The Grain Exchange

Cathedral of Corn

Give and Take

I do this every day of my life. I give my time, my energy, my skills, my concerns, my knowledge . . . but not every action has sacrificial merit, for I would gladly take these things, and more, from anyone who is willing to give.

Give and take is the stuff of commerce, the barter of one thing for another, yet it’s more than the partnership of a business transaction. Without give and take, we risk losing our sensitivity, our compassion, our humanness. Without exchange, we become spectators whose witness is meaningless because it cannot be shared.

More Blessed to Give?

All give and no take is a high ideal. Saint Paul, in Acts 20:35, referenced Jesus as having said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” But I wonder, is this even possible? Consider: sometimes receiving is the harder part, and in humbling ourselves to receive, we actually give. Thinking of it this way, taking becomes a gift–a blessing to the giver when they see your joy in receiving.

Somewhere it’s Someone’s Birthday

Therefore, every day is a reason to celebrate. Recently, my family treated me to a meal at one of my favorite Colorado restaurants, The Fort. Occasionally, they offer specialty menus. I am not one to shy away from a possible gastronomic delight, no matter how unusual the selection, so, that day, I experienced an incredible smoky-sweet delicacy known to millions as corn smut. No, that’s not a typo.

Corn smut goes by other names too.


Huitlacoche (wee-tlah-KOH-cheh), Mexican corn truffle, corn mushroom, or cuitlacoche (queet-la-KOH-chay), a Spanish derivative of its Aztec name, is full of protein. That’s good. But it’s ugly. That’s bad. In fact, the Aztecs also referred to it as raven poo. Ugh!

This “mushroom” is sometimes used as a filling for tamales, enchiladas, and tacos, and when well prepared, this delicacy is creamy and a bit pungent. Just like you would expect from a parasitic fungus.

Corn Smut is a Gift

Prior to the explorations of Christopher Columbus, Europeans never heard of corn. When it finally came to Spain, it was a novelty to be admired, not eaten. How things have changed!

As foods were introduced to Europe, North and South America received new foods from Europe.

Foods Introduced to Europe included corn and potatoes (find more information in my posts listed under Legends of Food). And Europe provided a bevy of contributions to the New World: cabbage, onions, garlic, peas, barley, wheat, watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, and peaches. The Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries brought spices too: coriander (cilantro), fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, and cumin (information I picked up at the Denver Botanic Gardens earlier this week).

This give and take inspired combinations and recipes for things like salsa, corn chips, and the ingenious Cuitlacoche Ice-Cream. Yep. Frozen fungus treats. For a link to the recipe, click here.

If you have a corn-smut recipe you’d like to share, I’m willing to take it. And make it. And eat it. And share.


Leave a Comment

  • (will not be published)