Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Understanding Creation Through Tortillas

I recently tried to make a batch of homemade tortillas for our Mexican dishes. It took awhile. I was slow and clumsy. I made a total mess in the kitchen. I overcooked a few of them and those poor wretches were akin to a crunchy, leathery sow's ear. Others were like ultra-thin crackers that broke into tiny flour-shards--little wheat-y razors.

But a few were REAL beauties. The kind of whole grain flour taste that one cannot find in an air-tight sealed bag of Old El Paso brand or Kroger brand tortillas that have endured an interstate journey. Each hand-rolled tortilla had a shape all its own. Some were oblong. Some evolved with an unfortunate protrusion or deformity. Some thickened a bit too much. Some rolled out wide and paper thin, while others resisted and kept shrinking back no matter how vigorously I pressed and rolled them. These stiff-necked tortillas resisted the poking and prodding of their (sometimes) benevolent creator. While all of them had little golden-brown spots after they exited the griddle, no two patterns or colors were exactly alike.

What they all had in common was that they were fashioned by the same creator with loving care and a heart bursting with hope. A creator with a taste for the real thing--not just enjoying "adequate" tortillas of conformity rolled off a machine with perfect ratios of flour and water (and partially hydrogenated oils for longer shelf life) and uniform 10" size. A motivated creator willing to invest an hour in fashioning his own bread instead of purchasing the mass-produced bread largely created by a machine.

Some were broken. Some went bad before being used. Some were consumed in pure delight as they were wrapped around hearty black beans or maybe some peanut butter and a banana.

There are literally millions of better tortilla-makers on this celestial ball, but there is something to be said for taking a role in creating one of the food staples that sustains one's life.

Please read this post from the Ochlophobist. Here's a teaser.

One can teach one's daughter to bake bread in the worst of Bauhaus sky rise apartments. One can hand one's Bud drinking neighbor a bottle of homebrew. One can, as the Honduran family down the street from me did, grow a vegetable garden in one's front yard. One can stay put whenever possible. One can do everything in one's power to keep and help the little and aged. One can make use of used things and fix what is broken. One can take the walk a bit more slowly. One can move one's thumb over wool. One can stand in the corner of the most humble home, before flame and window, and re-member on earth what is remembered in heaven.

Thanks to Kevin for pointing me to the Ochlophobist. His/her blog convicts me.

And it inspires me to create things: silence, songs, conversations, and tortillas.


Anonymous said...


You are one awesome writer. And I have a feeling the tortilla making is going to come along too. --Eva

Amanda Moore said...

I second Eva's post.

Maximus Daniel said...

i love the Ochlophobist!
i want to come visit you in your office, where is it?

Anonymous said...

I love this! I won't ever think of tortillas the same. :)Miss you.
Amy Pierce

Cort said...


Cherry 226D. Come on down anytime after lunch. I teach every morning until the lunch hour, but I'm in my office on most days until at least 3 or 4.