Lynn Cline is the author of The Maverick Cookbook: Iconic Recipes & Tales from New Mexico, a cookbook infused with imaginative historical fiction. She has lived in Santa Fe since 1993 and has prolific career writing about people, culture and food. For over a decade she was the Santa Fe New Mexican’s food editor and restaurant reviewer. Currently Cline is working on a sequel to her cookbook that features the cuisine and histories of another place where she has deep roots, New England.
What inspired you to write a cookbook that connects history and regional cuisine?
It’s funny: I had to go away from what was familiar to see it again. On a trip to Florence, I was immersed in the regional cuisine and its history. The last night, my family asked me, What are you going to work on when we get back, and it just came out of my mouth before I even knew what I was saying: “I think I’m going to do a cookbook.” I wanted to write about the history of food and the intersections of people coming from many different places who brought ingredients and recipes with them and how that shaped the regional cuisine. I thought, “There’s a lot of cookbooks about New Mexican cuisine, but not one that looked at all the threads of histories and people, and how it all came together in this melting pot.” I started to look at the groups: the Pueblos and tribes, Hispanics, Sephardic Jews, ranchers and settlers, writers and artists. All brought cooking styles and dishes with them, but then I thought, why not write about people in vignettes, putting their food on the front burner and their role in shaping New Mexico cuisine?
How did you choose the “mavericks” for each chapter?
I chose twelve time periods first. I knew I wanted to start with the Ancestral Puebloans and then move forward to cover major points in New Mexico history. I had some people in mind that are iconic. Some people fit naturally; [for] others, I had to research the era. For example, one of my favorite chapters is on Edith Warner, who was pivotal in the Los Alamos project. You can still see her house today.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned while writing this book?
Writing about the Pueblo Grandma. I wanted to get it right. In imagining what a day in her life would look like, I wanted it to be accurate. I read a novel, The Delight Makers, by Adolph Bandolier, the anthropologist, that was based on all he could intuit from the artifacts he found at the monument. It was fascinating to me to see that the way they farmed, their dances, and the food of the Ancestral Puebloans are still visible and thriving in ways that are untouched on the different Pueblos. They’ve kept tradition unaltered and preserved their culture and languages.
Do you have a favorite recipe in the book?
I do have a favorite recipe. It’s one I wasn’t familiar with, the “Palace Picadio,” in Dona Tula’s chapter. [Picadio means “chopped.”] It’s easy but elegant, and you can serve it in so many ways. It’s ground beef (we’d probably call it something like Hamburger Helper today), with tomatoes and cinnamon and spices. It probably originated as a Moorish dish, but you can find a version of it in almost any Latin country, so I was learning the history of it and adapting spices. In choosing the recipes, each recipe was made by the person or was of that era. The hard thing was it’s absolutely original, not reprinted, recipes, so I had to make each dish over and over to see if changes worked. My husband loved getting to taste everything.
Cookbooks can be intimidating, but I found this one very approachable. Do you think simplicity is part of the culinary heritage of these recipes?
I’m not a chef, but I love to cook. If a recipe looks approachable, then I’ll dive in. If it’s five pages long and intricate, then I might feel intimidated, so I wanted mine to be accessible. These are simple recipes, in part that’s because some of them are from eras where there weren’t food processors or microwaves. Billy the Kid’s mom was a baker, and she’d sell sweets in Silver City, but there’s a reason they weren’t three-tiered, frosted cakes! Billy loved empanadas. He’d go out on rides with them stuffed in his sock so he could just reach down and grab one. These are recipes anyone could make. The one that required the most time and patience for me — and I made it at least a dozen times — was the tamales!
In putting the cookbook together, did anything surprise you?
The thing that surprised me most was the overlapping of the people I’d randomly chosen to put together in the book. For example, Rosalea Murphy founded The Pink Adobe [restaurant]. Georgia O’Keeffe, and later Dennis Hopper, used to eat there. Dennis Hopper bought the house that [Taos art patron] Mabel Dodge [Luhan] used to own, and he turned it into a kind of “hippie haven.” Stanley Crawford, the garlic farmer from Dixon, is the only contemporary maverick. When I interviewed him for the book, he said the reason he’d moved to New Mexico was watching Easy Rider, which Dennis Hopper starred in. I’d started out focused on New Mexico cuisine and the ingredients that came in from different places, but I discovered this trail of people whose lives intersected or influenced each other.
Printmaking in a Perilous Time
The pandemic changed life in many ways for Jesse Wood, a collaborative printmaker and founder of Heterodox Editions. He studied at Albuquerque’s prestigious Tamarind Institute and was enrolled in classes at the Institute of American Indian Art when the coronavirus shut things down. Wood finished the semester online, but then things shifted. “My seven-year-old son, Calder, is also out of school, so I have 24-hour duty as a caregiver — that is the biggest thing that I’ve been doing differently,” he says. “I’m not really making art. I’ve had to leave printmaking for the time being because it is so studio centered, requiring a lot of equipment and space. Instead, I’ve been relying on kitchen-friendly materials such as watercolor, pencils, pens, paper, really simplifying the material. So Calder and I have been making art at the dinner table.”
Despite the isolation of the times, Wood hasn’t abandoned the collaborative art of printmaking. He’s partnered with other printmakers, providing them with stones for their work. “In lithography, you use a limestone slab to print from,” he says. “I’ve built a graining station to prepare the stones in my backyard. Lithography is a collaborative art, and while we can’t work in the same room right now, I am still able to translate artists’ works into graphic editions. Working as a collaborative printmaker is central to what I learned at Tamarind Institute. It’s something more than just expressing myself.”
Nicola López, who grew up in Santa Fe, is an internationally renowned artist working in printmaking, installation and drawing. Based in Brooklyn, she was on sabbatical from Columbia University this spring when she and her six-year-old son traveled to Italy for her fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. Shortly after their arrival, though, the coronavirus outbreak forced them to their next destination earlier than expected, Santa Fe, to visit family and allow López time to work on an installation for the Albuquerque Museum.
“It all just seemed to fall into place, and the museum’s Visiting Artist program gives me a nice project to be working on,” says López, who converted a carport at her mother’s house into a studio, where she created Haunted, an installation of large-scale prints and video that explores the indelible, destructive ways that humans alter landscapes. “I’m really grateful to the museum for honoring the commitment and continuing the project when many museums haven’t been able to do so for a variety of reasons,” she says. “I’m also really grateful to have this project. It’s a way to deal with the challenges of the time.”
Meg Peralta-Silva was born in Baltimore and lived in many states and countries before moving to New Mexico three years ago. She has worked as a youth advocate, creative expression instructor, program director and farm intern. She enjoys learning from others’ perspectives and challenging her own biases.