Queen Corn

It is no surprise that corn is the biggest agricultural produce in the United States. Corn has been queen in the Americas for thousands of years. Corn originated and began to be cultivated around 9200 years again in the Balsas River valley of South Central Mexico. It is a bit of a western (and eastern) bias to think that civilizations in the Americas are not as old as in the middle and near east. Small cities, markets and public building existed in South Central America as early as 3000 BC. (A giant Olmec stone head has been dated as early as 3000 BC.) Large scale construction did not begin until about 2600 BC and the pyramids date from around 2300 BC.

Like all agricultural civilizations the primary crop, Maize, was deified as the creator goddess (and god, for the Aztecs). It was this goddess in her many aspects, who was believed to have brought civilization to the Americas.

From Myth Encyclopedia:  The majority of corn deities are female and associated with fertility. They include the Cherokee goddess Selu; Yellow Woman and the Corn Mother goddess Iyatiku of the Keresan people of the American Southwest; and Chicomecoatl, the goddess of maize who was worshiped by the Aztecs of Mexico. The Maya believed that humans had been fashioned out of corn, and they based their calendar on the planting of the cornfield.

The Zuni people of the southwestern United States have a myth about eight corn maidens. The young women are invisible, but their beautiful dancing movements can be seen when they dance with the growing corn as it waves in the wind. One day the young god Paiyatemu fell in love with the maidens, and they fled from him. While they were gone, a terrible famine spread across the land. Paiyatemu begged the maidens to turn back, and they returned to the Zuni and resumed their dance. As a result, the corn started to grow again. (This sounds a lot like the Greek myth of Persephone.)

Another Corn Mother goddess is Iyatiku, who appears in legends of the Keresan people, a Pueblo group of the American Southwest. In the Keresan emergence story, Iyatiku leads human beings on a journey from underground up to the earth’s surface. To provide food for them, she plants bits of her heart in fields to the north, west, south, and east. Later the pieces of Iyatiku’s heart grow into fields of corn.

Although there is not a lot of acceptance for the idea of old world and new world pre-columbian contact, I will leave you with this lovely lady, a fertility goddess from 12th century Indian holding an ear of corn:

Arepas (South American Corn Cakes)

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups masarepa cornmeal
  • 2 3/4 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Vegetable oil
Stir salt into arepa flour.Pour hot water over flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Stir in the melted butter. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.
If preparing the thicker, Venezuelan style arepas, separate dough into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball.
Place each ball in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or two ziplock bags and flatten gently with the bottom of a pot. Arepas should be about 3 inches in diameter and almost an inch thick. Use your fingers to smooth out any cracks along the edges. Place shaped arepas on cookie sheet, covered with plastic wrap.
If making the thinner, Colombian-style arepas, divide the dough into 20 pieces, and form into balls. Place balls between 2 pieces of plastic and flatten with a heavy pot or skillet until they are about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick, using your fingers to smooth out any cracks along the edges. Place arepas on a cookie sheet, covered with plastic wrap.
Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Place 1/2 tablespoon butter or oil in the skillet. Place several arepas in the pan, leaving room so that you can turn them.
Cook arepas about 5 minutes on each side. The surface should dry and form a crust. They will brown slightly, but do not let them brown too much. They should look like an english muffin. If they are browning too fast, lower the heat. Add more butter or oil for subsequent batches as needed. The thinner arepas are done when they have formed a nice crust, but are still soft on the inside. Serve them hot. The thicker, Venezuelan-style arepas finish cooking in the oven. Place them on a cookie sheet and heat for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve hot.

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