Friday, April 25, 2008


A trip to New Mexico is always an opportunity to stock up on Green Chile powder. I thought I had, but greedily managed to get through my supply in less than two weeks. So I tried to make some myself, using some Turkish peppers that looked and tasted very close enough to the New Mexican species. I started with a bit more than a pound, and after grilling the outer skins off, stemming them, drying in a low, fanned oven for several hours, and grinding to an optimal mix of powder and flakes, I was left with about an ounce and a half and a kitchen with a light cloud of capsaicin dust, but it is an ounce and a half of intensity and considerable character. (That 16:1 ratio of concentration is still nothing compared to the 40:1 of maple, or 80:1 of birch syrup).

Let me propose the following: The best music is something like that green chili powder: yes, there is the immediate sensation of the chili, much of it in the heat, or more precisely in the placement and timing of that heat (the best chiles or moles or adobos combine a variety of chiles so that one experiences a sequence of shocks at different places along the tongue and palate), but there is also a mix of bitter, sour, sweet, and perhaps umami that make the chili into a rather complete experience. In all the music I like, it is that combination of intensity and depth that draws me in again'n'again.

In music, we get our concentrates at both extremes of duration: the tiny gems of a Webern or Kurtag, or the vast expanses of La Monte Young or late Morton Feldman. But any music that invites the listener to engage more, to concentrate on detail as well as larger form, is certainly doing something right.

1 comment:

paul bailey said...

that's a great metaphor and makes me feel the following simultaneously:

1. hungry
2. want to make green chili powder
3. makes me realize how lucky i am because i probably have access to all of the ingredients at the market right down the street.

i was thinking a few days ago along a similar track that composing is much like painting a house. (i don't think cage would like this...). the preparation is time consuming and a real pain in the ass, but if all goes well the actual painting (and composing)is a breeze.

please email recipe.