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Why Californians Should Eat Chiles
Lummis was known to be downright nutty in his devotion to the culture and traditions of
the Southwest. The author, editor and preservationist who founded the Southwest Museum now
located in Los Angeles Arroyo Seco not far from where Lummis lived, was often seen
about town a century ago in his Mexican sombrero with a red sash wrapped around the waist
of his green corduroy suit.
He was also a founder and president of the Landmarks Club, an
organization devoted to restoring Californias crumbling Spanish missions, employing
experts in Spanish colonial history and architecture to assure that the jobs were done
right. The club was also instrumental in preserving something more mundane but no less
important to the historical integrity of Los Angeles, namely "several hundred of the
historic street names which were being replaced with irrelevant new titles."
Lummis was equally devoted to preserving the culinary traditions of the
region, judging from a chapter he contributed to the Landmarks
Club Cookbook, published in 1903 to raise funds for the mission restorations. In his
chapter, entitled "Some Spanish American Dishes of California, Mexico, Peru,
Etc.", Lummis revealed that he had little patience with those who turned their noses
up at chile peppers, a staple of the desert Southwest.
"It is a stupid traveler who mocks the ancient wisdom of the
country as to what in that country should be eaten," Lummis wrote. Chiles have been
eaten in the region now known as California for thousands of years, a tradition that
prudent Californians of modern times should heed, he asserted.
Chiles, "both green and ripe, are a "necessity of the arid
lands. For anti-bilious reasons [Spanish American cookery] is much more highly seasoned
than our own cookery," he explained.
Lummis counseled those who have tried chiles and didnt like them
not to give up hope. "Most Americans do not at first flush like dishes in which they
predominate; but it is an easily acquired taste."
Lummis included a number of chile recipes in his chapter. Here are two
(Stuffed green peppers; the Mexican Albondiga is
Boil mutton till tender. Scald large green chile peppers
and remove their thin outer skin. Hash the meat and make it into a stuffing with raisins,
stoned ripe olives and hard-boiled eggs minced fine. Fill the peppers with this stuffing
and put them in a pot in which has already been prepared a sauce of tomatoes, whole red
chile peppers, raisins, onion and a little broth, and heat slowly, twenty minutes, without
stirring. Garlic can be added.
Twelve large tomatoes, twelve green chiles, twelve medium
onions, chop well; three cups sugar, three cups vinegar, two teaspoons allspice, one
teaspoon cayenne pepper, two heaping teaspoons salt. Boil all together till thick.