This spring, I discovered a seemingly obscure delicacy of Mexican cuisine. I had decided to take a break from eating meat for the season of Lent, which was easy until I found myself at "La Fortuna de Hanahan," an exceptionally friendly family-run grocery store/butchershop/restaurant/video-rental just off of Remount Rd.
Tempted as I was by their delicious tacos al pastor, I decided to stick to my guns and ordered two quesadillas: one mushroom and one huitlacoche. I wasn't sure what it was; it looked a little like spinach, tasted a little like mushroom, and the waitress and the butcher tried to think of an English word for it, but all I understood was that it had something to do corn. Whatever it was, I had a new favorite.
When I ordered another the next week, and tried again to find out more about the nature of this delicacy, the waitress showed me an illustration on the label of a tin can. I was baffled. This is what was represented on the label:
Considered a blight by most North American and European farmers, corn smut has been cultivated by the people of Mexico for centuries. The Aztecs purposefully exposed young corn plants to the spores of the fungus in order to promote the growth of the truffle-like galls. Those who have had the fortune to enjoy the sweet and earthy taste of this unfortunately rare delicacy know why.