By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
Before the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, I was, like many Americans, a world traveler. I was confident, relaxed and enjoyed the journey. Now, two and a half years later, besides attending my 50th high school reunion in my hometown in Michigan a few weeks ago, I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve watched and read about brave souls taking to the roadways and skies. Not me. I’ve stayed put. I’ve actually felt anxious about leaving my safe compound here in California.
But my benchmark 70th birthday on July 14 was looming and my daughter, Hanna, whose 35th birthday was three days after mine and is exactly half my age, and I had begun a tradition of traveling together on special birthdays. Five years ago, we went to Iceland. This time, we agreed to stay closer to home and flew on my birthday to Santa Fe, N.M. I was actually nervous about going somewhere not in my daily routine. I mustered up my courage and flew to Burbank to meet Hanna near her L.A. home. We then flew together to this 7,000-feet-above-sea level magical town in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
For those of you who haven’t been to Santa Fe, I highly recommend a long weekend visit. If you also happen to love Native American culture, Spanish culture or Native art, architecture and jewelry, you’ll be swooning with excitement. We sure were as both of us have degrees in cultural anthropology from the University of Michigan with a focus on indigenous peoples. I have always been fascinated in particular with Navajo life. As a matter of fact, before I met my husband Bob 47 years ago, he already had a Navajo rug collection and several pieces of turquoise and silver jewelry. We had that in common way back when. Hanna came by it organically.
There are so many amazing things about Santa Fe. The evening light is particularly beautiful. I love the main plaza in the center of town, lined with adobe and Spanish-style buildings, Native Americans selling their wares under the long portico, and charming stores and cafes. It’s a very walkable city.
For those who want to see more, wonderful hiking at all levels is available nearby. One could also drive up to Chimayo, about 20 minutes from Santa Fe, stopping to view the hoodoos, mountains, and valleys along the way. Chimayo has an amazing adobe church situated in a plaza filled with trees along a tributary of the Rio Grande. Don’t forget to dine at the famous Rancho de Chimayó up the road.
In addition to our love for all things Native American, Hanna is a jeweler specializing in raw gemstones which include turquoise. Don’t ask! We pounded the pavement in 100° heat and saw thousands of pieces of jewelry in our few days in Santa Fe.
We were particularly on the hunt for “old pawn.” Old pawn was a term used for jewelry made and worn by Native Americans that was used to trade for credit or goods. Pieces made in the 1960s and earlier are most valuable. Nowadays, it is coveted because of its age, workmanship, and unusual styling. I was collecting old pawn back in the early ’80s. Hanna bought me a beautiful pendant for my birthday as a keepsake of our trip.
And naturally, let’s talk food. OMG! The food in Santa Fe is extraordinary. There is a definite vibe to New Mexican food. Many people erroneously think that it’s Mexican food or that the people are of Mexican descent. Actually, New Mexico was first colonized by Spaniards in the late 16th century who arrived from Mexico City–hence the confusion. The culinary style is similar to Mexican with the shared use of several ingredients such as beans, corn, chiles, and tomatoes. Also, people may mistakenly believe that all this food is really spicy. The use of chiles gives the food a wonderful depth of flavor, not necessarily hot.
I was fortunate enough to have attended a cooking class and lecture on July 16 at the Santa Fe Cooking School taught by Dr. Lois Ellen Frank, a Native American (half Jewish) chef who paved the way for degrees in culinary anthropology. She is first and foremost a wonderful chef and food photographer. Dr. Frank’s 2002 book, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, won a James Beard award.
I loved chef Frank’s lecture about indigenous edibles and how the Native diet changed with “first contact” (when Europeans began to arrive). Pre-contact, there were eight foods available: corn, beans, squash, chiles, potatoes, tomatoes, cacao, and vanilla. After colonization, domesticated animals and other crops were introduced. Any restaurant in Santa Fe that you go to features some of these products in interesting preparations and combinations.
Today, I’m offering a spin on a recipe in Dr. Frank’s book, Pinto Beans with Wild Rice. Her recipe uses tumbleweed as the green mixed in. I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t have young tumbleweed tendrils available to me. Use either curly endive as chef Frank suggests, or—as I prefer--arugula, which imparts a nice peppery flavor. I have also added fresh tomatoes, pine nuts or pepitas. Pine nuts are easier to find so do what you feel is best.
On one occasion, I wanted to make this salad more of an entrée. I added one or two 5 oz. cans of white albacore tuna. This addition really takes it out of the Southwest flavor profile, but who cares? I loved it.
Share with us here at The Insider any shopping stories for Native art/jewelry you may have collected over the years. And “Nizhniygo adííyį́į́ł, which means “Have a good meal” in Navajo!
New Mexican Pinto Bean and Wild Rice Salad
Yield: 8 servings
3/4 c. dried pinto beans (or 1 can pinto beans, drained well)
1 c. wild rice or wild rice mixed with brown rice
1 1/2 c. curly endive or arugula, coarsely chopped
1 c. diced fresh Roma tomatoes
2 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts or pepitas
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3/4 c. sunflower seed oil or olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Put the beans in a large bowl, covered by 2” water. Allow to soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain. Put in a 2 qt. pot, cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil; turn down to a simmer. Cover. Cook for about 2 hours or until tender but not mushy. Drain well. Put in a large bowl.
Bring 2 1/4 c. water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the rice and salt. Cover. Turn down to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow for the excess water to absorb. Fluff with a fork. Add to the bowl of beans.
Mix in the endive, tomatoes, scallions, and pine nuts. Add the dressing and stir to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.
In a blender or a small food processor, mince the garlic and jalapeño. Add the lemon juice and vinegar, and the salt and pepper. While the motor is running, pour the oil through the feed tube at the top.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.