Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adventures with chiles

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Socially and professionally, I’ve dined with a lot of interesting, eclectic — and sometimes downright eccentric — groups over the years.
I’ve sampled African insects, sugar-rushed through gourmet dessert buffets and sipped wines so pricey that the cost of a glass or two would have covered my mortgage for the month.
I’ve enjoyed conch fritters and the official drinks of Florida’s “Margaritaville,” as Parrotheads applauded the sunset in Key West.
I’ve hobnobbed with wine snobs, motley gaggles of gourmets and discerning artists and academics who threw wonderful dinner parties. I have fond memories of preprandial cocktails on Midwestern porches with University of Iowa genetics professors who enthusiastically cheered the pollen as blowsy blossoms swirled in fecund spring breezes.
But when it comes to showing a girl a good time, it would be hard to beat the annual Chile Leaders banquet at NMSU’s Café 100.
As Chile Pepper Institute director Paul Bosland and other researchers offered an entertaining, multimedia State of the Chile report, Chef Maurice Zeck and his students served up one of the best dinners I’ve enjoyed in New Mexico … or anywhere.
Each course featured different kinds of chiles, showcased and discussed with the reverence and respect sommeliers show for the finest wines. NMSU graduate student Gregory Reeves told me about genetic “family” links of some of my favorite kinds of chiles. I heard tales of growing chiles from Arizona to Indiana from new NMSU faculty members Lois Grant and her husband, Richard Pratt, who heads NMSU’s Plant and Environmental Sciences Department.
First up was Heritage 6-4 Chicken Soup, a creamy, savory taste sensation that would rival the world-renowned green chile chicken enchiladas served at Santa Fe’s legendary Pink Adobe.
“Both!” was the correct answer to the official state question (Red or green?) when it came to the salad course, a piquant and pretty fiesta blend of black beans, jalapeños, corn and jicama with tortilla strips and red chile dressing.
The outgoing world’s hottest pepper king, Bhut Jolokia (AKA Ghost Pepper) starred in Holy Jolokia BBQ Pulled Pork, with sides of calabacitas, fried papitas and a delicious stuffed rocoto pepper, a richly nuanced golden variety that rates all those imaginative superlatives I feel have been wasted on mere wines all these years.
We finished with Santo Scorpio Flan, an ambrosial chocolate creation lightly kissed (or succulently stung) with a chile blend that included a hint of the new contender for world’s hottest chile pepper Trinidad Morgue Scorpion Red. At least one fiery pepper was clocked at 2,009,231 SHU (Skoville Heat Units, a scale measuring the spicy fire of chile peppers), as compared to Bhut Jolokia’s 1,578,548 SHU.
Chef Zeck said he’s had several requests to write a cookbook, and I’ll add my vote. In the meantime, you can get some ideas and ingredients (from several kinds of chile seeds and plants to chile-based sauces, salsa and the smash hit Dr. B’s Bhut-Kickin’ Brownie Mix) at the Chile Pepper Institute gift shop in NMSU’s Gerald Thomas Hall, or get a catalog and more information online at www.chilepepperinstitute.org.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leap Year Fiesta Memories

By S. Derrickson Moore
ANTHONY, N.M. & TEXAS — I’ve been there, done that and still treasure the T-shirt. And I’m delighted that others will be able to share one of my favorite fiestas again this year.
Even in the Land of Enchantment, ground zero for exotic fiestas, Anthony’s Worldwide Leap Year Festival has always been a standout.
This will be my fifth Feb. 29 in the suburbs of the Leap Year Capital of the World, the site of my most memorable Leap Year celebrations.
My first encounter with the 29ers was in 1996, when I met Mary Ann Brown, an artist, former journalist, skilled equestrian and enterprising 29er who decided her home in the border-straddling little community of Anthony (Texas and New Mexico) was the perfect place for a Leap Year Festival.
She invited me to her cozy, art-filled home and showed me pictures of the first celebration in 1988, when she and nine other 29ers (also know as Leapers and Leaplings) threw a birthday in the family auto parts store.
