ON THE MENU: Corn Mush/Porridge
For our last Native American Health Center (NAHC)–Youth Services cooking class this summer our theme focused on Food and the Community. How does growing heirloom plants and cooking native ingredients, provide nourishment for the community? How has growing certain foods changed the subsistence, lifestyle, and cultures of people? What is the relationship of plants and people, and why is this important to learn about while cooking? Corn/Maize is the perfect example of the relationship between communities, the land, and their food. Chef Sheera Duerigan shares her recipe for Corn Mush/Porridge using a Peruvian heirloom purple corn to teach us about how this food staple of many indigenous communities from South/Central/North America helps provide nutrition for entire populations, the interrelationship between plants and humans, working as a community to plant/grow/harvest, and how this food brings us together.
Sheera Duerigen is a self-taught cook and businesswoman. In Novato, she and her husband Joaquin Estrada manage everything for their business – Alma Semillera. Sheera was a former fire sprinkler inspector, and Joaquin is a Guatemalan immigrant who comes from a farming family. Because of her husband’s passion for authentic homemade tortillas, she watched a ton of youtube videos to learn how to make them herself.
Upon the passing of the Cottage Food Law in January 2013, she was able to start her home business. Sheera managed production, was cooking until midnight, waking up at 5am and doing six farmers markets a week. Since not many knew about them in their first years of operation, they struggled financially and sometimes only made enough to pay the stall fee.
With trends in the food market changing in the past 2 years or so, the demand has become stronger for their products – which include gluten-free tortillas, masa harina, heirloom cornmeal, and horchata mix – sourced with organic and heirloom ingredients and wrapped in compostable packaging.
Native Ingredient: Maize
Maize is not a Native California ingredient, but we wanted to highlight this indigenous food crop to show how this food migrated from the Oaxaca Valley in Central Mexico about 9,000 years ago to the American South West about 4,000 years ago, and then finally to California about 2,000 years ago. Corn is an incredible indigenous technology – the indigenous peoples of Mexico selectively bred a wild grass called “teocintle” over generations to create corn. Corn and humans have an interdependent relationship. Corn is one of the most important global staples, and without humans it wouldn’t grow because the seeds need to be removed by hand from the ear to be planted.
There are many different ways to prepare corn, depending on the region: corn mush, succotash, tortillas, tamales, beverages, and many more. The traditional Three Sisters garden features corn, squash, and beans.
Recipe: Corn Mush/Porridge
Yields about 3-4 servings
10 minutes prep and cook time
- 1 cup corn flour
- 2 cups water (can also use milk, almond milk, or broth to make a savory version)
- Pinch of salt
- Bowl for mixing
- Pot for cooking
- Stirring utensil – wooden spoon, spatula, etc.
- Add the corn flour to the pot.
- Add the water. Whisk the flour and water until mixed.
- Turn the heat to medium-high.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.
- Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or longer. With longer cooking times, the mush will thicken and become smoother.
- Serve with toppings like dried fruit and nuts; and add maple syrup to taste for a sweeter flavor.