Archive for blue cornmeal

blue cornmeal

Posted in delicious places, delicious stories, vague recipes with tags on April 20, 2009 by thatwasdelicious

A body remembers where it has been. A body remembers in the strangest ways.

On April 11, 1985 my mother’s brother committed suicide. My mother was 36 weeks pregnant with me and had to be sent to the hospital and tranquilized when she heard the news. Her doctors forbade her to go to the funeral on April 17 because they were afraid that she would go into early labor. I was born a month later.

As a kid I didn’t know this story. I would always be surprised by the spring. March would come and I would start to feel the tickle of cold fresh mud and the longing to spend the last light of day outside. Everything seemed to come alive in March. Then April would roll around and I would feel like I was being wrapped up in a big blanket. I would feel heavy and soft and slowed down and numbed. I would want to curl away and hide even as the days were getting longer and lighter. Later as an adolescent and in college, when I was battling food and eating issues, spring would always bring a lapse into whatever bad habits I had managed to put to rest during the winter months. And then May would come, my birthday would pass, and suddenly I would start to feel the great unwinding and welcoming again of the summer months.

When I finally learned that my last month in utero had been the saddest month of my mother’s life, April and May started to make more sense to me. My spring time habits and feelings seemed to be my body’s way of remembering, reliving and even protecting me from that intense period of life before birth.

This year is different. Maybe it is because I am far from my roots. Maybe it is because I am training for a marathon and am connecting to my body in a new and different way. Maybe it is because I am finally starting to grow up and a body can’t hold onto everything forever. Maybe it is because spring here in California is a dry sweeping wind rather than a sodden muddy garden bed.Or maybe it is because my body is remembering last spring when it was where it had never been before. But for whatever reason, this spring my body is remembering something very different than the load of un-articulated grief I shared with my mother.

Last April I boarded an airplane in Philly and about seven hours later touched down in the dry dark of the Albuquerque’s desert. It was the first time that I had been to the southwest. I am surprised even now to know that while part of me was busy falling in love with a boy, another part of me was falling for the clear, stark, dry land, and the wide, wide open sky. My visit in April was short–just long enough to attend a workshop on women’s health and to know that I wanted to come back.

The next time I touched down was in May, the end of May. The week before I had spent packing up my room, attempting to clean out the Larchwood house, transferring the majority of my possessions to Lancaster, and saying good bye to everyone in Philly. I didn’t realize it then, but that was beginning of the year spent traveling that will be ending when I return to Philadelphia this June. Leaving Philadelphia was hard. I knew that it was time for me to be leaving the work that I was doing, I knew that I wanted to be with the boy out in the desert, but the part of me that loves roots and stability was shaky. Even as I was riding in the cab on the way to the airport, I couldn’t help but think that maybe what I was doing was ill-advised. All of the feminist bones in my body were wondering why it was that I was perhaps veering so far off my course in pursuit of very vague dreams. Retrospect is a wonderful thing, however, and now I can see how it was a necessary first step out into the world.

I arrived in New Mexico still a bit shaky. The weight of my pack helped to give me some ballast but it wasn’t until I was nestled into the shoulder crook of the reason I had made this journey and inhaling the beautiful scent of desert sun, washed polyester, sandalwood, and boy that I started to feel the shakiness being replaced by a familiar feeling of rightness, a feeling of slipping to a slip-stream.

For me, the fact that I can’t really remember my first days or nights back in Albuquerque is not that surprising. Even now I have a vague sense of perhaps going to the co-op, eating berry pie, eating Chinese food, and little else. But what I do remember is padding into the cool, skylight-lit kitchen one morning and inhlaing the scent of blue cornmeal toasting. I didn’t know that was that I was smelling at the time. I was drawn out of the bedroom by the scent of something warm and soft and slightly sweet. Jon told me that it was blue cornmeal. I peered into the pot on the stove. The slight blue-grey-purple cornmeal was toasting, dry on the stove. Then Jon added some water and the color of the cornmeal brightened. As the cornmeal gurbled towards a grit-like consistency, he added toasted cardamom and cumin, sticky-sweet dates, and a swirl of liquid gold–ghee.

I took my first bite–this, this is what I had been looking for. Dense cornmeal and chewy dates that give the grounding comfort of Irish soda bread and the bites of dates mingle with the unique and subtle sweetness of the cooked corn. Nourishing and grounding while being light and sharp and clear. A bowl of blue cornmeal cereal is one of those foods that also tastes exactly how it smells and feels exactly how it looks, which is one of the most rewarding compilation of sensory experiences. I would also argue that it is the best love medicine out there.

They don’t call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for nothing. The wide open sky beckons and the mountains turn to shades of pinks and purples and dusty browns in the dying light. The sun is hot and sharp and dries everything out-intensifying life and flavors and baking colors. This spring I find myself daydreaming about returning as a midwife. And riding horses through the desert scrub. And this spring I feel like my arms are continually flung open wide and my head is tilted back. I feel like I am awake and not numbed but also not overwhelmed. I feel like Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and bonfires and I feel sweet and dense and nourished.

A body remembers…