New Mexican Herstory: An Interview with Lynn Cline
by Samantha Anne Carrillo
Author Lynn Cline was born in Sweden and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, but she has made New Mexico her home. In the summer of 1993, Cline relocated to Santa Fe to attend a graduate program at Middlebury College’s Breadloaf School of English Language and Literature campus in The City Different.
As fall approached, Cline realized she hadn’t left her heart back east: “I fell in love with Santa Fe right away, because of its stunning beauty, its rich mix of art, culture and history, and its friendly people.” And just like that, she began her writing career. By the winter of ’95, the Associated Press hired Cline to cover the legislative session.
“That was an interesting session as Gary Johnson had just taken office and signed the gaming compacts legalizing gambling on pueblos and reservations around the state … without the approval of the legislature,” recalls Cline. She wasn’t new to journalism, having been on staff during her undergrad years at the University of Vermont’s weekly paper The Vermont Cynic.
Cline was a sophomore when she interviewed newly elected mayor of Burlington—and the first socialist mayor in U.S. history—Bernie Sanders. Cline reveals, “[Bernie] was exactly the same, except his hair wasn’t white, and the policies he discussed then were the same ones he discussed on the campaign trail this past year.”
Cline relished her stints with the Associated Press in the ’80s and ’90s. “It was quite the ‘baptism-under-fire’ experience for me,” said Cline. “I had been inspired to be a journalist by Watergate, and Woodward and Bernstein, so I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my career.” Her trajectory led to award-winning journalism, a decade-long tenure at The Santa Fe New Mexican and the publication of three New Mexico-centric books.
Published by Leaf Storm Press in 2015, Cline’s latest work, “The Maverick Cookbook: Iconic Recipes and Tales From New Mexico,” is a Southwestern must-read. The vibrant hardcover takes on the challenge of blending historical, first-person narratives of a dozen memorable nuevomexicano characters and their favorite recipes.
From entrepreneurs like saloon owner Doña Tules to outlaws like Billy the Kid and actor/counterculture icon Dennis Hopper to artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, the storied history of The Land of Enchantment and the lives of the state’s most celebrated freethinkers and firebrands dovetail nicely with made-in-New Mexico recipes.
Elbow Room N.M. recently spoke with Cline about writing and her life in—and intellectual and emotional love affair with—New Mexico. Explore more of Cline’s work at lynncline.com.
You’ve worked as a political reporter for the Associated Press, a freelance author and editor, a radio host, an arts editor for print news and you’re a classically-trained pianist and professional singer who speaks fluent French. What does success mean to a renaissance woman like you?
Success to me means being able to make a living doing what I truly love, which is writing, and the privilege of meeting and interviewing inspiring people doing what they love to do, too. It also means being part of the Santa Fe community, via taking part in public discourse and writing about all the wonderful aspects—the art, culture, history, and more—of where we live. And I love the diversity of what I do, being able to write books and articles on an array of topics that interest me, and to interview people for a live radio show. It makes the workday fun and fulfilling.
When it comes to New Mexico history, your range of interest seems eclectic. Are there any specific categories of aspects of our state’s history that endlessly draw you into their thrall?
Yes, indeed. I am fascinated by the history of the Pueblo Indians, as it’s so unique and still so palpable in Pueblo life today. I also love the history of food as seen through the many different groups of people who’ve come to New Mexico across the centuries, from the ancient Puebloan people and the Spanish colonists to the traders, trappers, miners and mountain men, early pioneers, artists and writers of the colony years, all the way through today’s Farm to Table movement. That history is what inspired me to write “The Maverick Cookbook.” And the book has done so well that my publishers asked me to do a second one, “The Maverick Cookbook of New England,” which I’m working on now.
For me, New Mexico religious history is one of those scholarly magnets. Some people see writing as a sort of spiritual practice. Does that notion resonate with you at all?
Yes, that notion does resonate with me. When I was working on “The Maverick Cookbook,” I was writing in a way that I rarely do, from the viewpoint of a novelist. I wrote chapters from the perspective of historical figures—a Pueblo grandmother, Dona Tules, Fred Harvey, Billy the Kid, Georgia O’Keeffe, etc—and though I do have a novel-in-progress (it’s been progressing for some 20 years!), I find it easier to write non-fiction. So I had to step into a different style of writing for the cookbook. To do that, I lit a candle just before I started writing in the pre-dawn hours to summon the muse, and I found it worked miraculously. For me, it was a ritual of sorts, rooted in ancient spirituality.
What’s your favorite thing about interviewing local characters for Cline’s Corner on KSFR? Is your preferred medium the airwaves or the printing press?
They are so different, and I really enjoy them both, though if pressed, I guess I would choose writing as it feels cathartic to me, and I love the process of putting words together to create a picture and an expression of ideas. But interviewing my guests on Cline’s Corner is great fun. It’s a natural conversation that’s organic, rather than pre-planned on my part. And while I do research and prep questions, the conversation usually follows its own course, which I really enjoy. It’s like sitting down for a meal with an interesting person and just talking about what interests us both.
What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve made money from, other than writing?
I was invited to give a lecture a few years at the Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando (all expenses paid) about the Santa Fe art and writer colonies that flourished in the first half of the last century. That was unexpected and a lot of fun. Also, I’ve led a few cooking classes based on “The Maverick Cookbook,” and just this past weekend, I was invited to audition for a show on The Cooking Channel. I don’t know if there’s money involved, but I’m thrilled to have been asked! And this year, I launched a walking tour based on the cookbook through downtown Santa Fe with the Santa Fe School of Cooking, and I find that I really enjoy being a tour guide.
Name your top 3 recipes from “The Maverick Cookbook.”
That’s a hard one, as I tested all the recipes—some many times—to get them exactly right. Anything I didn’t like didn’t make the cut. All the recipes are original, but many are adapted from others I found during my research, so I really had to be creative with each one and make sure they were worth including in the book.
Palace Picadillo is one I love to make and eat. It’s a delicious ground beef dish that’s popular all over Latin America, made in different ways. Mine includes tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, raisins and almonds, and it’s one of the recipes I make the most.
I’ve hosted some Maverick Cookbook dinners for friends who invite a group of their friends to their house. I make and serve the dinner and talk about the recipes and people in the book. This has been a popular dish at those dinner parties, and I like to serve it with homemade tortillas, which are a cinch to make and, once you do, you won’t ever use store-bought tortillas again.
Ghost Ranch Curried Chicken is also a favorite, inspired by a dish Georgia O’Keeffe enjoyed, with apples, mustard and raisins. It’s good hot or cold and you can eat the leftovers as a salad or sandwich. And I really love the Capirotada, or Mexican Bread Pudding. It’s a bit savory, made with Madeira-soaked bread, dark raisins, pine nuts, and Monterey Jack cheese, all topped with Cinnamon-Scented Whipped Cream.
Interested in purchasing the cookbook? Click here.
Samantha Anne Carrillo is a nuevomexicana writer & editor, a freelance social media consultant, a fourth-wave feminist and a devout situationist. Find her at facebook.com/samanthaannenm.