Wednesdays are extra special in San Carlos. Midweek is not just “Hump Day” in this small pueblo. It is also “Corn Day”!
The morning unfolds with the sunrise creeping slowly over acreage on the outskirts of town. In all honesty, I am making up this part because I haven’t witnessed the beginning of this weekly wonder but I imagine it goes something like this. On a small farm setting similar to that of Kevin Costner’s, Field of Dreams, with a few minor adjustments, including but not limited to, no big white house, no baseball team magically emerging from the fields and no Shoeless Joe, the story begins. A truck arrives at a gate made of wood and barbed wire. A passenger exits the vehicle, removes the twisted wire closure from the post and eases the gate open allowing the truck to pass through closing the gate behind. He returns to his seat and off they lurch over the rocky ground. They slowly make their way to the section of the field to be harvested. A group of earnest Mexicans climb from the truck bed, stretch their muscles and grab cloth bags to assist them in gathering the morning crop. Walking through rows of dark green corn stalks these men carefully select which cobs are ripe for the picking. The perfect candidates have firm green husks with corn silks turning a darker brown. I imagine one hand holding the stalk steady while the other grabs the mature corn ears, twisting them and dropping them into the woven bag. This process continues through the field until swollen bags are emptied in the bed of the truck. While I’m not remotely sure this is the actual process of a corn harvest I do know that in some way on Wednesday mornings delicious ears of yellow goodness make their way into the bed of a white pickup truck.
The truck then rambles down the bumpy road, makes its way onto the main street of San Carlos, where there are honks and waves to walkers along the boulevard. Finally the truck comes to a stop at the San Carlos Marina where a knowing group has already formed.
In the past, clusters of people would gather happily chatting, drinking coffee and enjoying the comings and goings at the marina for 30 minutes or so waiting for the arrival of the “corn guys”. Today the world of COVID-19 has changed the scene a little bit. Instead, masked folks are parked in cars with their coffee waving to their acquaintances through windows anticipating the arrival of the veggies.
Taking turns, folks exit their vehicles and patiently approach the truck bed self-monitoring a six foot social distancing from other corn buyers. As they approach, four good-natured, masked men constantly sanitize their hands in order to distribute prepackaged bags holding twelve ears of sweet corn. Payment of 100 pesos (about $4) per dozen is made by slipping bills or coins into a basket. Exact change is requested to avoid any handling of money. In a matter of moments, happy customers are off with their purchase dreaming of their upcoming corn feast.
Why are Wednesdays so significant in San Carlos…other than savory corn that is? For that, you must know the backstory. The men, Captain Cachi, Junior, Pollo and Yayi are not farmers. In the pre #StayHomeStaySafe world these men crewed charter boats out of the San Carlos Marina. Quick fishing trip? Call Cachi. Sunset cruise? He’s your guy. Multi-Day Excursions complete with delicious fish tacos made by the crew? You can’t beat a trip with these guys. Just as in other countries, non-essential Mexican businesses have shut down to “flatten the curve”, “aplanar la curva”. In this country that measure includes halting any business that might encourage tourists to come to our little beachside community. So with one governmental decree this family’s income was diminished. While corn delivery used to be a side gig, now their income has become dependent on the sale of corn. With about three weeks left in the harvest season that is daunting.
I have always thought the most wonderful thing about San Carlos is its people. Needless to say, corn sales are up as people are pitching in to help this family. Donations, collections and other means are assisting not only this family but many others in the area struggling due to financial fallout. Just like in the US, it’s what people do when times are uncertain. They come together. Corn days have turned into more than picking up a few ears and deciding how many to roast for dinner. Wednesdays at Casa de Lane are now filled with husking, washing, blanching and freezing the multi dozens of ears that make their way into mi casa. Thankfully we have a second freezer to store the ever growing collection of this noteworthy vegetable. I’ve learned so many recipes that include corn I’m sure to Mike I sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump. “There’s uh….corn salad, roasted corn, corn casserole, corn chowder, corn dip, peppers stuffed with corn, summer corn soup, corn on pizza, corn salsa, corn cakes, jalapeno popper creamed corn, shrimps tacos with corn, grilled corn,…the list goes on and on.”
As long as corn season lasts on Wednesdays I, like many other San Carlosians, will don my mask, drive to the marina and await the arrival of the little white truck filled with four exceptional guys hauling the morning harvest of sweet corn. For you, it might not be buying corn. But ask yourself, what can you do to make tough times just a little bit better for someone else?
Three Corny Jokes1. What do you call a single kernel of corn? What? A Uni-corn.
2. Corn is the Houdini of food. Why? It disappears one day and reappears the next.
3. What do you call a millennial in a corn field? I don’t know, what? Lost. They’re definitely lost. ** This one is dedicated my millennial girls who I actually believe would find their way out of the field.