By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor
Sunday’s Local Flavor Day at “Key Ingredients, America By Food,” the Smithsonian traveling exhibit currently at Eastern New Mexico University, was a taste-testers delight.
Most tables at the event offered a food sample either made in New Mexico or with a New Mexico connection.
Suzanne Zamora and DeAnna Martinez were demonstrating the huge variety of peanut butters made by Sunland at its Portales plant.
“Our niche market is Valencia peanuts and all our butters we’re showing today were made with Valencias,” Zamora said. “(Valencia) is a sweeter peanut.”
The duo was giving tastes of a line of flavored peanut butters including chocolate, banana, raspberry, cinnamon and caramel. They also tempted people into trying savory flavors like hickory smoked, rosemary and garlic and a southwestern recipe with red chile.
Though Valencia peanuts have been grown in the area for decades, Sunland first began manufacturing peanut butter in 1990, according to Zamora. In the mid-1990s, she said the local plant began making the flavored butters. They’re available locally at Sunland’s retail store east of Portales.
Michelle Heavyside, a dairy producer who was manning the New Mexico Beef Council’s booth, said eastern New Mexico should be called the “Protein Capital of the World.” She noted milk, beef, peanuts and pecans as being among the local products high in protein.
“When you think about all the foods we grow locally … yeah, we should be proud to live here,” Heavyside said. “We get the freshest food possible right here in this area.”
Dave Penry of Quality Sales in Portales was stopping people at his booth with hot soup, cool grape juice and chocolate brownies.
“We’re demonstrating New Mexico technologies here with boil-in-the-bag soups and manmade sugar,” Penry said.
Penry said the materials of which the soup bags are made were developed at Los Alamos Laboratories. The Campbell’s Insignia collection soups, which he sells to restaurants, are fancy soups with exotic ingredients. He said the product allows restaurants to have a different soup each day with ingredients that would be impossible to stock on their own. The bag technology makes preparing the soup and cleaning up afterward easy.
Penry said the manmade sugar in the juice and brownies was developed at Los Alamos quite some time ago, but just recently it became cost effective after explosion at an Imperial Sugar plant in Georgia drove the cost of sugar up, Penry said.
People also got the chance to take home a cookbook from the collection of the late Jan Hauptmann, who was a caterer and had a cooking show on KENW-TV.
According to Melveta Walker, librarian at ENMU’s Golden Library, before Hauptmann’s husband Rick Hauptmann died last year, he told people to do something to honor his wife with the cookbook collection, which totaled more than 200 editions.
“Everyone is encouraged to take one,” Walker said. “This is to honor Jan.”