Story Collected by Tania Sosa
I recently spoke with my mom, Vicenta Sosa, about her Mexican heritage and the familiar practices that have defined who she is as an individual. I specifically asked her about practices that she did that were seen as eco-friendly. Among many that she shared with me, there was one in particular that stuck out. My mom talked about corn and how versatile a plant it was.
She started off by saying that here in the states we have become very wasteful and one thing that made her miss her home in Mexico was the fact that even in Illinois (where we grow corn) we do not make use it to its full potential. Here she explains the process of how to cultivate corn and the different things that you could make with it.
When you plant corn you have to take care of it. You have to make sure the soil is healthy because what you plant is only as healthy that the soil it is in. So you lay down compost and take out the weeds, keeping the soil as healthy as possible.
Once you harvest the corn you can use it for many different things. The leaves can be used to wrap tamales up. You can use the actual corn for a multiple number of things. You can make corn tortillas and really nothing is wasted. Back in Mexico, the tortillas that are left over are still used not just simply thrown away. If the tortillas turn hard from being out too long after being cooked people make them into tostadas. You fry the tortilla and you don’t need to buy corn chips anymore.
You can make your salsa, ceviche, or tinga de pollo and you have the corn chips or tostadas right there for you to eat. People do not throw away a single tortilla. If the don’t want/need tostadas they make some chilaquiles. With the maizeyou can make tamales, and clascales, which is a type of dessert bread. Gorditas con carne can also be made. Along withpicaditas, sopes and quesadillas, really the possibilities are endless when using corn.
I ask for one of her favorite recipes that used corn and she said enchiladas verdes con pollo.
Enchiladas verdes con pollo
garlic, onions, jalapeños, green tomatoes, tortillas, chicken
Make the salsa by blended some garlic, onion, jalapeños, and green tomatoes. Fry the salsa in a pan.
Then (if you would like) dip the tortillas in a bit of oil and put them into the salsa that is frying
Next, boil the chicken. Once it is fully cooked, break it apart into thin pieces add it to the salsa and tortilla.
Roll up the tortilla and serve.
You can add cheese, sour cream, and some onion on top if you would like.
It is delicious, simply, and easy!
I then went on to ask my mom where she learned about the versatility of corn. She said that her dad was the one that planted and took care of the corn back in Mexico. When her dad had harvested the crop, her mom was the one that did the cooking. My grandma is the best cook in the family, and she was the one that always tried to make the most of what little that they had. My grandma learned what she knows from her mom, the knowledge being passed down from generation to generation. My mom said that she missed being back home because of the many things that they did that was not only beneficial to her family and coincidentally also very good for the environment. She hopes to bring some of those things from the past back into our lives so we can all benefit from them.