I lived in New Mexico for five years, and I left a piece of my heart in the sunny Southwest. The time I spent there is brimming with memories of endless skies, meteor showers, pueblo-style architecture, the magical view of the Milky Way from the Adobe and Stars Bed and Breakfast, shopping for Native American art and jewelry on the Santa Fe plaza, hot air balloons sailing over my house, Christmas luminarias, moonrises over the Sandia mountains, coyotes howling outside my bedroom window, roadrunners, jackrabbits, and magpies moving swiftly past my car, chile ristras hanging outside quaintly painted wooden door frames, and the heavenly aromas of Navajo fry bread and New Mexican sopapilla. I don't think one can live in the Southwest and not feel immersed in Native American culture. While living in New Mexico, I traveled to Arizona and Colorado often—from Tucson to Kingman and Crestone to Boulder. For a short time, the Southwest was my stomping grounds, and I was able to enjoy the culinary influences of the Native American people who lived there.
The Hopi Indians have inhabited the dessert highlands of northern Arizona for the last 1,000 years. The name Hopi, is a shortened form of what these people call themselves, Hopi'sinom, or "People Who Live in the Correct Way." The catholic encyclopedia lists the name Hopi as having been derived from "Hopita," meaning "those who are peaceful ones." Hopi is a concept deeply rooted in the culture's religion and spirituality, and its view of morality and ethics. It involves a state of total reverence and respect for all things, to be at peace with these things, and to live in accordance with the instructions of Maasaw, the Creator or Caretaker of Earth.
Starch-based foods like corn, beans, and potatoes have always been an important part of the Hopi diet. Mary McDougall's rich and flavorful Hopi Corn and Chili Stew plays on these staple foods beautifully. It's another deliciously hearty, warming, low-fat vegan dish. I wish I'd come across this recipe while I was still living in New Mexico!