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Great Corn Mother Spins Harvest and Creation

Garlic and Bread Soup

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

In Peruvian myth, mamas were spirits that caused maize to sprout. Acsumama was potato mother, quinuamama was quinoa mother, and saramama was maize mother, most important as maize was also the principal food.

Saramama was worshiped as a doll or as “Huantay Sara,” made out of dry stalks of corn. Its image was reconstructed for each harvest, parallel to Mexican idols for the great corn mother. Sacrifices and vigils followed for three days, at which time the medicine man of the community asked the likeness whether it could endure until the time of the following harvest. If the answer was “yes,” the tribe kept it. If the response was “no,” the doll was burned and replaced by another the following year.

Mayan legend tells of the first two hummingbirds, created from scraps of feathers that were left behind after other birds had been formed. The god who sculpted them in an elaborate wedding ceremony married them. Butterflies created the borders of a room. Flower petals spread a carpet beneath them, and spiders made the bridal pathway with their spun webs.

In another legend, hummingbirds pierced the tongues of kings. When blood flowed onto sacred scrolls and was set aflame, divinities emerged from billowing smoke: “strange blue hummingbird unseen wings vibrating rapidly seeking the flower’s nectar wetness.”

For indigenous communities, green is still the color of growing things, a life force from the north. Blue emanates from the south, symbolizing knowledge and truth. Red is east, the rising sun and blood’s color. Black is death, darkness, as its splendor sinks into the west and the underworld. Sun is yellow and fire, core of inner life. White is for clouds, guardians of moisture from the ocean released as rain to quench the soil’s thirst.

From Mexico City/Tenochtitlan comes this intriguing recipe for golden “sopa de ajo y migas” (garlic and bread soup). The eggs form rough strands like egg drop soup.


6 thick slices French-style bread

6 tbsp. canola oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

6 cups chicken broth

3 small eggs

2 sprigs epazote or coriander, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place bread slices in one layer on baking sheet and bake until crisp on outside, but not dried out, about 30 minutes. Heat some of the oil in a heavy pan and fry the bread on both sides until crisp and golden brown, then drain on paper towels. Gently fry garlic over low flame in 1 tbsp. oil to flavor it. Pour in a little of the broth, swirl, and add rest of the broth. Heat to a simmer. Lightly beat eggs with 1 tsp. oil and add to broth, stirring constantly. Add epazote or coriander. Simmer until eggs are set. Salt and pepper to taste, and add fried bread and simmer for half a minute longer. Serve in deep bowls with a crouton in each bowl.


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