food: where the home is

COVID-19 Update – We hope this blog can offer inspiration for your future safe adventures, however, we do want to make you aware of the current restrictions in place in Taos and New Mexico – for up-to-date visitor information, please visit here.

Two years ago, I moved to Taos from a food desert. I arrived on a lean budget without knowing a single person. I understood right away that Taos is nourishing: views and vistas, mesa or mountains, stargazing or skiing or simply walking at the local park. The place encourages us to care for ourselves, too, with the food it offers for us to grow, create and enjoy.

I learned that Taos welcomes us to feed ourselves – fancy or not, something we call cuisine or just a bite to go. If you can cook or bake or if you consider yourself a chef and throw grand parties, you will soon discover that besides the supermarkets, Taos offers smaller spaces with hard to find ingredients, fresh and grown here: flours, herbs, organically grown or locally sourced produce or eggs or beef. Places like Taos Market, Sol Food Café and Cid’s Food Market offer these. Taos Farmers Market in the plaza and Red Willow Farm Farmers Market at Taos Pueblo offer a close-up to the connections between where something grows, who offers it, and conversations about how to prepare or enjoy it.

I brought my cookbooks here to Taos; they have followed me from California, and finally to New Mexico eight years ago. I opened them every time to find how I spent days, the places I lived, and the gift of labor they could be in Taos on a day when the breeze comes in, as the weather shifts, while we praise rain, or wait for first snow.

As I got to know Taos and got involved in work – a new job, new friends – I found that Taos offered incredible possibilities for taking a break from cooking and for sharing a meal with others. From the south to the north, there were possibilities from as easy as standing in line at a window, driving through or sitting down for a special occasion.

While we have been indoors and keeping our distance these past few months, we find ourselves more frequently in the kitchen. It’s more time than some of us have been in our kitchens in years. The time, interest, and fascination with good cooking abounds in Taos and now perhaps more. I’ve heard talk of bread, sauces, dishes with ten steps and three hours prep – much too hard, or too time-intensive for the everyday. Working at home, I dug out my pizza stone and pasta machine and Chez Panisse’s pizza and pasta book.  But even self-proclaimed cooks or chefs need a break and the community though enjoying time at home for meals with family has been equally supportive of eateries that have been affected by our unusual reality. Since the pandemic and in these unusual times, Taos eateries and restaurants have kept the community nourished and kept our spirits up.

We are hungry, not only for something someone else has prepared for us, but also for sharing with others – even from a few feet away. And how many chocolate cakes can one make in quarantine (the answer is five) before what one really wants a small dessert from Chokola Bean to Bar? Places from El Toribio to Pizano’sEl Taoseño or Mante’s Chow Cart are places you could always get items to go and you still can. But other eateries have not been cut out – literally – for to go and have adapted. Some of the mostly sit-down places have made changes for these unique days:  Lambert’s, The Burger Stand at Taos AlehouseMedley, Sabroso, Orlando’s  and Taos Mesa Brewery Taproom and newcomer Sushi Siam Taos. These places have pared down menus for folks in Taos so that we can still enjoy them, say hello, take it to go. And even if we preferred to eat within the walls of these spaces, it’s still special – because it’s local, because we all have that dish we love and because it’s a place we hope to return to with others someday soon.

Food is central in lean times, in difficult times, in fat times and in all celebrations. It has been one of my favorite pastimes since Mid-March to count the cars in drive-thrus or restaurant parking lots, to see the lines of people – often more than six feet apart!—waiting for their standbys. One of my favorite transitions to witness was the modification of The World Cup’s front door – the tiny space which had crammed so many Taos locals and tourists in the not so distant past on mornings – opened a new face to serve in this new world.

Like many others in Taos, in the past two months, I’ve left my house only for groceries or takeout, to walk an empty trail, see the Rio Grande Gorge, make my way down to the Rio Grande to see if it’s warm enough yet to think about going in.

I’ll confess here to being a grilled cheese sandwich fan and fiend. Taos has some of the best, to the point where I’d never want to try and make one at home again. I look forward to the season when I can walk again from work to Manzanita Market for their Grilled Three Cheese. And I look forward to the grilled cheese at Common Fire again, where it’s the usual name on a menu but a superhero of a treat with its bread and boone’s ghost-chi.

Every season something is served in Taos that reminds me how unique this town is. Whether its apricots or honey or kale or piñons, we feel supported by what we eat, by where it came from, where it was grown, even the smallest detail of getting to know the person from whom I buy the beets or the honey or the salsa.  Food helps us feel at home even when that home is still new.

Author: Colette LaBouff has lived in New Mexico since 2011. She is currently the Executive Director at Taos Center for the Arts and the author of Mean (University of Chicago Press, 2008, a book of prose poems, and Holdings (Container 2019) a text-object.


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