Corn roasting

Recent meal at the home of childhood friends Soila and Nicolas
Recent meal at the home of childhood friends Soila and Nicolas

When I think of smells that elicit feelings and memories, I think of corn roasting.  Corn was so much a part of my childhood. The people around us lived on corn (and potatoes). Pictured is a meal served to me in Llano Grande. There is corn, potatoes, fava beans, pork and cheese.

At harvest time, I remember them filling a gunny sack with corn, still in the husks. They soaked the sack in water and then buried it in the coals of a wood file. They also put a kettle of new potatoes on to boil. It feels like it was at night and there were a lot of people around. We sat on piles of wood in the woodshed out near the barn and corral. While the potatoes cooked, they made a sauce of ground peanuts and ají. It was very hot. But our friend Segundo ate big bites of it on his potatoes and corn.

Also, at harvest time, the share-croppers on the land had a festival for the “patronsito”. Dad had that role, though he didn’t want to be thought of that way. Jan and I went along down to the lower part of the land. They put Dad on a horse and put a poncho on him that had chickens and other produce tied to it. Then they had him ride among the people. I remember Jan and I being sent into the house to eat soup that had chicken feet, corn (still on the cob) and potatoes in it. There was also chicha (corn beer), though what they gave us was not yet fermented.

Corn harvest is at the time of San Juanito y San Pedro. That is also true in Brazil, where I worked as a new graduate from nursing schoool. That holiday is celebrated with all kinds of corn dishes. I loved the corn pudding our maid Judite made. It was smooth and she sprinkled cinnamon on it. It was during the rainy season, in June. That’s when I remember the smell of corn roasting. I was walking down the street with my pink umbrella (the one I bought at Sacs 5th Ave when I was in school). It was damp and drizzly. And on the corner was a man sitting by a grill made from an old gas can with a grate on it, and he was roasting ears of corn to sell. No wonder San Pedro is celebrated with bon fires. It is at the coldest time of year in the southern hemisphere.

What varied memories roasting corn bring to my mind.


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