Friday, August 21, 2009

Green Chile Communion

We went to HEB recently. For my non-Texan friends, HEB is the national grocery of Texas. Works hard to be everything Texans want and need. HEB has a proper selection of salsas and tortillas, an entire aisle of refrigerated beer, and even its own shrimping fleet so we have the best Gulf shrimp. Now if that isn't over-the-Texas-top, what is?

For me, the most exciting grocery time of the year is a few magic weeks in August when HEB trucks in more than 100,000 pounds of green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico. AND roasts them on site at stores around the state. Hatch-chile-nirvana without driving to New Mexico.

Last year, I bought several packages and froze chiles in small batches to throw warmth into winter. That was a long time ago...and I sorely underestimated the depth of my need. So when I saw the Hatch Chile stand last Saturday, I ran, skidding to a stop just short of collision.

A mound of warm, steaming bags rose from the bed of the stand. A well-groomed bearded man and his wife were idly fingering one. They stepped back a pace as I barreled up. I was talking, really to myself but it happened to be out loud, about how wonderful it was to be there on chile day and how wonderful the chiles looked, and how wonderful they were last year. 

I might have implied they were as good as sex. The wife asked me what to do with them. Exclamation points shot toward the ceiling like balloons released by a child. Within thirty seconds, two more women came to run their hands through the bags. Then two more, and two more and more behind them and we crowded close together all talking at once and laughing and sharing a chile exuberance.

My husband says I'm easily amused.  I think he underestimates the power of chile.
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