The 1996 festival was laid back and charming … and beginning to attract attention that would make the “worldwide” description more than a cheerful boast. Through national TV, newspaper and magazine exposure and an increasingly active website, Mary Ann heard from 29ers all over the world, some of whom decided they wanted to come in person to celebrate in a town that honored their unique birthday.
Among those who took notice was Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame. He wanted to honor his 29er wife, Susan, and their friendly connection with Mary Ann turned the 2000 Leap Year Festival into a celebration the likes of which had never been seen in Anthony, or any place else.
“We love small town festivals,” Susan told me when I did stories on the big bash for the Las Cruces Sun-News and New Mexico Magazine.
They loved this one so much that they brought a large entourage of family and friends. Graham presented a free concert that attracted a big, happy crowd, and prevailed on his pal, world-renowned artist Peter Max, famed for his “Cosmic” psychedelic paintings and posters, to create a T-shirt for the millennium leap year event. Another famous amiga, Bette Midler, loaned one of her legendary mermaid outfits to Susan Nash for the festival parade.
Mary Ann presided over the big bash with the appropriate exuberance of a birthday girl of 17, her Leaper age then, and the mature competence of someone who had been generating fun for more than six decades.
Thanks to her efforts, governors of Texas and New Mexico have issued proclamations naming Anthony official Leap Year Capital of the World, and Sen. Pete Domenici went on record (The Congressional Record, in fact) requesting that Congress and the President join in the proclamation. There were commemorative postmarks. ABC’s Good Morning America show did a live remote broadcast from the fiesta in 2000 and the New York Times and the Washington Post did stories.
From our first meeting, Mary Ann has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the festival and her little community, which she loves. She told me her main goal was always to bring some attention and business to the Anthonys.
For the past two decades, she’s called and written me at least a year in advance of each of her birthdays and urged me to do a story and alert the Associated Press — and in recent years, online editors at the papers in our chain — so the word would get out in plenty of time to allow 29ers from throughout the nation and the planet to make their travel plans for the Worldwide Leap Year Birthday Party and parade.
I got her call early in 2011, too, and was concerned when I hadn’t gotten the usual monthly heads-up follow-up calls.
When a story broke that the festival might be canceled, I tracked down her son, Jerry Garland Brown, and learned that Mary Ann has been ill and the festival was in jeopardy.
But Mary Ann has established a legacy and the 29ers will not be denied. In fact, it may be bigger and better than ever, Jerry predicts, with events from Feb. 25 through March 4.
“There will be a redo of the very first leap year capital birthday reception at the 1988 original site, which is now Mattress America, 709 S. Main St. in Anthony, hopefully with many more Leapers present,” Jerry said, announcing an event-packed schedule. For info, visit www.leapyearcapital.com.
Mary Ann, who was born Feb. 29, 1932, turns 20 this year. I recently talked with her and she sounded great. She reminisced about past fiestas and joked about being able to “legally” enjoy a champagne toast at the next party in four years when she finally turns 21.
Happy birthday, Mary Ann, and thanks for sharing your parties with the world.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Get artsy: Here’s how

By S. Derrickson Moore

LAS CRUCES — There are only 11 days left in For the Love of Art Month. Have you done anything artistic?
Busted a move? Painted a picture? Sculpted something? Written a poem?
If you feel blocked or pressed for time, I have some ideas.
Get out your most artistic outfits and accessories and prepare to strut your stuff. You can always take an artistic fashion risk and join the absolutely unofficial For the Love of Art Month Wearable Art Promenade and Parade (FLAMWAPP) on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in downtown Las Cruces or today or next Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on and around the Mesilla Plaza.
The times mentioned are already popular community gatherings for the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market and Mesilla’s Mercado, so people will be ambling around anyway and you’ll have a ready-made audience for your performance art.
Just don those artsy duds and promenade — or hop, waltz, salsa, tango, two-step or breakdance, if the spirit moves you.
This is an all-arts event, so you’re also welcome to sing, play a musical instrument, or recite a poem or a soliloquy from your favorite play or movie as you promenade. Since I declared the first FLAMWAPP a few years ago, minstrels have become a common sight at the LCFCM. There’s no charge and you might even want to make it a regular thing, if you enjoy your FLAMWAPP musical performance.
