The Children of the Blue Nun

Chapter IIIB: The Reverend Mother learns to make chile con carne

By Larry Torres
Posted 10/12/19

"How did you say, daughter, that the natives called that marvelous food?" Reverend Mother asked Sister María."When the pod is on the vine, they call in 'tsileh-nuh.' But when the dish …

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The Children of the Blue Nun

Chapter IIIB: The Reverend Mother learns to make chile con carne

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"How did you say, daughter, that the natives called that marvelous food?" Reverend Mother asked Sister María.

"When the pod is on the vine, they call in 'tsileh-nuh.' But when the dish is prepared and braised, they call it 'tsilih.' It stings to the taste and it even makes them cry when they eat it. The first Hispanic settlers couldn't pronounce the word 'tsileh-nuh,' so they learned to call it 'chile' and they braised it with native meats."

"Did you learn, daughter," Reverend Mother asked her, "how the Indians prepare that chile con carne? It seems to me that it must have many health benefits."

"Mother," replied Sister María, "the Jumanos prepare that food with many unknown ingredients. They begin with a pound of meat from those shaggy humpbacked cows." She drew a North American buffalo with apiece of charcoal so that the Mother could know what she was saying. "If you don't have any meat from humpbacked beef, you may substitute a pound of wild boar." María drew an image of a wild pig. The Mother gazed at them both very carefully.

"Mother, you will need two pounds of humpbacked bear or antelope, one pound of wild board, four finely chopped garlic cloves, two tablespoons suet or antelope grease, three laurel leaves, two cups of ripe tomatoes, an onion, about two inches in diameter, or one chopped leak.

"You will also need one cup of red chile pulp or six teaspoons of chile powder with one tablespoon flour, one tablespoon of oregano, one tablespoon salt and one teaspoon cumin.

"Cube both meats into one-inch square pieces. In a nice-sized kettle melt the grease. Chop the onion, add the garlic and cook for five minutes. Add the meat to the mixture along with three tablespoons water. Cover and let it simmer for five minutes.

"Strain the tomatoes through a colander and add them. Put in the chile and cook for 20 minutes. If you use chile powder, mix it first with flour in cold water until it becomes a light rue before adding to the grease, onion and garlic before cooking them. Next, add the oregano, cumin and salt and cook slowly for about two hours. Add a little water to keep it from burning but doesn't become watery. Serve with beans."

"My daughter," Reverend Mother said to her, impressed by her vast knowledge, "how did your learn everything so well? It is as if you were a natural cook."

"While the Jumano Indians were talking to me," Sister María answered, "I noticed how they prepared everything. We sat down to eat supper together and I was still with them when I felt you touching me softly on the shoulder."

Sister María collapsed in slumber, exhausted. The Reverend Mother helped her to get back into her cot. As she laid her head on the pillow, she noticed a little paper in her missal. When she looked at it, she saw that an unknown hand had written the following:

"The angels and the cherubim with garlands on your brow have crowned thee. They bow most humbly at your feet. Blessed be your purity, Ágreda de Jesús, you are the center of your nobility. Among every single woman, blessed be your purity."

Find other chapters of this story at taosnews.com .

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