I remember how stunningly beautiful I found Washington when I first moved here. Even the short drive over the bridge to work on the Eastside was just uniquely gorgeous. The reality is that it is breathtaking, but I don’t notice it often anymore. There are moments, of course, but mostly it’s just the drive to work now.
I looked at the mountains and the desert landscape of New Mexico on a nearly daily basis for twenty-three years. I knew it was striking because people seeing it for the first time told me so, but I couldn’t really see it. With each visit after I moved away, I saw it a little more, but visits are few and far between and usually so jam packed with trying to see people and visit certain places that there is little time to look at the scenery. A couple weeks ago, I had the chance to make a quick weekend trip back to Albuquerque while B was snowboarding with friends in Whistler. It was the shortest trip I’ve made since moving, but in many ways, it was more significant than most any other visit before.
This visit was more about the people and the relationships, about looking around and actually seeing what I’ve known was there my whole life, in people and in the landscape… and even in the food. I wasn’t big on New Mexican food growing up. I liked it well enough and ate it plenty, but it wasn’t special, it was just food. The food we ate often.
In the last three years or so, B and I have both started to seek out comforts of our home states. We order some of the things we miss most, but eating them in Seattle just isn’t the same. Though my mom’s New Mexican food will always be my favorite (and I did get my fair share of that this trip), my first afternoon in town, we had takeout from Monroe’s. I remember eating at Monroe’s on Sundays after church sometimes. It was probably the New Mexican restaurant we visited most often, but I haven’t been there in years. I can’t tell you what it’s like inside anymore. I’m sure it’s much smaller than I remember since most everything seems much larger when you’re young.
What I can tell you is that the food is still wonderful. There was a time when I would only eat guacamole salad and sopapillas, maybe some beans and rice, but hardly touched an enchilada or any chile. This time, my green combination plate was left bare… not even the taco was spared.
Make no mistake, New Mexican food is not Mexican food and New Mexican mountains are not Washington mountains. Unique in their right, the latter of each is not mine. There are at least a hundred clichés about how you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, how one can best gain perspective from afar… The references go on. They are clichés for a reason, though. The true question is, how does one maintain that perspective?