Visual art is key for the FLAMWAPP, so bring your most artistic game face (henna, temporary tattoos and any other kind of face painting will be welcomed) and your most wonderful wearable art.
Think you’re too old? Check out the “Advanced Style” film trailer on You Tube for inspiration. (Or find my column online at lcsun-news.com to watch.)
Notes one stylish senior: “I dress up for the theater of my life every day.”
Wear anything that makes you feel artistic: a beret, a cowboy hat with a beaded hat band, a silver concho belt, a hand-woven shawl, a painted shirt or jeans, an old broach, necklace or ring that belonged to an arty ancestor, a braided friendship bracelet your kids made at camp.
You’ll get extra points for unusual combinations, double scores for original one-of-a kind wearable art clothing and accessories made in our territory, and gold medal status for wearing anything you’ve created yourself.
Not that anybody will be keeping score. Art is its own reward and FLAMWAPP is pure arts for art’s sake.
Dress up the kids, dress up the dog.
Unconditional art, like unconditional love, has no limits.
If you still feel you need authorization, you can blame it on a FLAM founding muse: Me. I’ll never forget that memorable day on a colorful Mesilla Park patio with Kelley Hestir, Myriam Lozada-Jarvis and other creative souls who would later start ArtForms, sponsor of the first For the Love of Art Month in 1998.
In its early years, FLAM included spontaneous art happenings and wonderfully artistic and nutty events like an Art Car Parade and a multimedia banquet with place settings created by top local artists, plus exotic, artistic food, and ballerinas, flamenco dancers and kicklines cavorting around the tables. By the time you read this, the second annual FLAM flashmob should have surprised crowds at the Las Cruces Convention Center.
FLAM has burgeoned and flourished, but we all need to do our part: eternal vigilance and innovation is the price of liberating our artistic natures.
If there isn’t already an art exhibit or happening planned at your favorite office, community center, restaurant or place of business, there’s still time to create an exhibit with your photos, paintings and arts and crafts. Do strange things in the name of art. Doodle on an agenda. Breakdance in the breakroom. Start a song at a staff meeting. Commit random acts of art wherever you are.
Do it For the Love of Art.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How do I love thee? Shall I Tweet the ways?

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES —O brave new world, that offers so many methods of communication.
Which brings us to a crucial decision point, as Valentine’s Day draws near and I face dilemmas Elizabeth Barrett Browning could never have imagined as she penned that famous sonnet for her love Robert.
How shall I say I love thee in 2012?
Let me count the potential ways.
• Via old-fangled snail mail? And shall I go priority, overnight, or alternatively dispatch my Valentine via UPS or Federal Express?
• Via personal courier?
• By singing telegram? Via flashmob?
• Via phone? More questions here. I currently have four phone numbers at home and the office and my love has at least five. If I want to whisper the words to him directly, it’ll be a guessing game to connect.
• So texting will be more reliable. Not as romantic as whispering sweet nothings in his ear, but, oh, well.
• Sweet Tweets would be my next choice, but my love is a few years older and does not yet have a Twitter account. I’d teach him, but my own first attempts have met with five system crashes. Twick or Tweet? (I am not finding this funny, Puddytat!)
• I posted my sentiments on Facebook, but my love, if he’s finally kept his promise and set up his own Facebook page, never seems to check it. And I seem to have inadvertently sent my sentiments to 537,520 Facebook Friends, including 1,420 of my former high school classmates and 345,000 people who attended the same university I did. Plus about 1,736,117 people and organizations I’ve never heard of. The good news: 31,204 Facebook friends have already announced that they love me, too!
• After a rather irate Tweet, I finally locate and check my love’s Facebook account and find he has just changed his status from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated.” Is he concerned about the 31,204 Facebook friends who have just declared their love for me?
• My e-mail has crashed at home and the office after hearing from 84,653 wives, ex-wives and significant others who want to know who I am and why their guys are declaring their love for me.
• The good news: I’ve gotten flowers and candy from 133 old high school boyfriends and 252 college flames who confess they’ve always loved me, too, and have often regretted that we couldn’t manage to work things out until now. It soon becomes clear that I have never met most of these people, who have mistaken me for someone else.
• I discover my love has changed his Facebook status to “single.” I still can’t reach any of his phone numbers, his e-mail has crashed, too, and he isn’t responding to Tweets or texts.
