Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sandra Juarez Cooks Corundas

Corundas a Purhepecha alternative to tamales Oct./Nov. 2005
Monitor Staff Writer
MORELIA, Mch., Mexico — Sandra Guadalupe Ochoa Juarez expertly folded a long green carrizo leaf into a triangle, demonstrating how she prepares a local dish called corundas.
Juarez, 42, has rented her space in Mercado Antojitos Mexicanos next to Templo de San Agustin on Calle La Corregidor for 18 years, but her family has been in this same location much longer.
“I come from a long generation,” she said through interpreter Trinidad Martinez Garcia. “First it was my grandmother, and then my mother.”
It was just a few days before the Annual Day of the Dead Nov. 1 and 2, one of Mexico’s most important holidays.
Juarez opens everyday at 1 p.m. and closes at 11:30 p.m. While she usually takes a couple of days off each week, she didn’t expect to have any free time during the days before and after Day of the Dead.
On this particular afternoon, Juarez was speaking during a brief lull in her typically busy day at her cafe. Her café, Las Gueras, is one of many that occupy a space in the arcade. She estimated her family, beginning with her grandmother, has been in this location for at least 50 years. She herself began helping out before she was even a teenager.
“I like it,” she said. “I do enjoy cooking, meeting people, serving people.”
A warm breeze swept through the archway, carrying with it the sounds of traffic and music, mingling with the smells of enchiladas, grilling onions and sizzling dough. A pot of steaming atole (a corn meal drink that comes in different flavors, including cinnamon) sat on the stove next to pots of tamales and corundas.
Corundas are a regional recipe that originated with the local Purhepecha Indians. She makes them using corn masa, vegetable oil and baking soda.
“The masa is different from tamales,” she said. “The masa, the paste, is a medium grind for tamales, for corundas it’s a finer grind.”
Juarez explained that she adds vegetable lard to the masa for corundas “not pork lard, like tamales.”
“Add some baking soda, mix them all up,” she said. “When it’s all mixed up, you start putting it into a long leaf. You dish it with a spoon, wrap it, then leave it in boiling water.”
While many cooks use a corn leaf for the flavor, it’s difficult to bend so Juarez uses a carrizo leaf. During the busiest times of the year, when she expects large numbers of tourists, she makes up to 200 corundas at a time, putting them in layers in a big pot. This is a craft which she knows instinctively. When asked for a recipe, it was hard for her to explain the exact measurements. “If we make 200 corundas, 10 kilos of masa,” she said.
She estimated that much masa would require five teaspoons of baking soda and 10 teaspoons of oil. She said her busiest times of the year are around Christmas, Holy Week and, of course, the Day of the Dead.
“I’ll make about 200 corundas and 100 tamales,” she said, her eyes glimmering with anticipation.
Juarez doesn’t plan to change the menu anytime soon.
“Tacos al pastor, I don’t like them,” she said with a grimace. “Huchepos (another local Purhepecha dish) don’t sell. Corundas and tamales and atole sell very well.”
Juarez won’t be able to pass the tradition on the way it was to her; she has two sons, one of whom is studying economics and the other computer engineering. But all is not lost.
“I’m passing it on to my daughter-in-laws,” she said. “They are the next generation.”

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