Friday, February 24, 2012

Tough Tortillas

Right now I’m reading Carol Counihan’s book “Life is Like a Tortilla” which comes from this great statement by one of the interviewees: Monica Marquez Taylor, of Antonito, Colorado. (greater New Mexico)

"My great-aunts used to say that a tortilla is like life. Nothing is ever going to be exactly the way you want it to be. However life is, that is how your tortilla comes out. So however you rolled out your tortilla, maybe it wasn't quite round, but you ate it because you made it."

This speaks to me on so many levels. The easiest one to talk about is “maybe it wasn’t quite round, but you ate it because you made it.”

Although, in my opinion, you are allowed to share them with the chickens (who will never find fault in your tortilla-making abilities)

This suits my cooking philosophy perfectly: if you make tough tortillas, then you eat tough tortillas. Otherwise your tortillas will never get better. If you throw the tortillas away, then you’re saying “I tried that once: I couldn’t do it.” If you eat them, then you’re saying “that was my first tortilla and it was a little tough. Let’s see how my next tortilla is.”

(My sister adds that you should smother them in plenty of real butter, so that even the imperfect ones will be tasty.)

Also, once you start making your own tortillas, you’ll never go back! For one thing, I usually think the flour tortillas from the store taste bitter from too much baking powder. And the corn tortillas! We are fortunate that we can buy fresh corn masa (nixtamal) at the corner store (Mi Tierra), or at the La Finca Tortillería, or organic from the Berkeley farmer’s market. We have one tortilla rule in our house: too many tortilleras spoil the tortilla. One person needs to be in charge of rolling/pressing the tortillas and cooking them. Again, so you can improve. If you finally get the tortilla to the right thickness so that it doesn’t tear, and then I flip it before the first side is cooked, I’m interfering in your tortillera learning process. If you finally got the grill to the right temperature (not too hot, warmed for a long time) and then I press it with the cloth napkin and make it stick to the griddle, well, it’s going to be a long night. I love Luz’s tortillas and I love my tortillas. I love corn and I love whole wheat. I want to work on amaranth again soon. What Luz’s students taught me is that you have to master corn tortillas before you try amaranth. You can’t go from flour to amaranth.

(Fresh corn tortillas make Gluten-Free February a whole lot more pleasurable!)

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