There is hardly a household in Central America that doesn’t eat a corn-related meal during the day. Corn or maize, as it’s often called, is the core of the daily diet in this part of the world. It’s also true of many countries of South America as well.
Great civilizations need a great asset. Ancient Egypt had the Nile, The Mayans had maize, or corn as other call it. Maize is accepted as Man’s first, and perhaps his greatest, feat of genetic engineering.
Maize was definitely seen by the Mayans as a gift from the gods. One version of the creation myth states that when the Medicine Rite was first created by the good spirits, each of them contributed something that would help the humans overcome the evil spirits. Grandmother (Earth) came forward and spoke to Hare: “Look at my breast, grandson.” Then, unexpectedly, there grew from one of Grandmother’s breasts a plant that no-one had ever seen before. It grew immediately from her nipple into a full stalk with ripe ears of corn ready to eat. “This grandson,” said Earth, “is maize. The two-legged walkers may eat its corn forevermore.”
The Mayan mind believe—or realized—that not only had the gods given them maize, the gods would continually need to be thanked for guaranteeing the success of the yearly corps. In the end, the symbiosis between Man and maize was a contract between us and the gods.
Since then we have been eating corn. Even in the United States, corn flakes, is present in every home during breakfast time. In the U.S., corn production measures more than two times that of any other crop. Your bacon and egg breakfast, glass of milk at lunch, or hamburger for supper were all produced with U.S. corn. Corn is a major component in many food items like cereals, peanut butter, snack foods and soft drinks. Corn is used to produce fuel alcohol. Fuel alcohol makes gasoline burn cleaner, reducing air pollution, and it doesn’t pollute the water.
Corn is produced on every continent of the world with the exception of Antarctica. The gift from the gods has taken the whole world by storm.
Below are pictures of a humble home similar to the ones inhabited by our peasants in the remote villages from our countryside. If you look closely, you will find a maize or corn milling machine (clamp type) ready to go. Obviously in this home, corn was part of the daily diet.
Snapshot of a corn milling machine (clamp type) and a gourd used to carry water to the working fields. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
A closer look at a manual corn grinder (clamp type) exhibited at Mi Pueblito in Panama City, Panama. I noticed the grinder was manufactured in Honduras. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
A snapshot of a corn mill grinder used in the countryside by many of its inhabitants. Corn in this part of the country is king. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of a stone corn grinder very similar to the ones used by the Mayan Indians in Mexico and Guatemala. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Below is a list of popular culinary uses of corn in Panama.
- Chicha fuerte (fermented corn beverage)
- Torrejas de maíz nuevo
- Corn coffee
- Serén Cream
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