How I Came to Make My Own Tortillas

Food is circular.  (Pies, cakes, burgers, cookies, breads, fruits, are just a few things off the top of my head that I can think of that are round.)  Food makes connections in all parts of life. Like a circle everything comes back around connecting our lives to events through food.  I am thinking about how that works.

Consider the tortilla.  A round shaped flour tortilla or soft taco is very practical way to wrap up food, from beans to fish.  Today we can buy them ready-made from the grocery store and they are even locally made, a good thing.  If you pick up the packages and read the enormous amount of additives that go into them, you might gasp quietly to yourself, like I do and then toss them back. How could I be that daring or snobby?  Who reads labels?  (Me.)

How I came to make my own tortillas and read labels in grocery stores was no accident.

What do you think is most commonly missed when living in a foreign country?  Is it family and friends? Yes. Good guess. But that’s not the main thing people miss. Think about it – it’s food!

There I was living in a foreign country.  I didn’t speak or read the lingo and was responsible for cooking every day. (Okay, go to the grocery store and figure out what all this stuff is.)  Lucky for me, it was Europe and the package labels are in several languages, but not often in English.  The brands were unrecognizable and the products were limited. I felt I had landed in a quandary standing in the aisles among the red and yellow packages that made little or no sense to me.  Armed with a shopping list, the fruit and vegetables were easy to buy.  My curious nature took over.  What was in those packages?  Standing in the grocery aisle I spent a lot of time reading ingredients (In French) to find out the answer to my burning question.  Fascinating.  It became a habit that I continue to this day.  I learned a lot of foreign words for MSG. (That’s another topic.)

Anyway, about missing foods, there were no Mexican foods to be found in the grocery store until years later.  Old El Paso brands made it onto the shelf. Their taco shells came in handy.  Also corn chips and Pace salsa could be found.  But in the beginning, before the Internet, I only had a couple of cookbooks – none with tortilla recipes.  Mexican food was what I craved – soft tacos and tortillas filled with beans, picante salsa, lettuce, and cilantro – how I missed it.  I contemplated the tortilla.  It was made with flour and water and rolled. (How hard can this be to make? Hadn’t I seen it in the movies where the women made them with their hands?  What the heck! I’ll try it.)

I took about a cup of flour and added a very little warm water, stirred it together. The dough was not sticky or dry. It was pliable. I threw down some flour to dust the rolling surface.  Made some balls of dough about 1 inch around. Grabbed a glass jar to use as a roller. Rolled out the first tortilla and placed it in a small frying with a heavy bottom on high heat. Let it cook for a few minutes on one side and then flipped it over.  It puffed up a little and was done.  I never looked back.

Most commercial tortillas and tacos have lard, salt and leavening agents in them, among other things.  I am sure that this recipe is primitive and could use a little salt.  The thing I like about them is they are soft, pliable and really fresh.  Yes, they look homemade.  They are taco sized. That’s the charm of it.  They are not difficult to make, unlike the ever, unpredictable pie crust.  So that’s my circular story.

Happy cooking. Don’t forget to read the labels.

Your comments and recipes are welcome!

About kunstkitchen

Visual artist and writer hunting words, languages, visions, and insight in my kitchen - connecting Art (Kunst) and culture and slow food cooking. Credits: Do not own a microwave oven and never have. Do not own a food processor. Chopped veggies in a Zen monastery for a weekend. (Seriously) Classically trained artist. Paint and draw with traditional materials. Live in the Northland where it's six months of winter. Appreciate the little things in life. Sharing food and art experiences and the lessons that my talented and generous friends have given me.
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