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 Culture & Traditions

Las Tortillas

The Essential Element of Mexican Cuisine

Tortillas are the quintessential staple food of the Mexican diet and cuisine. A flatbread as well as an instrument to eat, the tortilla is now popular all around the world. Tacos, tostadas, chips, quesadillas, enchiladas and burritos wouldn’t exist without the tortilla! 

Maiz or corn  Tlaolli  was considered a sacred plant, the most important staple food of both past and present-day Mexicans. Tortillas were originally made with corn, not flour. The flour tortilla gained popularity after the Spanish conquest because the Spanish colonizers considered corn unfit for human consumption.

Codice Florentino

Codice Florentino

The Mexica people of the Great Tenochtitlan stated that the Toltecs, a civilization that emerged in the state of Hidalgo, were responsible for introducing the cultivation of maize during the seventh century AD. However, thanks to archaeological finds, today we know that corn has been present in the Mexican diet for more than seven thousand years.

 

The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story (English and Spanish Edition)  Amazon

From Mexico come two universally known ways of consuming corn: the Mexica baked it in the form of a large, thin and flexible wafer called tlaxcallior tortilla, which is also the basis for savoring a delicious taco and the Mayans learned to pop the corn kernels to become what is now known as popcorn, except that they used it to make bracelets and necklaces. According to a Mayan legend, tortillas were created by a peasant for his hungry king.

Spaniards coined the word tortilla, meaning little torta or little cake.

Making Tortillas in Colonial Times by Carl Nebel

Making Tortillas in Colonial Times by Carl Nebel

Tortillas are made with masa harina, hot water and salt.

 

Masa Harina by Maseca

Masa Harina by Maseca

Small balls are hand-formed and the pressed with the tortilla press, or flattened by hand to the desired thickness.

Tortilla Press

Tortilla Press

Then they are placed on the comal or girdle to cook for a few minutes.

Tortillas on Comal. Picture by Victor Castro

Tortillas on Comal. Picture by Victor Castro

Today tortillas are prepared using the same ingredients although now there are factories, with machines that produce tortillas. 

Tortilleria. Tortilla Machine

Tortilleria. Tortilla Machine

Provecho!

 

 

 

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