The deep creases and valleys that fold in the skin of Tommie’s hands tell me she has been rolling tortillas for most of her life. Hands against the wooden rolling pin to serve her family something warm comfort. The glutenous dough soon rolls out to a flat disk and cooks on a the blazing hot comal becoming a pillowy light flour tortilla. I remember as a child her husband (Charro) use to tell me that the flour tortilla was all you needed in order to eat, by tearing it into pieces you could shield your fingers with each piece and scoop the food right into the center. No need for a fork or spoon, we had flour tortillas.
My grandfather recounts the days of his poor mother making flour tortillas to feed her 5 children, even though she had nothing to put inside. My grandfather worked on the streets all day as a young child during the depression, just to be able to bring home a few cents to help feed the family. Having a single tortilla for dinner was a big deal, because a lot of times they just went to bed hungry. He says if they were lucky enough to have a pot of beans to go with the flour tortilla… that was considered a feast.
I listen to Mando’s mom Martha talk of how her Mom use to wake up every morning at 5 a.m. in Mexicali to make her husband fresh flour tortillas before he went to work in the morning, and how Martha adopted that same ritual once she got married. She goes over the fine details of what her husband ate in the morning, and how the left over tortillas became his burrito for lunchtime, and if his co-worker was lucky she would send him one too.
Each of these stories all hold ties to a struggling time, but are also retold as if they were the best time of their lives. I think the homemade flour tortilla has that sort of captivation over Latinos, it’s hard not to smile when you think of them. I know they certainly have a grip on me.
A few weeks ago Walmart asked me to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with them, by creating a recipe. I thought what food really identifies where I come from? Where do my food roots begin? The first thing that came to mind was the treasured flour tortilla. I bought all the ingredients for this recipe at Walmart, and am happy to share it with you. Here’s to family traditions and keeping those roots alive, even if only through a recipe.
Ingredients for flour tortillas:
- 1 1/2 – cups all purpose flour
- 1 – teaspoon salt
- 1/2 – teaspoon baking powder
- 3 – tablespoons lard
- 1/2 – cup warm water
- Sift flour, salt and baking powder together.
- Add in lard.
- Using your hands mix lard into flour until crumbly about 2 minutes.
- Slowly pour in water and knead dough until you have a big ball of smooth dough.
- Then cover dough with a cloth and let sit on countertop for 2 hours.
- Heat a comal.
- Then divide dough into 6 equally sized balls.
- On a floured surface roll each ball out into a thin round disk.
- Place dough on hot comal and cook for 20 to 30 seconds or until brown spots form on white dough. The tortilla may puff, with the back of a spatula press it down.
- Cook tortilla on other side.
- When done, store in a cloth and eat warm.
Here is a quick video on how to roll them and cook them: