun.” He got the gun then shot the deer. It was snowing, there was blood in the snow. The buck had been frolicking in the snowbank. Uncle Fred took his truck down there, picked it up and then hung it in the garage. Uncle Fred and Aunt Alice had venison that night for dinner and the heart was in the sink. Aunt Alice told Uncle Fred, “If you want Jackie to do the dishes, you better get the heart out of the sink.”

Diane Archuleta – “I also remember coming home from school and looking into the oven to see what was cooking only to discover that my dad was roasting two goat heads. Now that was a scary sight with four big eyes staring back at you. My dad loved those things. To each his own and to me that was never a good experience. Will never forget those giant eye-balls looking straight into my eyes as I bent down to get a peek.”

I remember a trip back to Blanco and my Aunt Esther’s son Dwayne offered me a bite of his sandwich, almost daring me to try it as his sister Karen looked on. Well, after I took a bite and just after I started chewing they both started to laugh and told me it was a brain sandwich. Needless to say, I stopped dead in my chew! I don’t recall it tasting that bad, it was the thought of it all.”

Taken by Ashley O’Shea this goat says he is our friend and we shouldn’t eat friends lol

Sheri Boyman – “Grandpa Pete also ate goat head! I was very young but never forget walking into the kitchen and seeing a goat head on the table.”

Sharon Williams – “When (Grandpa) Celestino lived with us for a short time, I would come home from school and see two goat heads on the counter that my mother had prepared for him. I didn’t eat dinner those nights”

Valerie Sandoval – “…my dad used to butcher lamb and goats in our back yard and our neighbors were thrilled. One time, I looked in the freezer and saw cow eyes and tongue and almost had a heart attack”

From the position, I cannot tell if this is Uncle Onofre or Uncle Bert but someone is getting ready to get the goat

I have to admit that our family members raised in New Mexico probably ate very similar to our ancestors. Our families that came to California brought those food stories/preparations and spices with them, but we were raised with a bit more of a California flair.

In June of 2016, I took my family on a trip to New Mexico. I spent the night with my cousin Frank Archuleta and in the morning, he made fried potatoes and eggs. The smell of those fried potatoes was so similar to my Uncle Fred’s fried potatoes, that I could envision my Uncle Fred. Uncle Fred was a fabulous cook and Frank’s breakfast was spot on.

2016, Jacques, Taylor and Hailey in Chimayo, NM
Stuffed Sopapilla
Sopapillas

In August of 2018, Tim, Jackie, Hailey and myself traveled to the family reunion in Blanco. My cousin Donny Archuleta put on a spread that was fantastic and included Sweet Masa Green Chile Tamales, Spit roasted lamb, Seafood Paella cooked in a dutch oven over a camp fire, Green Chile, Red Chile, Beans, Tortillas. It was so good, shared on the land of our ancestors.

Ditch

Facing the River
Donny Archuleta
Family sharing a meal

I’m going to end my post with the poetic words of my cousin Steven Stewart. If you look for him on Facebook, he is listed as Stiven Kyle Jaquez.

“Generally, I like to think, when I put my masa to rise in the light of day, that my tortillas de harina carry the sun inside of them. That, when I bite them, I take a piece of the glowing sky inside me. To me, making them, they are a pathway, a dance, a ritual through which I follow the movements and patterns of my ancestors on their ranch in Blanco, New Mexico. Making the dough, rolling it out, brings me closer to them. Tortillas de harina are special because, by speaking to different people and watching how the tortilla is made by different family members, I was able to recreate my great grandma Celia’s tortilla recipe. My dad always told me that he remembered his grandma’s tortillas being fluffy and supple. How did she do that? Well, my Uncle Freddy, before he passed on, told me the secret “my mom always used yeast.” Yeast- that means LIFE, living microscopic beings, not baking powder (monocalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate and corn starch). When I was making the tortillas, I let the stories guide me as I kneaded the dough, and I let the angels watch over my shoulder as I placed the masa by the fire to rise in the warmth. Along with other secrets to the recipe, they came out perfect, fluffy, supple, and moist, even the day after. And I didn’t even follow a recipe. La cocina is magic, not a measurement.

