More Chile and Less Curry by Feroza Jussawalla

NM chile

Every day in every way, I get
More chile and less curry.

“Soy de la India, pero,
También de Nuevo Mexico,”
I say, as I stand under the gigantic
Super Blue Moon of Santa Fe,
at the opera,
under the stars,
the jalapeño peppers
burning my tummy.

With every spoonful
of comino molido,
that I add to my
Pinto beans,
I recall,
the grinding of spices that
my mother taught me,
in preparation for marriage.

First you had to have the
grinding stones,
masala pather, mortar pestle
of the rugged kind,
then you peeled the ginger and garlic
the essential curry base,
and you rolled the
add the dried red chillies
not Hatch chiles,
green and succulent,
but dried red chillies
and then, the dhania
wet squishy turmeric root

But will they work in my chile
with hamburger meat and pinto beans?
As easily as cilantro? “Dhaniya patte?”
Or Fudina, mint, that blends into
Salsa, to top the chile
And grace it even more with lime?

But here, in my new home
I chutneyfy, even more–
I add Cheroumoula,
my now favorite mix,
Jambo smoked sweet Paprika,
from the Caribbean

Stick to it “they” say, to me–
Stick to your propriety native blend
“Dhansak”is for Parsis
Turmeric, ginger, garlic, black pepper—
“Why all this? When we have
Dhansak?”—the masala for Parsis.

PHOTO: Basket of chiles with New Mexico State flag by Lori Martin.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Soy de la India, pero también de Nuevo México,” I say when I am asked, “who are you” or “where do you come from?” Or, “What are you?” It is the oliveness of complexion. Am I Indian? Am I Hispanic? I have lived in the U.S. Southwest now for 50 years. I came to the University of Utah in 1973 and have the Southwest now as my home. It is strange synchronicity. My name, Feroza, means turquoise. The last name Jusawalla, translates as silversmiths, those who work with “Juss”—not exactly silver, but a kind of silver plating. I have landed in the land of turquoise silversmiths—native American jewelers. I have become “Southwesternized,” “chutneyfied”—ground into a new flavor. I hope my poem reflects this.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Feroza Jussawalla is Professor Emerita in the English Department at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has several scholarly publications, most notably the co-edited volumes of collected interviews or essays such as Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World, Conversations with V.S. Naipaul, Memory, Voice and Identity: Muslim Women’s Writing from Across the Middle East,  Muslim Women’s Writing from Across South and South East Asia. She is the author of one collection of poetry, Chiffon Saris published by P. Lal’s Writer’s workshop in Kolkotta and by Toronto South Asian Review Press, Canada.

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