Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tortillas: Food of the Gods


It's around 9 at night (again) and I'm listening to Ahmad Jamal Trio play one of my favourite jazz pieces named Poinciana on one of my granddad's vinyl. I'm also thinking about the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico. I still can't believe it has been two weeks since I was last there. Great food, wonderful cultures, nice and friendly people and HISTORY. When I was in Santa Fe, I tried to visit as many museums as possible, but by the third one and a hail storm, I decided that lunch was in my near future.

I headed over to Tia Sophia's, one of the local places in the City Different, and enjoyed true chalupas with a massive sopapilla drenched in honey. As I bit into the tortilla chips, my senses went into overtime; this was unlike any kind of tortilla chip I'd ever had. The chalupas were two tortilla cups filled with beans, cheese, sour cream and homemade guacamole. Let's just say that I had a happy plate in minutes. While eating, I thought about a book I had just purchased at Collected Works Bookstore named Tortillas: A Cultural History by journalist Paula E. Morton.

But wait, you may be thinking, tortillas actually have a HISTORY?! Why yes. Yes they do, and it's quite a tale. The book was an absolute delight to read and I found myself with a greater appreciation for tortillas when I finished it. The tortilla begins with the Mayans, Aztecs and other indigenous cultures that occupied Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Europeans. Tortillas made from corn were seen as more than food - they were gifts for the gods and a necessary part of Life. At times, tortillas were offered to the gods (along with humans) and sometimes the food within the tortillas had an extra ingredient - blood. When the Europeans arrived, tortillas were pushed to the back as bread tried to make its way into their lives. The end result was the beginning of flour tortillas and its close and long standing relationship with the corn tortilla.

Tortillas were seen as a part of every day life, even as the later called "Mexicans" traveled north to America and enjoyed the fruits of the country. The daily preparation and eating of tortillas was a necessary thing; if one did not have tortillas, then one would have no food. One simply can not live without tortillas. The book was so well written and thoroughly entertaining that I felt myself thinking of tortillas the entire time that I was in the Land of Enchantment. The book even mentioned the "birth" of Taco Bell; Glen Bell, the founder, started his food career with hamburgers. However, thanks to McDonald's, he shifted his approach to Mexican dishes and instead created what most of us enjoy every so often. Even I admit that I have a special love for their seven layer burrito.

When I flew into Houston on my way back home, I enjoyed a nice and overly stuffed burrito that was made with a corn tortilla. And yes, there is a difference in taste between a corn tortilla and a flour tortilla. As soon as I returned home and went grocery shopping several days later, I found myself searching the shelves in Kroger for the corn tortillas, only to smile when I did find a nice package of thirty corn tortillas just waiting for me.

Tortillas - the Food of the Gods.

Just remember that the next time you enjoy one with your meal.


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