Blue Corn Mother
By Tim Hazell
Hail The Earth, my mother
without whom no food can be grown
and so cause the will to live to starve…
—Late 19th century Algonquin
She is known throughout the world by many different names—Demeter, Persephone, Cerridwen, The Calleach (Old Wife) and The Corn Maiden. She endures in universal myths, whenever corn is high and worshiped as supreme giver of life. Blue Corn Mother is guardian of all tender and blooming things, sacrificed at harvest and reincarnated as new crops seek the sun.
In Cherokee tales, Selu, the Corn Mother, tells her twin sons, who are always hungry, that she will find food, and returns daily with a basket of corn. Curious to know where it comes from, they follow her to a small log hut and through the chinks see her squatting above her basket, giving birth to corn. Her secret is exposed and she tells her sons to inter her body after her death in a field where corn will grow.
The Corn Mother
In the house with the tortoise chair
She sits on the tortoise
Swelling to give us birth!
On your way, on your way
Child be on your way to me here
You whom I made new…
Elaborate ceremonies to propitiate the Corn Mother had their beginnings in paleolithic indigenous beliefs centered upon the female as life-giver and creator. Well-endowed female nudes of early hunter-gatherers played major roles in rites to ensure abundant harvests. Corn was life, and according to the Nahua poets, “in Tollan, one ear was as large as a man could carry.”
May I be delighted, that I may not perish.
I am the young Corn Plant,
An emerald is my heart.
—Fragment from Nahuatl verse
Corn in contemporary Mexican society is still revered and frequently left growing in the midst of construction sites. Ground on a metate as the main ingredient for savory tortillas, corn is the heartbeat of the Mexican campo. Here it joins a luscious combination of chilies and cream!
Chiles Rellenos de Elote con Crema
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups frozen corn kernels
Salt to taste
12 small fresh chiles poblanos, charred, peeled and cleaned
1/2 lb. queso fresco (pale, crumbly cream-colored cheese), thickly sliced
2 cups Mexican cream (crema)
3 oz. Chihuahua or mild cheddar cheese, grated
Melt butter in a saucepan. Fry onion and garlic gently until soft. Add corn kernels and salt. Cover and cook over low flame until kernels are tender, about five minutes. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 F. Clean chilies carefully, leaving top and stalk intact. Stuff chilies with the corn mixture until fat but still able to close where they are slit open. Place chilies in one layer in a shallow oven-proof dish. Spoon over crema and bake until heated through. Sprinkle with grated cheese and continue to bake until cheese has melted.