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The Blue Corn Mother

Chiles Rellenos de Elote 1

By Tim Hazell

She is known throughout the world by many different names—Demeter, Persephone, Cerridwen, Calleach (Old Wife), and the Corn Maiden. This goddess of fertility endures in universal myths wherever a golden crop is about to be reaped and is worshiped in the New World as the supreme giver of life. Blue Corn Mother is guardian of all tender and blooming things, sacrificing herself 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, 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 bury her body in a field so that new corn will continue to grow:

The Corn Mother

In the house with the tortoise chair / She will give birth to the pearl / To the beautiful feather… / There she sits on the tortoise / Swelling to give us birth—anonymous Aztec poet

Elaborate ceremonies to propitiate the corn mother have their beginnings in Paleolithic cultures centered around the matriarch as creator. Well-endowed female nudes of early agrarian communities may have played major roles in rites to ensure abundant harvests. Corn was life, and in the words of Chichimeca 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

—anonymous Aztec poet

Corn in modern Mexican society is still revered and frequently left growing in the midst of construction sites. Closest to every hearth and comal, corn ground on the metate is at the center of daily life in rural Mexico. In the following recipe, it completes a luscious combination of chiles and cream!

Chiles Rellenos de Elote con Crema

Serves 2–3

Ingredients:

6 poblano chiles

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup scallion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed

1/3 cup chopped coriander

6 oz farmer cheese, crumbled

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Mexican cream

2 oz cheddar cheese

Directions:

Place poblanos on open flame, turning often with tongs to char evenly. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet, add scallions and garlic, and cook 1–2 minutes, stirring often until soft. Add corn and coriander and cook until heated through. Remove from heat, stir in farmer cheese and salt. Preheat oven to 350F. Carefully remove the loosened charred skin from the poblanos. Cut in half lengthwise. Rremove core and seeds. Arrange poblanos in a large oiled baking dish in a single layer. Fill each with about 1/2 cup of the corn mixture until plump. Top with cream. Bake 10 minutes, sprinkle with Cheddar cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes to melt.

 

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