Monday, April 25, 2011

Corundas Juanita, Quiroga, Michoacan: The Tamales of Purepecha Mothers and Daughters

Veronica! That's her name.....I think. Veronica is a third generation artisan of the corunda, also called the tamal de ceniza(ash tamal). The corunda is a pre-hispanic, triangular-shapped tamal from the Purepecha native-American culture of Michoacan. Veronica learned to make corundas from her mother, Juanita, the founder of Corundas Juanita; a small stand in the carnitas village square of Quiroga, Michoacan.

Even after over 20 years in the business, the stand has a hand written menu that has to be redone fairly often, it practically looked brand new when I stopped by to sample these special tamales.

The green leaves of the corn plant are used to wrap the tamal, not the husks. They dangle loosely from the fist-sized triangle of pure corn masa, maybe some fresh corn thrown in. Corundas can have cheese or a vegetable filling, but often are just pure masa.

Each day Veronica sets up shop--her mom is retired--she brings one steam pot full of the compact packages of comfort. Veronica smiles contently, never laughing out loud, or varying her facial expression much, even when a cheapskate customer tries to talk her down from the $4MXP price per corunda, about 33 cents each. She also is gentle and congenial with Rafa, a pozole vendor that gossips all day, and gives salty looks to many of her peers at the plaza.The way she takes everything in stride, and puts up with Rafa's tacky behavior was baffling; Veronica just quietly and peacefully passes each day while working her craft.

It turns out Veronica makes a pozole that's better, but sells at another location on her off days with her husband.

I get the order of corundas, three corundas plus a mild tomato salsa, and Mexican cream, but I asked her to just give me one, I had my heart set on some other bites.This is just over a dollar for the works here.

The key here is the masa; hand ground with a traditional metate, seasoned by manual labor. The salsa and cream are ample, yet more light and supportive to the corunda's deep corn flavor.

I listened to Veronica talk about corundas--my questions were more just to hear her talk, not for information-she spoke about her family, and hinted at the long hours making corundas, but not complaining. I must have spent 45 minutes with her, although it seemed the whole day had passed.I found myself lost in her smile, coveting her natural state of being, and basking in her innocence and inner beauty. I sometimes get so drawn in to these stands; the people and their stories.

There's nothing greater than the traditions handed from mother to daughter; timeless recipes from the Purepecha kitchen, with flavors that I'll never forget, and a smile that's more bewitching to me than I could ever convey.

Corundas Juanita
Main Plaza at
Lazaro Carenas Sur/Vaco de Quiroga Pte.
Quiroga, Michoacan
mornings until she sells out, around 3PM. Go early!

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