By Andrea Pons
Rather than sharing recipes from Mamacita, I wanted to create three special recipes for the Kinfood community, because I wanted to include seasonal ingredients from Kinfood’s Farm Box that highlight and celebrate Mexican culture, especially in the month of September.
I’m excited that this Farm Box will be launching on September 15th, which is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month – what is even more exciting is that people who purchase this box will be able to bring a little bit of Mexican Patria home since Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th.
Now a little bit of history: in ancient Mexico, and more specifically in Aztec civilization, corn was an essential part of life. Native Mexican cultures like the Aztecs believed that humans came from corn, and they would worship the corn God Centeotl and Goddess Chicomecōātl who was considered the princess of unripe maize. At the beginning of each year, young Aztec men would plant young maize and perform a ritual dance to thank Mother Earth and Centeotl. These dances became increasingly more beautiful and prominent as the warmth of Spring and Summer brought about great prosperity to the Aztecs in the form of growing maize. Once the corn was ready for harvest, Aztec women would let down their hair and dance amongst the maize fields to thank Centeotl for his work and for the harvest. Each of the women would pick up five ears of corn, and carry them in their arms in a grand procession while singing and dancing. The elder women would also pick up five ears of corn, which they would carefully swaddle and carry in their backs, much like newborn children, all the way to their homes where they would then place the ripe maize into woven baskets outside their doors, where they would stay for over a year until the next season came to represent the resting of the maize Gods until the next harvest.
I share this story with you because as you explore Mexican cuisine, you can see and taste that much of Mexican dishes are centered around corn. Anywhere from corn tortillas which are one of the most commonly known foods, to Crema Pastelera, which is sweet, light, and aromatic and uses corn Maizena as one of the main ingredients.
This Crema Pastelera is not like the traditional recipes you’ll find online. Unlike those recipes, this one came from my own grandmother Titita Tere. Her recipe is special in the way that it does not use eggs, and what makes it even more special is the fact that she used this exact recipe for the pastries that she once sold at La Española, the bakery she opened the same year my mother was born and the way that she was able to put all of her six children through college financially when my grandfather died at age 50.
I wanted to use her recipe in a non-traditional way by serving it alongside poached pears. The beginning of fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the way everything begins to slow down, and much like nature, things are beginning to feel a bit heavier, like ripe fruit hanging from a skinny tree branch. This dessert recipe is a perfect representation of the start of the new season. The warmth from the cinnamon Poached Pears against the chilled sweetness of the Crema Pastelera will remind you of sunny crisp fall days.
We can assume everyone in America knows about cornbread, and believe me, I love cornbread. But, Torta de Elote brings a whole new perspective I bet you haven’t tried before. While cornbread is crumbly and a bit dry until it’s blanketed in warm butter, Torta de Elote is sticky and perfectly versatile. In this recipe, I opted for the more traditional way of eating it, which is alongside Carne de Puerco con Rajas en Salsa de Tomate. The cake is served on the side with a bath of sauce, a slice of Ranchero Queso Fresco, a Raja (poblano pepper strip), and sour cream. The sweetness of the corn cake pairs perfectly with the saltiness of the pork and provides a savoriness that ties the two dishes together. What I love is that there are always leftovers of this cake, which are perfectly served alongside a black cup of coffee the next morning as breakfast.
Whether you’re cooking up all three recipes or trying out your favorite one, by making these recipes you are celebrating years of history in Mexican culture. I want to thank you from the deepest parts of my heart for sharing this experience with me and for supporting local farms, businesses, and families like my own. Buen provecho!