The world of green chilies is a vast one. Everyone knows about New Mexico green chilies and their highly marketed name plate Hatch. I love green chilies, and the chili that is its namesake, and grew up eating it. I often use Hatch chilies in a pinch, but have always preferred locally grown when available, which is always if one plans right and has them in the freezer. I was unaware of the chili rivalry between Colorado and New Mexico that I uncovered during the 15 minutes I spent researching this article.
Being a semi-loyal Glib reader and a thin crust pepperoni clad warrior in the food wars, I am not afraid of voicing an opinion when it comes to food, but always just knew western Colorado chilies were far superior to anything grown in New Mexico–or anywhere else for that matter–and never gave it a second thought. I never made a big deal about it because what is the point of harping on facts to people lacking all the information since they probably never had a chili grown here.
I also never even considered anything grown on the front range, such as in Pueblo, was worth anything because the front range, anything east of the mountains, is considered by western slope folk to be pretty much western Kansas, and Pueblo has only ever been famous for being the location of the CO loony bin back in the day. In short, the only good thing about the front range is the Broncos.
This summer I have been far less enthused about fresh produce season than previous years due to a case of the mehs which I get from time to time, but I recently stopped and grabbed a handful of chilies (Big Jims) from a stand and brought them home for roasting. The best way to buy chilies is to buy big and have the seller roast them for you, but they wanted $35 for a box and I was not willing to part with $35 at the moment and it is no problem roasting small quantities ones self.
I did these on the Weber on a small pile of coals and the method consists of drinking beer and turning them until they char a bit on all sides and then put them in a paper bag to steam.
The day I roasted those chilies if I looked only through my left eye, they looked like this:
You see, there are certain factors that may cause cataracts and I checked most of the boxes.
Aging: Check (sort of, I am only early fifties)
Over exposure to UV rays: Check
I started skiing in 1972 when I was seven and back then we used the finest sunglasses one could buy at the gas station. Preferably red white and blue layered plastic frames with reflective plastic lenses, and that is what we wore during sunny days on the slopes which was most weekends when I was a kid. I have spent most of my life working outdoors in very sunny locations, and I have also done a fair amount of welding in some of the world’s finest shitholes with the finest welding masks available in said shitholes. UV protection is not a known hazard in most shitholes and you will see welders arcing beads wearing nothing but plastic sunglasses.
Diabetes: Maybe a possible Check
There is a good chance I have spent much of my life pre-diabetic due to diet and lifestyle. I was diagnosed as such in my mid 30’s but never felt bad so what was the point of following up on that right?
Drinking too much: Ya, ok, maybe, sometimes, occasionally, a time or two.
Smoking: Check. Off and on for thirty years.
It seems I most likely did this to myself in one way or another. That is something I have to come to terms with as I age. I never thought I would live long enough to ponder life’s questions of self reflection on what I have done to myself. Whether it was career choices and the hazards that come with using one’s body as a tool, recreation choices where the body is just another piece of equipment to be abused, and what is most damaging of all, what is ingested for fun or to silence the inner voice rambling on about what horrible choices you made in your life.
To go with my green chilies I dug some Italian sausage out of the fridge that I had cooked earlier for pizza, as well as a pizza dough that was made, surprisingly, for the same purpose.
Being someone who has only had one surgery when I was five when my tonsils were removed, and having a serious phobia about anything touching my eyeballs to the point I struggle to put in eye drops and even fainted during a glaucoma test once when I was in my late teens, I arrived for my surgery pretty much freaked the fuck out. But by god I could do it, “don’t be a pussy,” I kept telling myself. My blood pressure was jacked when they first hooked me up to all the monitoring devices but I eventually settled down. The doctor and the anesthetist, who introduced himself as the guy who would make me feel good, dropped by to check on me and soon they wheeled me away to the operating room.
I peeled my green chilies and laid them on the pizza dough as best they would fit, leaving enough dough on the outside edge to later fold. I placed a sliced-lengthwise piece of sausage on each green chili and covered it with cheese. I then cut around each chili leaving enough dough to fold kind of like a pinched top taco, sideways calzone or big dumpling.
They don’t put you under for cataract surgery and only mildly sedate you because you have to listen to the doctor and move your eye when he needs. During the surgery I only really freaked once and had to be told to hold still. It felt like the doc was pushing my eyeball into my brain as he wrestled the cataract infused lens out of my head and I found that a bit unnerving.
I did my green chili calzone things on my gas grill on my fire brick platform until golden brown.
They could be stuffed with anything you want, and they were good. I found they were better the next day. I ate one that night in some marinara which overtook the green chili and I was not that impressed with my creation. The next day I muckled down the rest one at a time as I reheated them one by one and ate them poolside, and the green chili really came through. They were delicious.
As to my whole cataract ordeal, it took something like 30-45 minutes in the operating room and I was at the hospital for little more than two hours. It is truly amazing the day after and I see with clarity I have not seen with in 20 years. It can only be described as how you are amazed at the clarity and drastic focus things appear after eating a small handful of mushrooms. Not the, “holy shit that chick put her makeup on with a spatula” clarity but just vivid focus that seems drastic compared to what I have been living with for the past few years when the cataract really got bad.
As they wheeled me to recovery with a patch over my eye the anesthetist asked how I felt. I said, “Disappointed, I am not near as high as I hoped I would be”. He said, “Here, we don’t give you what you want, we give you what you need.” I caught the Stones reference, but was not sharp enough to come back with a wiseass retort, but sure plan to when they do my right eye some months down the road. I am going to tell him to hell with this what you need stuff, give me what Keith would have.
It wasn’t that long ago in medical history when the procedure done to me was not possible and I indeed feel lucky I am alive when it is. It sure is better than previous techniques like poking a stick in the eye.
A stick would work to roast a green chili over a fire though.