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Eating Honey Comb with Niña Heelo   4 comments

After our visit with Marina, on our walk through Naranjos, we stopped by Niña Heelo’s house (I must spell her nickname phonetically, apologies to Spanish-speakers).   She is the grandmother of a boy Carmen is fond of.  What a cheerful woman she is, and always so delighted to see us.

We sat in the corredor at the back side of her house, chatting with her.  Her corredor, a covered patio, is about 8 feet wide and runs the length of the house.  Many houses in El Salvador have a corredor on one or both sides.  A corredor is an type of open-air covered patio covered with a roof, has a tile or ceramic floor, is enclosed with a short cinder block  wall 2-4 feet high and wrought-iron bars from the cinder block to the roof, and usually a wrought-iron door to outside.  Families spend much of their time in the corredor, with each other or entertaining guests, instead of hanging around inside or in front of the TV.   One blessing that makes up for the many difficulties in El Salvador is a constant surplus of sunshine and warm weather.  Often, it is too hot to walk around at length in the sun, but a repose in the shade of the corredor, with a nice breeze to come in, is refreshing and relaxing.

We accompanied Niña Heelo into her kitchen while she made us a fresco**.  We saw her set of “hornillas” (adobe stoves).  An hornilla (pronounced “or-nee-ah”) is a horseshoe-shaped cooking pit, several inches deep and made of adobe / dried mud.  Firewood is inserted on the open side of the horseshoe, and a pot or grill is placed atop the hornilla to cook maize, beans, soup, or place a comal*** to cook tortillas.   We were impressed that she had 3 hornillas.

Heelo also has an old-fashioned grinding stone on which to grind things like maize, chocolate, or maizillo (a grain fed to poultry).  Here is a picture from a great site I found about “how we used to live” in El Salvador, San Jose Las Flores (Click here for translation to ENGLISH with Google Translator ) of an old-fashioned grinder made out of stone just like the one in Heelo’s kitchen:

After we drank our frescos, we walked with Niña Heelo into the backyard area to feed a small calf.  Heelo had a large plastic bottle with a 3-4 inch long nipple, just like a cow’s, filled with milk.  For a  “chibo” (calf) less than one month old, he is quite strong.  While Hello held the bottle, the chibo drank, and would intermittently tug at teh nipple with such force she had the hold the bottle firm with both arms, getting yanked forward every so often.

Back in the corredor, we chatted a bit more, and it turns out that Heelo gave birth to 14 children, just like my mother-in-law.  But unlike our family, where all 14 made it to adulthood and still living today, 5 of Heelo’s children died as children, she told us, of bronchitis.  Of the 9 remaining children she has, 4 are now in the U.S.

Before we left, Heelo pulled out some fresh honey-comb, drenched with honey.  She broke a piece off for me, and said “try it, it’s good, it has honey and the beginnings of ‘babies’ in it.”   You simply chew it, then discard the wax after you’ve eaten all the honey and sweet parts.

I was a bit frightened, especially knowing I might bite into baby bees.   But not wanting to be rude, I chewed a piece.  Having only eaten liquid honey from bottles and jars all my life, it was odd biting into the raw material.

The honey comb was golden-brown looking, and I could see pollen in the pockets.  There were varoius orangy-red colored items throughout it.  I wondered if those were the “babies” and was rather timorous about biting into them.

While working on bite one, Heelo broke off another piece of honey-comb for me, even bigger this time.  “Oh boy!”   So there I was, chewing along, frightened at the thought of a half-dozen bee embryos in my mouth, but heck, one cant be rude, so I kept smacking along and spitting out excess wax, quickly – to extinguish this experience as fast as possible.

I thanked Niña Heelo very much for the snack, and we made our good-byes.

* In El Salvador, older women are addressed with the title Niña in front of their first name; it shows respect for her as an elder and is also endearing.

** fresco = fresh drink usually made out of water mixed with fresh or other fruit juice.  Frescos are often made out of green or ripe mangos, passion fruit, orange juice, or other in-season fruit.  If no fresh fruit available, water mixed with canned or boxed fruit juice doe the trick.

*** comal – a flat pot which functions like a griddle, made out of metal or ceramic (barro) on which to cook tortillas, pupusas, and other griddle-cooked items.

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