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The Tortilla

7 Dec



I have a strong connection with the tortilla – let me explain. . . .

I am half Mexican and half Polish. These are two very different cultures, but I found that there are a lot of similarities between them. For example, the polka sounds a whole lot like the ranchera. Both cultures are fond of their respective alcohol and Catholicism seems to work for large populations in Mexico and Poland.

Anyway, one would think that I had a rich cultural upbringing with these two sides of my family, but that was far from the case. I actually grew up with very little cultural education, but was always searching for more. I wanted there to be some sort of battle between my parents trying to prove which culture was superior just so that I could learn all that I could about them and in the process would get to eat some awesome food. As it turns out, my mom isn’t all that Polish, she’s second generation American and my dad is so into being American that he didn’t really tell me what it is like to be Mexican.

My grandparent’s house was the only place I had growing up, to get a glimpse at Mexican culture. I always looked forward to visiting them in the city because it meant that grandma would cook and grandpa would tell stories. We would walk in the house and smell the carne, arroz y frejoles on the stove. We would all sit around the table while my grandmother would refill our plates and my grandfather flipped the totrillas on the comal (1). As a kid, I noticed everyone on my dad’s side of the family using a tortilla to eat. They would use the tortilla to scoop up the meat, rice and beans. I had never thought that food could be eaten like that. Each visit I would try to mimic what I saw, but always ended up using a fork. It was a big accomplishment when I figured out how to put it all together because I finally felt connected to the Mexican culture.

As I grew older I realized that Mexicans weren’t the only ones that used bread as a vehicle for food. While traveling in India, I saw people using paranthas much in the same way as I use a tortilla. This is when I declared that every culture has a tortilla (ask my boyfriend, it really was a declaration) and became fascinated with finding the connections between cultures through food. That’s what I hope to do with One World, One Plate.

I hope to post as often as I can about different dishes and ingredients. I cannot promise a plethora of recipes, because that is not my goal – but if I find a good one, I’ll post it up here.

Here are few facts about the mexican tortilla . . . it is one of the oldest foods on the planet. Dating back to 10,000 BCE and – according to Mayan legend – were first served by a peasant to his hungry king. (2 ) They are usually made by soaking corn in lye and then grinding the grains into a dough. A ball of dough is then patted down into a circle and then the tortilla is placed on a hot griddle and heated on both sides. Since then, the process has become mechanized and tortillas are mass produced. They are so popular, that tortillas have “surpassed bagels and muffins to become the number two packaged bread product in the U.S.” (3).

What’s your culture’s tortilla?