Enough of the heavy stuff. Well, emotionally heavy stuff. This post is about corn. I eat corn every day here. Often multiple times a day. Whatever thickness, color, texture or fat content it may have, I am eating it regularly. And I’m proud to say I’m even starting to think corn isn’t corn without chiles. (Before I’d hardly go near them.)
Let’s start with the tlacoyo, a personal favorite because it’s one of the few foods you will find on the street that is not deep fried in oil. It is a simple, delectable blue corn dough, stuffed with mashed beans, either black or fava, grilled and then topped with cheese, chile, cactus, mushroom, etc. You can find them on the street or at the outdoor markets. Once I tried them I was hooked for eternity. They are also a food specific to Mexico City/Estado de Mexico, the state surrounding the capital.
Next is the sope. Below are the sopes that Sara, Blanca and Paola made for the rest of the Casa staff to celebrate Nico’s birthday. It’s a round tortilla folded up on the sides with mashed beans, cheese and chile on top (noticing a pattern?). Also incredibly delicious.
The last feature is the tamal. The most elusive of its corn counterparts, the tamal is only found at early hours of the morning or at night. The tamal man with his barrel of steaming tamales oaxaqueñas comes riding through our neighborhood and stations himself at the nieghboring Edison Bakery. They are made of a corn dough which is steamed inside the corn husk and filled with chicken, pork, mole, green/red salsa, etc. There are also sweet ones that taste like strawberry corn bread to break the sweat after te enchiles (a verb literally meaning to get burned by chile).
As with all agriculture today in a corporation dominated market of produce, there are raging debates in Mexico currently about the introduction of GMO corn into Mexican agriculture.
This flier advocating against GMO corn says,
“Corn has been a part of the life of Mexican pueblos for more than 7,000 years. Since then, small men and women farmers have been responsible for the cultivation of the plant, which includes more than 60 types of maíz.
GMO corn and patents for seeds threaten the biodiversity of corn and the work of thousands of years of farmers in Mexico. Its use risks the end of maíz criollo and the cause of damaging health effects.
Corn is the most important part of Mexican life and table.
¡For the life, health and economies of our Mexican pueblo, fight against the use of GMO seeds!”
The social justice element of corn is similar to the emphasis of local food movements in the U.S., and the rejection of monopolies such as Monsanto over the production of our crops. This image, taken from estudiosecumenicos.org.mx exhibits this point succinctly. In Mexico there is also an annual “World Day Against Monsanto,” which Mexico City celebrates with a march ending at our very own Monument of the Revolution.