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Comfort food and books for comfort

Christina Stock Photo Roswell winter stew with a touch of New Mexico — green chile — is not only healthy, but delicious.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Roswell winter stew and ‘Evolutionary Device’ by Lif Strand

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Have you ever thought about why we use spices, even something that has such bad press — pardon the pun — as salt is necessary, however, in limited amounts. Wars have been fought over access to mineral-rich salt, herbs and spices. Yes, it tastes good, but why? Living in the heart of cattle country, any rancher and cowboy will tell you that salt licks are important to keep their cattle healthy. Salt helps human and livestocks’ bodies to function.

In an article published by Harvard Medical School in 2006, it states, “The human body can’t live without some sodium (salt). It’s needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers (including those in the heart and blood vessels), and maintain a proper fluid balance.” Salt preserves food and enhances its flavor. Hence, many companies add too much salt in their condiments or cans, which causes health issues because too much salt is not good for the body either.

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But enough on salt for now; how about the other herbs and spices? Today, I’ll focus on a humble leaf, that once crowned Greek athletes and poets, as well as emperors and generals of the Roman Empire: The bay leaf, or laurel as it is known in the Mediterranean world. Baccalaureate comes from the word for the laurel berries. These berries were given to Greek students in ancient times. Today, graduating Italian students still receive a wreath of laurels when they graduate.

Any soup or stew wins in flavor with one or two bay leafs put in during cooking. Most likely, any cook in Roswell will use it in its dried form. When put into a hot stew or soup, the bay leaf’s essential oils get released, which gives the dish a delicious woodsy flavor. Lab studies on these essential oils throughout the world concluded that, just like garlic and honey, these oils kill certain strains of bacteria and fungus. Most likely, our ancestors who experimented with the leaf knew about this.

There are many other functions and even medical purposes for the bay leaf, some legit, some are old wives’ tales. My German grandmother Else would make a poultice out of the berries and leaves, put it in a dish towel and then on top of my ear to soothe earaches when I was a child. As an adult, there is no soup or stew that I don’t put at least one bay leaf in. This following recipe is my own, created because I had bought too many parsnip roots.

Roswell winter stew

Serves 4-6


1 Tbsp coriander

1 Tbsp marjoram

1 Tbsp curry, mild

1 Tbsp oregano

1 Tbsp red chile powder

2 Tbsp cayenne pepper (or 1 Tbsp hot chile sauce)

2 bay leafs

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup onions, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, diced

1/2 cup red bell peppers, chopped

1/2 cup yellow bell peppers

3 carrots, chopped

3 parsnips, chopped

1 can (1.5 cup) Ro-Tel diced tomatoes w/green Chile

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup beef broth

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

In a large pot, heat the olive oil until it shimmers, add the ground beef and brown; add all dry spices — not the bay leaf yet — and stir. This will bring out the fragrance of the spices. Add the tomato paste, onions and garlic. Continue cooking for 5 minutes and continue stirring. Add the rest of the vegetables, the Ro-Tel tomatoes (you can use a different brand, but I love the hint of green chile in the sauce) and the broth. Lower the heat and cover the pot. Let it simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the carrots and parsnips are done without being mushy and overcooked.

Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. If you don’t like it spicy, leave out the cayenne pepper and use a mild red chile powder. Remove the bay leaf, which doesn’t soften and if swallowed, it can cut the inside of your mouth and esophagus.

Books for comfort

Submitted Cover Art
‘Evolution Device’ is Lif Strand’s first published book.

Fitting to the bay leaf lore of Greece, I want to introduce you to a new author who lives in Quemado. Lif C. Strand considers herself a hermit. Strand has many talents, from music, photography to raising and training Arabian horses when she was younger. She is part of the New Mexico Author Co-op out of Albuquerque. Her book, “Evolution Device,” is her first. She said she combined her love for the fantastic with her love for music in it.

Her book is categorized as a Fantasy story: “Evolution Device” is a kind of hymn to the origins of rock in the early 1970s. But it is also a love story between a man, a woman and a guitar. The woman in the story is a Muse, corporeal and ephemeral. She can be both and, quite naturally, she can also fall in love. All well and good. But Strand adds yet another twist — a guitar called the Lady. Once mused, the instrument, too, becomes a mysterious source of power. So, the story is then about a threesome: The guitarist, the muse of his dreaming psyche, and his supernatural guitar. Who gets the man? Two spirits are fighting to take possession of him. Who wins?”

Strand wrote, “Actually, the man is somewhat reminiscent of Freddy Mercury, Jim Morrison, and Keith Richards, all three rock-and-rolled into one charismatic yet very fallible human being. It’s a fairytale of sorts, one that never seems unreal even though it is always fantastical.”

“Evolution Device” is available as hardcover, on Kindle, Audible and as an eBook at the major online bookstores in the U.S., England and Australia.

For more information, visit lifstrand.com.

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