by wjw on December 31, 2006

So here in New Mexico we have our holiday traditions. We eat tamales and posole, and set fire to farolitos and luminarias, and sing “Vamos Todos a Belen,” (“Everbody Go to Bethlehem”) which is a kind of clanky waltz from “La Pastorela,” the classic shepherds’ play. Since I live near the town of Belen, the song has local resonance. Kathy has heard Socorro kids, who can only think of one reason to visit Belen, singing “Vamos Todos a Wal-Mart.”

One holiday tradition we certainly do not have, at least in this part of the state, is digging out from under tons of snow. This week we had a two-day snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of the white stuff on the ground. For Albuquerque that was a record snowfall, and I doubt that it’s any different for us here in the Greater Belen Area.

A foot of snow is trivial if you live in Moose Jaw or Duluth, but it’s enough to shut down all of New Mexico. Yesterday the power went out— no heat! No light! And— gasp!— no email!

I built a fire in the fireplace and caught up on my reading. Though the day was cloudy, there was enough bright light off the endless snowfields to provide reading light. When the light began to fail, we went out to dinner and a movie, and when we came back, the lights were on.

But the heat wasn’t. We have a modern house with programmable thermostats in every room, and the power cut had knocked them all out despite the batteries that I change every autumn and that are supposed to keep them going. So I reprogrammed them and waited for the boiler to turn on. And nothing happened. So I checked the boiler, and it was fine. The pilot light was burning merrily, but the big burners just wouldn’t turn on. I turned the boiler off, waited 30 minutes, then relit it, and reprogrammed the thermostats again, and nothing happened

So I built another fire and we readied ourselves for a cold night. I prepared to call a heating contractor in the morning and pay for a $250 emergency Sunday service call.

At 6:00am the boiler finally recovered from its daze, and pipes began to shriek. They shrieked for hours, but the heat finally did come, and eventually the pipes stopped shrieking. I don’t know what went wrong and then right, but at the moment I don’t care. We are now warm and cozy in our little house in the middle of the big snow field.

I would post highly artistic pictures of the snow, but I haven’t yet replaced the digital camera that was stolen during the break-in. Check out these pictures from our friends Scott Denning and Patricia Rogers if you want to see what the Rio Grande Valley looks like under snow.

We are celebrating our deliverance from Jack Frost by enacting one of those classical holiday traditions. We’re making posole. Here’s the recipe I use— it’s amazingly easy.



1 pound prepared hominy (I use the frozen bricks available at the supermarket. If you don’t have prepared hominy, you’ll have to prepare the raw stuff with lye or whatever. Good luck with that, by the way.)
Water as needed.
1 pound meat (I prefer pork, but beef, chicken, or lamb would work as well)
salt as needed
1 medium onion, chopped.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground comino (cummin)
1/4 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
4-8 dried Anaheim chile pods, crushed.

Place hominy in a stewpot with an adequate amount of water, and simmer for 5 hours. Add water as it becomes necessary.

About an hour before completion of the simmering time, brown the meat in a large, heavy skillet.

At the meat to the stewpot and cook until tender.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for an addition 1-2 hours, until the hominy is very tender. Adjust seasoning.

I happen to like posole with grated Cheddar cheese on top, but that’s just me.

Posole is terrific if you’re just sitting around the house waiting for something to happen, or if you have some friends over and you want something simmering on the stove for them to eat when they get hungry.

That’s why “siege posole” is featured in Hardwired, in the scene where Cowboy and Jutz and the Dodger are besieged in their house in the Sangre de Cristos, sitting and trying to figure out how to start their revolution. Because posole is the ideal food to prepare when you’re not sure who’s going to drop in.

Pat Mathews January 1, 2007 at 4:38 pm

I’ve stolen your posole recipe. Thanks.

Kelly January 2, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Stay warm, and have fun with all that white stuff while it lasts.

Anonymous January 2, 2007 at 10:58 pm

I also made posole, here in NYC.

With pork.

New Mexico chili.

But I used the dried NM posole, not frozen.

There are leftovers in the fridge.

Not for much longer though.

Love, C.

Anonymous January 3, 2007 at 4:13 am

I would almost be willing to give up heat for a big bowl of posole, especially with friends.

But not quite.

S.M. Stirling January 3, 2007 at 5:07 am

Bah, yer wimps down in the Bosque. We got _26_ inches here, and we only got out of the house today!

Had to spend an hour digging the car out — after we checked that there was still a car under that white mound.


dubjay January 3, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Okay, I’m officially tired of the snow now.

It’s been below freezing for days, so none of it’s going away.

The last few nights there have been huge, glorious rings around the moon, as the moonlight shines down through ice crystals in the atmosphere.

The effect also turned the snow to an interesting blue color never seen in nature.

At night we are surrounded by blue snow. That’s pretty nifty.

The posole was delightful but is gone. Today I’m going to rub a chicken all over with butter and goose grease and sea salt and bake it in the oven.

The kitchen will be warm for a few hours as a result, and the chicken will last for several days.

Pat January 8, 2007 at 12:49 am

Steve – once upon a time, back before people needed 17 foot ceilings and huge Great Rooms and all that extra space (or if you have an older house and live alone) there was a marvelous invention called a ‘garage’. It was a house for the car. It had a roof and four walls and a big car-sized door you could lift up on a pivot even if the power was down. Once in its own cozy house, the car was not snowed on, did not have to be ice scraped, and was ready to go.

Alas, except for us creaking relics from the last cycle of history, everyone turned theirs into a family room the length of the house. Results: house and car that had to be heated specially.

(insert playground chant tune here from the Li’l Ol’ Lady survivor of the snow.)

“Two feet of snow, six plows; you do the math” The Santa Fe Reporter

Steve January 10, 2007 at 2:21 am

“there was a marvelous invention called a ‘garage’.”

— I work out of my home.

The room that _was_ supposed to be a two-car garage was turned into a study before his house was completed.

That’s why I bought it. I need the space for my reference works, all 6,000 of them…

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