So, I wasn’t expecting last night to happen at all. It was deep. It was spiritual. I had only been planning to find leña (firewood) in order to boil beans- but I got a message from my cousin Yvonne, asking for tips for flour tortillas- I didn’t think the suggestion would have led me to dedicate my afternoon making typical plates treasured by my family. Making them was special because, just like how it was my mission to relearn and keep the language of my dad’s elders, it has become my mission to keep and preserve our foodways, and especially reviving the ancient “conocimiento”(knowledge) embodied in la cocina.

When I was preparing the dough, I thought “well, if I’m making beans and tortillas, I might as well make some chile verde, too!” I was worried when I started making it, because I had, in my head, the idea that to make green chile I needed Hatch chiles and in Nicaragua you can’t find those. But I remembered on the rancho in Blanco, my family probably used whatever was in the garden, watered from the river. I almost could hear in my intuition “agarra del jardín/take from the garden” So I trusted my gut, and threw all the chiles I could find (bell pepper, chiltoma, jalapeño) together with a TON if garlic, onion, squash, a bit tomato, pepper, salt, oil, naranja agria (sour orange)…

While I was boiling down the different chiles….the revelation/conocimiento came to me- there here is potent medicine in chile. It has heat, volatility, it burns like a sun in your gut, giving you life-fire. And it reminds you, above all, of your connection to this earth, in it’s simplicity and power- a reduction of chiles. Of course, it isn’t anything wildly popular like tacos al pastor, but it represents the sting of life, and the struggle in the deserts. It was beautiful, for a moment, to feel close to my ancestors in that distant place in the rancho. It was beautiful to intuitively recover the knowledge that la comida is both magic and medicine. Making a make-shift chile verde took up new meaning with the looming fear of the Coronavirus- it felt like a protective potion, my secret weapon to ward off COVID-19

Stay healthy friends- make some chile! – Stiven Kyle Jaquez

I couldn’t have said it better, my family. Stay healthy and make some chile for dinner!

New Mexico Family Reunion, Myself, Steven Stewart, Tim Jacques, Hailey Bennett, Jeanne Nixon, Magic Jaquez

1918 Spanish Flu/Covid 19 Alfred and Ivy Burgess

So, today is the anniversary of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This year, for as slow as it has been, has gotten away from me. Last year at this time, my youngest had come home from college, worried that she was living in a dorm and that she would contract Covid. I agreed and we moved her home lock, stock and barrel. Her classes would continue but they had moved all classes to online study to finish out her freshman year. Covid-19 was everywhere. At one point in March, I’d decided I better get to the grocery store to fill up my cart with flour, eggs, meat, and anything I thought we’d be able to use. It was devastating to walk into a Walmart Grocery Store and see row after row of empty shelves. I ended up leaving with a box of cake mix and some canned peaches and that was it.  It was depressing. From there, I decided I’d better hit another grocery store, one that I knew was not as well shopped. I had better luck there but the prices of the food they had were exorbitant (which is why I only shopped there periodically, their prices were not raised because of the pandemic, they were just expensive). After that, I had my groceries delivered every week. No more choosing my own fruit and vegetables, no more making my dinner plans and instead basing my menu upon what the grocery store had delivered or what restaurant we had deliver food.

Almost all of our occasions were spent at home. On my birthday, we did go on a hike but we ate our takeout dinner in the car on the way home. Amazon became my friend. It was great to have a place to order anything I needed and get it to my house with relative ease. I got used to wearing a mask anytime I left my home but I really only felt comfortable at home.

This year has given me plenty of time to research and to think. I had been searching for a long time and I had spotted two ancestors, husband and wife, who had died within days of each other. I thought, oh dear, that is not a good sign.

