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30 April 2008

Brewing Chicha - El Día Quinto

Well, there's nothing really new to add today. The corn is still germinating - it looks as if I'm getting pretty close to 100% germination rate on these. The black corn was a little slower, but even they are beginning to sprout. I've just been keeping the kernels moist and well mixed.
Tomorrow I should be able to start drying them, depending on how long the acrospires are. We have a food dehydrator in our kitchen here that's just been sitting around since the dawn of time, so I'm going to see if that works and use it to dry the kernels if it does.
One thing that's been on my mind, though, is what I'm going to ferment it in. I guess I should have given it more thought beforehand. Now I'm looking at carboys, but they don't have wide mouths. What would be great is to find a clay pot like the one in the guide, but those aren't very plentiful in this area. I think I might try to visit some gardening stores and look for clay vases. We'll see - something will turn up eventually.

A Tragic Interlude

I'm apologize in advance for interrupting the chicha brewing experiment with some sad news. I just learned that Albert Hofmann, the father of LSD, died today at the age of 102. I'm not generally very enthusiastic about drugs, and LSD is not unique in that regard, but I feel strongly that Albert Hofmann, along with Aldous Huxley, was one of the few sane voices in the research of psychedelic experience. It's unfortunate that his wisdom continues to go largely unheeded on both sides of the issue.
With that in mind, I've decided to dedicate this batch of chicha to Albert Hofmann - the father of LSD, and a brilliant ethnopharmacologist. Cheers!

29 April 2008

Brewing Chicha - El Día Cuarto

WE HAVE GERMINATION!!!! Words cannot express how excited I am now. I came home for lunch and checked on my corn kernels and saw little tips poking out of the germs of some of them. Now, at 10:30 pm I see that most of the yellow corn is sprouting and much of the black corn has cracked down the middle. You probably can't see it in the picture, but these kernels have sprouts.
In my opinion, this is the key phase - after this, if it gets screwed up it's my fault not Mother Nature's. Now I just have to wait patiently for the acrospires to grow to about twice the length of the kernel - keeping them moist, clean and rotated - and then it will be time for drying.
On a side note - a man named Ted Maclin contacted me today from the Environmental Anthropology listserv (I told them about my experiment and provided the link to my blog). He sent me this link on his experiment with Cock Beer - yes, that's beer with chicken in it...interesting don't you think? Maybe those of you who are not vegetarians would be interested in repeating their experiment...Brendan, I'm thinking of you in particular. :)
Well, friends, keep checking back - this is only the beginning!

28 April 2008

Brewing Chicha - El Día Tercero

This morning I made a comparison of my soaked corn to some dry kernels I had left over, and they were noticeably bigger and softer. They probably gained about 1.5 times their original size and I could bite through them, but couldn't bite through the dried corn without hurting my teeth. Another interesting thing that I noticed on the soak stage was that the water would eventually turn slightly reddish from the black corn - this makes me hopeful for a nice rich color for the end product.
So with my confidence bolstered by that discovery, I decided to begin the germination process this afternoon. As soon as I got home from classes I cleaned out the large pyrex baking dish, drained the water off of the corn, wet a cloth and laid it over the kernels. The corn fills the dish almost to the top, and I put a little bit of water in the bottom to keep it moist. I'll probably rinse it off and mix up the kernels a couple of times a day until the germination is finished to prevent mold or other nasty creatures from growing. That's it for today - in a few days I'll know if the corn is viable and if I'll be able to continue the experiment - I'll keep you posted.

