In the world of agriculture, the cornfield holds a special place, particularly in traditional societies where manual labor is still the norm. Corn, as a staple crop, has woven itself into the fabric of these societies, and the intimate, hands-on nature of its cultivation has given rise to an undeniable sensuality in the corn tradition. The good milpero, or corn farmer, is recognized for the gentle way he caresses his plants, akin to the tenderness one shows to their lover. The feminine essence of the milpa is cherished, much like Don Quixote's reverence for his Dulcinea.
Man's Role: Tending to the Milpa
The labor involved in cultivating the milpa is an act of devotion, as each step in the process is performed with the hands, illustrating a deep connection to the land. From preparing the fallow land and sowing the seeds to pulling the soil to the plant and fertilizing it, a man's hands are essential in every phase. This attention to detail continues as he harvests the corn and threshes the ear, demonstrating the artistry and care inherent in the process.
Woman's Role: Crafting the Corn into Cuisine
Parallel to the man's role in the fields, the woman holds an equally important place in transforming the corn into sustenance for the family. With her hands, she makes the nixtamal, grinds it on the metate, and skillfully crafts the dough for tortillas. The way a woman feels the tortilla dough in her hands can be a testament to her desirability, as men have been known to be captivated by her expertise at the metate. As the saying goes, "A woman must be good for the metate and the petate."
The woman's expertise extends to the comal, where tortillas are heated with her hands, and the taco, which is both crafted and consumed by hand. The way a person eats their taco even holds cultural significance, as it is believed to reveal their character and upbringing.
The Cornfield in Spring: A Symphony of Life
It is the lazy "eaters," those fixated on the consumption of food, who may miss the spiritual essence of the milpa. As spring arrives and the cornfield comes to life, the symphony of nature's songbirds, crickets, and cicadas fills the air. The man in the furrow joins this chorus, singing with joy as life begins anew.
Conclusion: The Intimate Connection between Corn and Life
The corn tradition exemplifies the harmony between humanity and nature, with the sensual connection between man and milpa reflecting the balance of life. This celebration of connection and craft, from the loving care shown to the plants in the field to the skilled preparation of corn for the family table, is a testament to the beauty of life itself. It is a reminder to savor the spiritual aspects of our connection to the land and to cherish the work of our hands in nurturing the cycles of life.
In-text citation: Conversación en la cocina, Gastronomía mexiquense by Rosita Sanchez. pp.17-18. 2006