It seems nothing lights a fire under politicians like homegrown chile.
The rookie governors of New Mexico and Colorado on Wednesday escalated the Great Chile War. It brought them publicity across every mountain and plain, as both claimed leadership of the state with the finest chile in the world.
This donnybrook began when Whole Foods Market decided to drop New Mexico chile from most stores in the Rocky Mountain region. Instead, they will carry only chile from Pueblo, Colo.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis could have been humble in victory. He opted for taunting instead.
“New Mexico stores will unfortunately not be offering the best chile and will instead keep offering inferior New Mexico chile,” Polis wrote on Facebook.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham answered in kind.
“If Pueblo chile were any good, surely it would have been on national shelves before now,” she said.
Polis was more civil Wednesday. He proposed a contest that would be sure to generate even more headlines.
“I agree with @GovMLG on a lot of things, but we disagree on this one. I challenge @GovMLG to a chili taste-off in Trinidad!” Polis wrote, employing his customary exclamation point.
A graduate of Princeton, Polis fell down on spelling.
Lujan Grisham, a graduate of the University of New Mexico, took advantage of his flub.
“Chili? Are we in Texas?” she asked.
With Polis reeling, she followed up with another dig.
“We don’t just spell it right — we do it better,” Lujan Grisham wrote.
Nora Sackett, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, was noncommittal about answering Polis’ challenge for a competition in Trinidad, an old coal-mining town deep in southern Colorado.
“We’ll take it into consideration. We might be interested if it were hosted in the true home of chile,” she said.
The governors’ exchange inspired an outpouring of commentary across the internet.
A woman from Denver stood with Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico chile capital of Hatch.
“I’m born & raised in Colorado and am Colorado proud. But I drive to New Mexico for the red and green chiles. Nothing compares to Hatch,” she wrote.
Carl Sutter, a resident of the nation’s capital, took an angrier tone and a swipe at Polis.
“I live in DC now. Various organizations import and sell Hatch chile come harvest season. Stores only carry NM chile. I’ve never seen Colorado chile sold anywhere but CO… keep your bland ass chile Colorado. The nation knows better.”
Justin Satzman was just as definitive.
“I am a CA native and travel all the time to both states. Colorado chile does not come close to NM chile, especially Northern NM chile,” Satzman said.
It wasn’t a unanimous verdict, especially because more politicians dived into the fray on Twitter.
“Sorry @GovMLG, but everyone knows #Colorado has the best green chile. Feel free to come to Pueblo and taste for yourself,” said Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo.
Another state senator, Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, claimed expertise through connections on both sides of the state line.
“My mom’s side of the family goes back generations in CO and my dad’s side of the family goes back generations in NM. I am uniquely qualified to answer this question, and the answer is #PUEBLOCHILE all damn day!” she wrote.
Polis and other Colorado politicians use slammers with the frequency of a supermarket tabloid. Maybe it’s something in the chile or the Arkansas River that cuts through Pueblo.
Lujan Grisham might spike tourism by agreeing to Polis’ challenge for a chile competition. But not everyone likes the idea of Trinidad hosting the event. It has a reputation for deploying hometown referees.
One reader of The New Mexican, pleading for anonymity, proposed an alternative contest that would stretch far beyond Colorado and New Mexico.
“First,” he said, “collect large samples of each of the many varieties of chile from Pueblo, Hatch, Española, Taos, Belen, San Antonio, Cusco, Calcutta, Seoul, Pyongyang, Brooklyn, San Bernardino, wherever. Then hold a big public tasting. Get [Santa Fe Mayor] Alan Webber, well-known vocal proponent of ranked-choice voting, to organize the balloting so hundreds (thousands, dozens, handfuls????) of solid citizens, golden tongues and ordinary folks will taste, savor and select.
“Then ballyhoo across the nation, nay, through the known universe and beyond, the resulting ranking, the tasty tabulation, for all the world to see.”
That’s bold. Polis and Lujan Grisham would rebel, though.
The governors are having a fine time talking smack in the Great Chile War.
As it stands, neither state has notched a clear-cut win.
No matter. Both governors have already declared victory.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at email@example.com or 505-986-3080.