Everything that the Mother Earth offers us is incredible, especially when understood in light of the traditions and knowledge of our ancestors. During this month, there is nothing better that a delicious huatia, an earth-oven to bake fresh tubers.
From it comes a steaming offering of potatoes and sweet potatoes, crispy on the outside and fluffy with unequaled taste inside due to their intrinsic characteristics and the added flavor of the earth.
May is the month of harvest. It is considered a time of abundance throughout the Andes. The great majority of fields are in the process of having their hard-earned produce taken to market and storage. Suddenly we have an overwhelming abundance of our primary foods: potatoes, corn, and quinoa in some valleys. These all have arrived in fullness.
It is also a month in which the rains are supposed to have ended and the earth dries out. Thus from the first day of this month begins the epoch for enjoying our delicious huatias, a name for both oven and what it cooks. They are a legacy given us by our ancestors all the way from the ancient past. They are like gifts from the womb of our Month Earth.
Huatia is a cooking technique in which food is cooked within the earth, rather than on top of it. People perform it in the fields where the harvest is taking place or after it is finished.
To do it you have to put together a kind of domed oven made out of carefully placed clods of earth. The oven takes the form of a kind of mountain with a relatively small cave opening in the front.
You put sticks and pieces of wood inside it and light them on fire to heat up the clods until they are very dark. Once they are black you know that the oven is ready to receive the ingredients. You begin to carefully place potatoes, sweet potatoes, broad beans, and ocas, or some combination of your choice although there are always potatoes.
You then carefully break the oven down on top of them, burying them in the hot earth and you cover that with shovel-fulls of more dirt in order to close any holes from which heat escapes.
Once some thirty to forty minutes have passed you begin to carefully scrape away the dirt, generally still hot, to find and pull out the potatoes and other food one by one. You do it carefully and little by little in order not to break or cut apart the hot potatoes. They are fluffy inside and carry an amazing aroma given by the earth.
Throughout the month families make sure to enjoy making huatias to eat together. Last weekend my family made a huatia and it was incredible. We thrilled with the amazing earth-baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. As soon as they started coming out, we began to break them open one at a time and added a flavorful uchukuta, fresh ground hot sauce, to them. Oh my, we started to just eat and eat, they were so delicious.
We still have the rest of the month to make huatia and share with our family and or our friends. It is very easy to make. You just need a bit of care and attention to detail. In this way we let the earth give us its best and we, with the greatest of respect thank it for its concern for us and what it gives us.