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red-chile

It’s hard to put into words what Thanksgiving is like in the Mesilla Valley. As a time of year this is a wonderful season. Typically, the sun is still shining brightly and warming the days, but the nights begin to get frigid and the mornings are brisk and cool. It doesn’t feel like autumn here as it might in the northwest part of the country, but you can still see signs that it’s the fall.

In the fields you’ll find some chile, but not too much. The chile is turning red in the sun and drying right on the plants. This was the traditional method for drying chile once upon a time. Farmers would go pick this chile and then place it on their roofs or spread it out on the ground to finish drying completely. Those of us who live here like to joke that this is what we mean by “the colors are changing” in the fall, as you can tell what time of the year it is when the chile goes from green to red.

 

Here at La Posta we start our decorations for the fall in late November, and that means new ristras throughout the restaurant. At one time these were made to preserve the dried chile. People had no other way of storing them and didn’t want them to get eaten by bugs, so they strung them together and hung them in their kitchen. Then, as they needed the red chile, they’d break the pods off and use them in soups or stews or other dishes. We preserve this tradition by hanging them throughout the compound. New ristras, bright red and beautiful, creates a festive, fall setting.

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Autumn in Mesilla also means family! Here in the Southwest families are close and often very large. At La Posta it’s not uncommon to see 20 or 30 members of a family gather together for a feast as they start arriving in town for Thanksgiving. To us it is a joy to hear their laughter and see their happiness as they share stories and catch up on each other’s lives.

Then there’s the Thanksgiving meal itself. Turkey is certainly on everybody’s table, but many of us also have a few other items that people in other parts of the country might not get to sample. First of all there’s always some type of chile on the table, usually green or at least a salsa.

Also, chile con carne (or carne adobada) is a dish so many of us enjoy and during this time of the year it seems particularly warming. Rice and beans are always on the table too, they’re staples of meals in many of our families, regardless of the occasion.  But a favorite around here are our “camotes Jalisco” – baked sweet potatoes with a touch of cinnamon and butter that make any Thanksgiving meal complete!

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And then for desert, while most people in America are slicing up a beautiful pumpkin pie, in Mesilla you might find us digging into a decadent pumpkin empanada sprinkled with powdered sugar and best served “ala mode”.

But really Thanksgiving here in Mesilla, New Mexico, is just like Thanksgiving in other parts of the country. It’s about family, about realizing how blessed we are and about sharing good food and good times with those people we love. We hope you have a great Thanksgiving with your own family!

Oh and if you want to sample some of what we have on our tables on Turkey Day, try the Banquet Elegante (above), you won’t be disappointed!