Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Three Stalks of Corn

Three Stalks of Corn
Leo Politi ~ Charles Scribner's Sons, 197

Last night, I attended the mandatory meeting at my son's school to get him into the lotto for the Spanish immersion program next year, meaning from day one, the teachers will be speaking to him, and expecting him to speak, in Spanish. It's a very exciting program and slightly hard to get into because the interest is so high, so I am now a mix of enthusiastic nerves. I've been talking to him on and off about expectations, just in case he gets in, and have been relying on some of our books in English that share words in Spanish and aspects of the Mexican culture (though from the panel of teachers last night it seems as if they are from everywhere from Puerto Rico to The Dominican Republic to Peru). Still, this is San Antonio, so the culture here in general leans to the Mexican side.

Leo Politi's work usually focuses on Cal-Mex culture, still, being a border state, the end results of the intermingling of two worlds are almost identical. However, from what I can tell, food-wise, California leans a little heavy on the sour cream (which you don't really find in interior Mexican dishes)... and that is what we are talking about here. Food, or more specifically, corn.

Angelica lives with her grandmother in the city of Pico Rivera in California. The section of the city in which they live is the "Barrio de Pico Viejo," the district of Old Pico. Many of the people who live here are of Mexican descent. The neighbors call Angelica's grandmother abuelita, which means "grandmother" in Spanish. On weekdays grandmother walks Angelica to school and meets her for the walk home when school is over. Angelica and her grandmother live in an early California house with a veranda all across the front. A large tree shades the yard, and at the bottom of the tree trunk is a statuette of the Virgin of Guadalupe - the patron saint of all Mexico. In front of the house is a vegetable garden where grandmother grows lettuce, tomatoes, and pepper plants. She also grows patches of parsley, coriander, onions, and garlic to flavor her food. Grandmother is a very good cook, and when she is cooking, the aroma makes everyone who smells it very hungry.

Indeed she is. Her pride and joy are three stalks of corn that she tends with care and in the pages that follow, granddaughter learns how to make tortillas (hand-ground from scratch), corn husk dolls and kerneled necklaces. Her grandmother tells her old folk stories of gods that protect the corn and teaches her friends how to make tacos and enchiladas. It's a sweet story of one generation passing secrets down to the next, and it ends with the best thing ever. Recipes!

I never tire of Leo's delicate illustration style and thoughtful voice. So respectful of children and diversity in our wonderful world. Enjoy!

Also by:
Song of the Swallows
Butterflies Come


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