Thursday, November 22, 2012

Corn: the staff of life in El Salvador's campo

On Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I want to share an essay by Brian Rude, a Lutheran pastor living in El Salvador titled Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.   Brian describes the role of corn in the dance of life in rural El Salvador:
Corn–next only to water–is the lifeblood of the Salvadoran people. Salvadoran people are “el pueblo de maíz”, corn people. Their tortillas, without which a meal isn’t a meal, are made from dried and ground corn kernels....
The majority of the harvest–the “mazorcas”, or cobs–is left to dry, after the dried stalks are broken and bent. At harvest, these corn husks are broken off and are brought to the house, where the mounds of cobs fill every available storage space, even much of the living space, waiting to be husked and degrained. This labour-intensive process, danced while seated and often while socializing, fills every waking hour. The kernels are then stored in cylindrical metal grain bins, often inside the farmhouse. They are mixed with sulphur, for preservation from insects and humidity, breezes and oxidation, at least if the bins are not well-sealed. 
From the bin, mother draws the kernels needed for day-to-day consumption, for the nutrition and sustenance of her family. They are ground and mixed with water to form the dough, the “masa”. Kneading the dough on a smooth, concave-shaped stone is another movement in the corn-dance, requiring strong arms and shoulders, perseverance and endurance. The dough is hand-shaped into perfectly rounded, flat, thick tortillas, to be baked over the fire on a clay “comal”, or large, round, platter-like baking pan. Hot, crisp and toasted, these tortillas accompany every meal, offering balanced sustenance, life itself, to these farmers and their families. This life-giving promise of tortillas must never be at risk.

 Make sure and read the entire essay here.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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