Why Corn is so Fundamental in Mexican Cooking?

pop-corn-785074_640Mexican cuisine is fraught with corn based dishes. The vast majority of the population will tell you of the nostalgic experience of the ‘tortilleria’; a standard in every Mexican neighbourhood, where tortillas can be bought in fragrant steaming stacks by the kilo.

While tortillas may be the most iconic corn dish, it is not the only one. From tamales, which is a sort of stuffed corn meal steamed in a corn husk, to atole, a hot breakfast beverage served hot and made from corn, corn (see recipe below) is a huge part of the Mexican diet.

But not the same corn, of course. There is the big white kernels, like hominy that are used in Pozole, a spicy cross between a soup and a salad. Then there are other varieties used to make specific dishes, the natures of which are known only to the peasant and master chefs who incorporate this important food item into the daily Mexican menus.

But corn is far more than a food item to the Mexican people. Legends have it that the very first man and women the gods placed on the earth sprung from the ears of corn. Native tradition refers to the Mexican people as the ‘Children of the Corn”

Ancient mesoamerican civilizations like the Maya and Aztec revered corn as a symbol of divine providence and used the figures of corn and corn stalks in every aspect of their culture from the designs they painted on their temples to the gods and ceremonies they observed.

The earliest evidence of corn cultivation in Mexico is believed by many leading historians to be set at 5,000 B.C.E. But Today the presence of corn in Mexican diet and culture still holds an important place.

From the time they are small, people in Mexico develop a taste for corn they will never truly appreciate unless they find themselves far from Mexico where the taste of corn is nothing like the taste of corn from home.