When asked what the Huichols eat, Brant will reply, “ beans and tortillas, tortillas and beans, and a little hot sauce.”
I have been lucky to have been down to the Huichol village in Mexico with Brant for ceremony with many times. We usually arrive around sunset. Soon after settling in, we are called over to eat by Virginia, one of Don José’s and Doña Josefa’s daughters and a very good friend of Brant’s, as well as a friend to all of us “gringos” who come down to visit. She feeds us several times a day and makes sure we have what we need. Waiting for us by the outdoor kitchen fire when we arrive is a big bowl of fresh, hot, thick papayari (corn tortillas), bowls of beans, and maybe some fideo, soup made with very tiny noodles, and, of course, a dish of kukuri (spicy salsa). Muy chiloso! Too hot for me to have more than a tiny taste, but I can’t help going back for more.
I wish I could accurately describe those tortillas.The Huichols grow 5 colors of corn – white, yellow, red, blue/black, and mixed (representing the 5 colors of people). The tortillas we get are usually white or yellow, occasionally the blue. The Huichol women soak and grind the corn, roll and pat them by hand, then flatten them in a well used tortilla press. They use the top of an old metal barrel to cook them over the fire.
Ohhh! That first bite of the first tortilla of the visit! So deeply satisfying; so deeply nourishing. From a pure nutritional perspective, their corn has a massively higher percentage of protein from ours so that is part of the satisfaction. As a cook, I know that using such fresh ingredients is part of the satisfaction. What I also know is that they are made with deep love, lots of laughter, and great care.
From the beginning to the end, the corn is treated delicately and sacredly. It is blessed and prayed over every step of the way from seed to tortillas. The whole village prays and dances in the Spring ceremony for the blessing of the seeds and the coming crop. The seeds are stored in a special way in the community temple. Prayers are said for a good corn crop, and the men are honored and blessed before the planting. The seeds are planted and the crops are tended in centuries old traditions. When the corn is ready to be harvested, again the whole village prays and makes ceremony. The first corn is blessed and shared. When dried and ready, the crop carefully picked. Nothing is wasted. The women share the tradition of soaking and grinding the corn, teaching their daughters the way they themselves were taught. They make tortillas together, sharing them with love. Everyone participates and everyone gets fed. These are the things that make these tortillas so good!
You can taste the love. You can taste the tradition and the history. You can taste the Gods.
In the course of eating, Virginia asks several times, “ Quien quiere mas?” Who wants more? Because of how nourishing the tortillas are, it might only take a few bites to fill me up or I might want to keep eating just because they taste so good and we all need that deep Soul nourishment that comes from those bites. Who wants more? I do. I wait throughout the year until the next visit for that beautiful gift from Mother Earth, from the Corn Goddess, from Virginia and the rest of my Huichol family. It’s a good way to learn the power of food – the nutrition, the nourishment, the love and the joy of community and family. I’ve gotten pretty good at taking that feeling home. We can honor our food and ourselves in similar ways – blessing the food’s journey from seed to belly and back to the earth. We can let our souls be nourished by food created with love and thoughtful care. We can make sure we all have enough.
Quien quiere mas?