27 April 2008

Brewing Chicha - El Día Primero

Chicha is a corn based alcoholic beverage popular throughout South and Central America. It's not really mass manufactured, but rather brewed in small batches in homes, particularly for large celebrations. My first experience with chicha was in Peru where I stayed for about a month in August of 2006. I arrived in my home pueblo just in time for their annual patron saint celebration which lasted about a week. The second night I was there, Faustino Maldonado - the father of the family I was staying with - brought me to the house of one of his relatives where they would be preparing and practicing for the celebration (they were part of the processions that were held every night which converged in the plaza for a grand party all night long). When we arrived, our host brought out a bucket with a mug, which he dipped into the bucket and offered us each a cupful of chicha. It's sweet, slightly sour, and mildly carbonated and tastes a lot like apple cider (without the apple taste). After that night I visited several other homes, and found that most of them had some chicha on hand to offer to guests whenever they stopped by.
Today I began the process of making Chicha. I've been preparing for about a month now by buying supplies and researching the process. Here and here are the two recipes that I've combined to develop my own process - both recipes have minor flaws, but they complement each other well. I ordered Peruvian sweet corn (Maiz Chulpe) and some Peruvian black corn (Maiz Morado) from here. The sweet corn is the main source of fermenting sugars while I'm hoping that the black corn will lend it a unique color (we'll see). I also visited Topeka and bought some brewers yeast from here - I was looking for nottingham yeast like the recipe says, but he was all out so I bought some Fermentis Dry Ale Yeast instead (we'll see). I'm still searching for a grain mill - preferably one that I don't have to buy, but can borrow for the short amount of time that I'll need it - and a large narrow mouthed jar for the fermenting.
With most of the supplies together and some confidence derived from my research I initiated the process by pouring the corn into a large stew pot, rinsing it and then covering it with water to soak. I'll keep posting periodically over the next two weeks to let you know how it's going, and with any luck I'll have a nice batch of Chicha to celebrate the end of the semester!

20 April 2008

Reconsidering Anger

All of my life I've been afraid of anger - afraid when it's directed at me, afraid when it explodes near me, and afraid to express it openly. This fear, I believe, stems from a mythology in our culture which tells us that anger is bad, uncontrollable, and should be repressed at every turn (just think of Star Wars). To a certain extent, that's true; anger is a powerful emotion which can cause enormous harm if applied inappropriately. However, lately I've begun to reconsider this mythology of anger, where it comes from and what it means to my life.
We live in an oppressive and destructive society. If you need proof of it just look at US foreign policy, or the destruction of the environment. I would never diminish the suffering of people in the South or the lower classes, but those of us who seem to be free because we are more affluent or prosperous are also oppressed, though in a different way. We are oppressed because we are trapped within a system that is devouring the richness and beauty of the world. We are oppressed because we are forced to work for this system, to promote it and expand it throughout the world - just try to escape, I dare you!
In this context it only makes sense to be angry - it's a perfectly natural and reasonable reaction to the conditions in which we find ourselves. Why, then, don't we see more people joining revolutions or fighting against environmental destruction? The answer, I believe, lies in the mythology of anger.
Anger is dangerous. When it's mis-directed it can bring harm to innocent people, and when it's properly directed it can bring about the disintegration of the prevailing power structure. So again and again we are told, by the media, by loved ones, through religion, by psychiatrists and in a hundred million other ways to suppress our anger, to keep it inside and not allow it to escape. If we burst out someday at work, we are sent to a counselor for 'anger management' - if we try to fight back we are labeled as lunatics and sent away. But anger is a powerful emotion and it demands expression; we are torn between our natural sense of frustration and oppression and the mythology that tells us that this anger is bad.
So what becomes of it? A few people (mostly men I suspect) re-direct it onto those around them who they perceive as being weaker - they beat their wives and children, they rape a woman on the street, or they take a gun to school or work and shoot up the popular kids or the executives before turning it upon themselves. This is unfortunate.
Most of us, however, internalize the anger; that is, we re-direct it toward ourselves instead of toward the system that oppresses us. We become fearful, depressed, and give in to despair. We demean, devalue, condemn, punish and, in the worst cases, mutilate or even kill ourselves. I know because I've been there - in many ways I still am, but I've been lucky to have found people out there who have been through the same thing, who have seen through the mythology of anger and lifted the veil from before my eyes. I understand now that what I felt was not despair, but anger turned inward. I also know that this anger is not a bad thing - it gives me the power and the courage to fight against oppression, as long as I am conscious of where it's directed and how it is used.
Does this make me an angry person? Maybe. But it's this anger that keeps me going in a world dominated by a destructive and oppressive system. I'm not about to join a revolution or buy a gun - those of you who know me also know how ridiculous the idea is - but I will fight, with whatever weapons that I do possess and I refuse to give in to despair.
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