• I hire a 16-year-old tech geek to help me get the word out on social media to explain that my declaration of love was meant for just one of the millions who seem to have gotten my message. I discover one of my friends finds this whole dilemma funny and has made my attempted Skype apology into an Intellituned YouTube parody that’s gone viral.
• I arrange for singing telegrams to be delivered to my love at home and the office, offering apologies and explaining the mess. I am notified that my love is out of town and has left no contact information.
• I borrow a friend’s new iPhone 4S and in despair, appeal to android sage Siri: “Loves me? Love me not? Loves me? Loves me not?” I wail.
It’s a question any self-respecting daisy could answer with the low-tech plucking of petals.
But mellow-voiced Siri seems perplexed. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question,” she tells me.
• It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m all alone. I have unplugged my computers, left all phones, laptops, iPads and handheld devices uncharged and am curled in a fetal position, outside of any neighboring WiFi range.
Still, something is ringing. Persistently.
• It’s the doorbell. It’s my true love, holding the snail mail Valentine I’d forgotten I’d sent. He has flowers, chocolates and a bottle of champagne. All is forgiven.
• I realize I should recharge and reactivate all devices, restore our relationship status on Facebook, Tweet the good news to my followers, and Skype images of the beautiful roses before they wilt.
• I decided to kiss him, instead.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her — if you must — on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bold paths lead to stellar achievements

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — They were pioneers in space and we’ve been fortunate to have some of their generation’s most stellar representatives in our territory.
With the January deaths of Lowell Randall and Patricia Tombaugh, Clyde’s wife, I’ve been reminded of unique individuals who took some surprising paths to achieve international prominence in new and incredibly challenging fields.
Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto and went to college … two years later. Lowell Randall became a world-renowned rocket engineer with just his Roswell High School diploma.
What both men had in common was a passionate interest in something — engineering and rocketry for Lowell and astronomy for Clyde — and a determination to learn more. And it was learning for the sheer joy of learning, I’d say, having had the opportunity to interview and get to know Clyde before his death in 1997. Reading about Lowell and taking to his daughter, Martha Randall Brown, of Las Cruces, and his friend and biographer, Joe Gold, convinced me that Lowell, too, had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
They both found ways to persevere and keep their dreams alive, even in the depths of the Great Depression, when college seemed out of the question for Kansas farm boy Clyde and Lowell was delivering newspapers and working at a Roswell furniture store to support his young wife and their first child.
But around 1930, as it turned out, both young men were in the right place at the right time … with the right stuff and the right mentors.
When Dr. Robert Goddard moved his rocket development and testing activities from Massachusetts to Roswell, Lowell was a frequent visitor, repeatedly sharing his aspirations for a rocketry research job. He won Goddard’s attention and respect by creating a prototype of a gyroscope that could sense an aircraft’s speed. Eventually, he built a career that took him to the top of the American space program, leading engineering teams that built intercontinental ballistic missiles and the multi-stage rocket which sent the first American astronauts into space.
Clyde made his own telescopes out of farm equipment and learned to grind his own lenses and mirrors. The drawings he made of his observations so impressed astronomers that he was offered a job at Lowell Observatory, where he made his famous discovery, the result of painstaking observations and comparisons that demonstrated Clyde’s patience and mental acuity. I talked to scientists who told me Clyde accomplished, on his own, in the 1920s and ’30s, feats that would challenge the capability of contemporary computers.
Dwarf planet or not, his Pluto discovery was a very big deal, as was his later career, which included discoveries of numerous star clusters and clusters of galaxies, hundreds of asteroids, two comets, one nova and much more. And he still managed to find time to raise a happy family, delight his friends with crow puns and inspire generations of kids to aim for the stars.
Both space pioneers would urge you to stay in school if you can, but they also established heartening examples of bold alternative paths, if economic woes threaten to postpone or thwart your higher education plans.
Can creative, hardworking kids still find a way to get to the top in tough economic times? I say yes, especially if you invent your own field, are bold and imaginative enough to explore interesting innovations and are willing to be a patient apprentice and hitch your wagon to a nova.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450 or dmoore@lcsun-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.