Posted by: Lisa Young | August 6, 2009

Opening the roasting pit: 2009

Early on the morning of Suvoyuki Day, we opened the corn roasting pit.  The first step is to open it to cool the inside enough for someone to get in and lift out the corn.  The hot steamy air from the pit smelled wonderful. 

Zach was the first brave person to get in the pit.   When Zach needed a break, I took a turn taking out the corn.  It was hard to see the corn because my glasses fogged up almost immediately.  Gwen Setalla helped me lift out the corn.

Talking the corn out of the pit

Talking the corn out of the pit

It’s a Hopi tradition for everyone who helped with the roast to take a bite of the first ear of corn — it tasted wonderful.  After the pit was unloaded, we all got our own ears of corn.  Justin Setalla was happy with the roast.

HUROP students eating their first ears of corn

HUROP students eating their first ears of corn

After we had taken all the corn out of the pit, I decided to take some measurements.  Our Hopi friends thought I was crazy to want to spend more time in the pit, but I learned some intersting things about what happens to “bell-shaped” pits that are used for cooking. For example, the pit walls collapsed in during the roast, making the pit even more “bell-shaped.” The natural soils in this area are sand, which is not very stable when it dries out. The pit expanded by nearly a foot and decreased in depth by about the same amount.

The remnants of the roast that we left in the pit were the corn stalks and leaves and bits of corn cobs that were broken as we got in and out of the pit. Originally, we left a few badly burned cobs in the bottom of the pit, but we eventually got those out also. Hopi families took home the extra roasted corn to dry it for use in stews and other traditional dishes.

remnants of the roast at the bottom of the pit (we removed the last few burned cobs after this photo was taken)

remnants of the roast at the bottom of the pit (we got out the last few burned cobs)

The park staff will cover the pit to cut down the amount of sand that blows in. To make the pit more permanent, it would need to be lined with stones on the side. This might be a project for next summer.

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