Alfred Burgess and Iva (Ivy) Blossom Nichols Burgess

Ivy Burgess’ headstone
Alfred Burgess’ headstone

Alfred Burgess was born in Kansas on February 2, 1878, 6 years after his brother Henry Carter Burgess. Alfred is the youngest child of John and Rutha Burgess. Rutha was 42 years old when she had him. When Alfred was born, his oldest siblings were 20 and 22.

Alfred married Ivy B. Nichols Burgess on January 19, 1898 in Durant, Indian Territory. He was 20 years old and his bride was 16.

Alfred and Ivy’s marriage license

On the 1900 Census, they still lived in Durant, Indian Territory and Henry C. Burgess lived with them. Henry Carter Burgess was 28 years old and met his wife LuWilla while he lived there. Grandma Flora (Burgess, Hardin, True) was born in Durant as well.

By 1910, Alfred and Ivy had moved to Taylor, Texas.  Their oldest daughter Maybelle was born in 1903 (just one year younger than Flora), daughter Rosa was born in 1906 (one year younger than Aunt Ovola), and daughter Lora was born in March of 1910.

The next document that I found for Alfred was a WWI Selective Service System draft registration card.  

They were living in Taylor, Texas and his wife Ivy was listed as his next of kin.  He was working as a laborer and was 40 years old. His description was listed as medium build, medium height with blue eyes and starting to bald but brown hair.  This form was filled out in 1918. The next form was his death certificate.

At 44, On January 3, 1919, his physician began caring for Alfred. He died six days later. His cause of death was Pneumonia with a contributing factor of Influenza.

The Spanish Flu/Influenza Plague of 1918

When the 1918 Influenza pandemic began, it was not thought of something to be panicked about and symptoms were simple sore throat, fever and headache. People were advised to follow a healthy diet. As the soldiers who were stationed at forts began to exhibit more deadly symptoms, their cases were misdiagnosed as other diseases. At an army camp in Massachusetts, one soldier was sent to the hospital. The next day, it was 15 soldiers. At the pandemic’s worst point, 1,543 soldiers were diagnosed with the flu in one day. And so it goes.

That camp was 35 miles from Boston. From there, it spread to other cities until it had reached across the U.S.. By November, physicians said that death came fast upon the people suffering from influenza.

It was thought that the origins of the influenza pandemic began with a bird flu and that perhaps it had transmitted to a pig and from there to humans.

Alfred Burgess died on January 7, 1919 and his wife Ivy died on January 13, 1919, just a week apart.

When I first discovered that this couple had died so closely together, I was saddened. I had met my grandmother’s cousin Maybelle Carthen, as my grandmother stayed close to her. Here she is with my mother and Grandma Flora on a trip to Aunt Kay’s house in Fresno. Maybelle was 17 years old when her parents died, Rosa was 13 years old and Lora just 9 years old.

My mother Jubie, Maybelle, Flora in Fresno

Alfred’s brother Jimmie and his wife Maggie had one son, Ralph, who died at the age of 20 and one baby girl that had died early. Jimmie and Maggie took in all three of the girls and finished raising them.

Maggie Nichols Burgess and her sister. She took in and raised the three orphan girls.

Maybelle and OB Carthen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary

Now, this pandemic has certainly brought home the anguish those who lived through the 1918 Pandemic must have gone through and the terrible devastation it would have left on their psyche.

I recently received my second shot of the Moderna vaccine. I decided to go grocery shopping last week. It had been a long time since I picked my own food off the shelves and I really missed buying what I saw in the store instead of what I had ordered. Walking down the aisles, I could only picture the empty shelves I’d seen the previous year. I still wear my mask at work (I’ve been tucked away in my office, by myself, for a year!) and anytime I go to a store or am near other people. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since we received the second shot and after that, we can be with other people who have had both of their shots too. I can’t wait for that to happen. To gather with family and friends and not be panicked.  I feel so sad for all of the families who have had devastating losses and whose lives are forever transformed because of the pandemic. We can count our blessings that our family has arrived on March 12th intact, if not a little worse for the wear. I think I shall continue researching and will continue my work on my ancestry blog. It is time to get back to the business of living.