Hot chiles, fresh tortillas, and creamy refried beans define family gatherings for this native New Mexican.

The memories of childhood become what our bodies and souls crave when we are far from home. For my children and me, the fragrance of pinto beans and red chiles simmering, carne adovada roasting, and flour tortillas hot from the comal make us feel as much at home as the crisp blue skies and snow-capped peaks of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

As is the case with many families, mine is now spread far apart, and it is difficult for us to come together during the holidays. Last year, I traveled most of Thanksgiving Day to join friends and family. I arrived with no food in hand, just as everyone was sitting down to eat dinner. In my culture, taking food to a family gathering is traditional, and very much a custom of my own. Unable to bring anything, I felt small.

We dined on turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and other traditional dishes. The meal was delicious, love and laughter abounded, but I found myself wishing for certain dishes that had shaped my memories of past holidays.

To fill the void, I decided to host a brunch a couple of days later and prepare some of the New Mexican dishes that remind me of home. The meal provided a great way to say thank you to my hosts and to continue the celebration during the weekend. These are the foods my mother and grandmothers prepared for the holidays and every day. With this menu, I may have started a new tradition.