I recently read that if you want the real flavor of New Mexico, you should avoid the eastern towns because they are more like Texas than anything else. Actually, all the things I love about New Mexico--the adobe houses, the mix of cultures and languages, the wonderful food and delicious chiles--are here, and so is the Texas influence. Well, I am assuming the influence is Texan, but it also seems very southern to me.
Here is an example in the food department. Wherever else I've gone in New Mexico, the standard restaurant question is "red or green?" referrring to your chile preference. Here in eastern New Mexico you may also be asked "brown or white?" This is about gravy and the "white" is all about the ubiquitous "cream" gravy that is ladled over most anything from eggs to meat to potatoes. Now, I've had sausage gravy and biscuits and that is pretty tasty, though lethal, stuff. But this white concoction is just a tasteless paste-like sauce to me. I don't get it. Maybe homemade is better?
Another new culinary experience: "Sides." You order a main dish and are given a choice of one or two "sides." These may include the familiar mashed or baked potatoes, green beans (but cooked with some kind of smoked meat), fried okra, or black-eyed peas. I ordered fried okra just because I had heard that Yankees couldn't stomach it, and Edith the waitress and Tommy the night manager came over to watch me eat it. Their comment? "Not bad for a Yankee, but you really don't like it, do you?" What can I say? It's still okra, although pleasantly crunchy on the outside, it's still got that slimey okra thing going on inside. On the other hand, my first ever side of black-eyed peas were absolutely delicious. I wonder if anyone reading this knows how to cook them?