Object of the Month

Baking in the horno

by Amanda Mather

Along with the Pueblo implements for the processing and cooking of corn (manos, metates, comals, etc.) with the Spanish came wheat and thusly bread, and the deep desire for more of it. This included an oven appropriate for the task of baking bread, of which there simply was no such thing before the conquest. So, the Spaniards brought an oven design from North Africa that came to them via the Moors. Adopted by the Spanish during their long Moorish occupation, the horno, has now become the iconic symbol of Puebloan and Native New Mexico cooking! Whew, that horno is complicated!

The horno, a beehive shaped adobe oven, is still very much in use in New Mexico, and that is particularly true within the Pueblos. If one travels through the Pueblos, this becomes instantly obvious—they are everywhere!

The hornos’ importance to Hispanic New Mexicans is also enduring. While researching this article and reading many  pre-war New Mexican cookbooks written by Hispanic women, there was an horno either on the cover, or illustrated somewhere within the book. In modern New Mexico it is still not unusual to find an horno outside of many Hispanic homes, particularly in rural areas.

Here at Las Golondrinas, we still use our hornos to bake bread throughout the season. On select dates in June through September, we offer an horno bread baking class, complete with two loaves to take home! At Harvest Festival, we also make chicos in our horno. Chicos are a steamed, dryed corn treat that we munch on happily in the office for many months afterwards.

It is hard to imagine New Mexican cooking without the iconic horno, an enduring symbol of our connection to Spain, the Moors, and our centuries long traditions we hold so dear.

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