Ever since my last visit to New Mexico in 2012, I’ve had really strong, nostalgic feelings for the desert. That trip was healing for me in a lot of ways, giving me the chance to reconnect with family and friends, to really feel and experience the energy and magic of the landscape, and to really appreciate the land, the culture, and the people in ways I hadn’t been able during my depressing teenage years. That trip home even inspired me to write a short little article for Witches & Pagans magazine for their Element of Fire issue, and I've even begun to honor the desert in my own personal practices.
You can’t go home again, and I’m glad. I wouldn’t want to. But I do like having home come to me, in little things like Hatch chilies, Kokopelli all over my house, and most of all, with food. Food is so tied to culture and place, and it can be hard to get good southern New Mexican style food in this area. Luckily for me, though, since my sister has been here she has made green chili stew, sopapillas, and bizcochitos. Oh yes.
Bizcochitos are the state cookie of New Mexico, and these little guys date back to the Spanish colonists of the region, hundreds of years ago. They’re made of lard and wine and anise and are really just amazing, and can be very similar to ginger snaps. My sister made them for the 2013 holiday celebrations – Yule, Solstice, Saturnalia, Christmas, New Years, etc. They’re often eaten during the Christmas season, but also popular for baptisms, funerals, and weddings.
What’s great about these little cookies is that they bring with them the magic of place. I’m not in New Mexico, but I can bring New Mexico to me. I may not be the descendant of a Spanish conquistador, but I am New Mexican, and I can share this unique culture with my North Carolina friends and family.
Some people don’t care for anise, but it really is a wonderful herb. Anise is great for the cold holiday months. It brings the properties of youth, protection, and purification. It spreads greater awareness and happiness. These are perfect for the time of the birth/rebirth of the sun/son, for shelter and security during the uncertainty of winter, and for bringing in the New Year. Anise brings with it mindfulness of flavor, of place, of being, and it is tangy and unique and sweet and joyful.
As many know, cooking and baking can be magical acts. My sister was so excited to prepare bizcochitos, and she made them with love and nostalgia, remembering her own experiences back in the desert. She was adorably eager and nervous to share these regional cookies with my friends here in North Carolina, but we figured that even if people didn’t like them, that would just mean more for us.
So even here on the cold and wet east coast, we can enjoy the taste, flavor, and memory of the desert. I was honored that my sister wanted to share these cookies with me, and we were both happy to share them with others as well.
1 ½ cup lard
1 ½ cup sugar
3 teaspoons anise seed
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sweet white wine (plus ¼ extra if needed)
½ cup sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar
Plus plenty of cinnamon and sugar
Cream together lard and 1 ½ cup sugar. In separate bowl, beat the eggs and wine together. Add the lard and sugar and mix well. In separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry and wet mixture together. Your dough should be slightly sticky. Divide the dough into three large bowls and keep in the fridge overnight. Preheat your oven to 350. Roll the dough into little balls and roll these balls into a cinnamon and sugar mixture. Cook the little balls for 10-15 minutes in the oven. After they are done cooking, roll them again in cinnamon and sugar so you get a double coating. Enjoy!
(My sister doesn’t remember where she got this recipe. It’s written in her journal. But if you own this recipe, let me know and I’ll give you credit! Other recipes and variations can be found all over the internet, and they’re really super easy to make!)