Tortilla, Crucial Element of Mexican Gastronomy

Tortillas are, without a doubt, the crucial element of Mexican gastronomy. Corn is in itself the most representative element of Mexican tradition. According to legend, Quetzalcoatl descended to Mictlán, the place of the dead. From there, he took some bones and went to goddess Coatlicue. The goddess grinded the bones together with corn, creating the dough that Quetzalcoatl turned into humans.

A round sheet made of dough, its most common version is “de maíz” (of corn) made with corn grains cooked in water with calcium oxide, then rinsed and grinded for forming a uniform paste. Tortillas known as “de harina” (of wheat) were invented in the north of the country and require white wheat flour, water or milk, vegetable or pork lard, baking powder and salt. The dough made of corn or wheat is distributed into small pieces flattened and rounded by hand or machine for finally cooking the tortilla on the “comal”, a grill made of metal or clay. They are used to accompany meals or as the main ingredient of an endless number of dishes.

Nixtamal refers to the process of placing the corn grains in boiling water with calcium oxide in a container that is covered and left to rest throughout the night. On the following morning, the grains are rinsed to make them lose their fibrous outer layer and then grinded to form a dough.

The presence of tortillas in Mexican culinary tradition is so ancient that its origin is unknown but dates back to pre-Hispanic era; evidence of tortillas found in the State of Oaxaca dates back to 1500 B.C. Friar Bernardino de Sahagun recalled in his book General History of the Things of New Spain, that tortillas served daily were called totonqui talxcalli tlacuelpacholli, meaning white, hot and folded tortillas. The name of Tlaxcala means “the place of corn tortillas”, which can be probably used as evidence of this food’s place of origin.

Tortillas are eaten every day in all of Mexico’s tables, disregarding social class and region. In Mexico, 630 million corn tortillas and 60 million wheat tortillas are consumed every day.

Every single traditional dish requires tortillas. Sliced, fried and cooked in salsa they are transformed into chilaquiles; enchiladas are rolled tortillas filled with chicken or cheese and covered with pepper sauce, entomatadas are covered with tomato sauce and enfrijoladas in bean sauce; tacos dorados are tortillas filled with stews and fried; tostadas are tortillas fried flat and topped with beans, stews and lettuce; quesadillas are folded tortillas filled with cheese, among many other delicious forms, as varied as the imagination. Additionally, a basket with tortillas is always placed on the table so everyone can fill them with their food in the form of tacos. Tortillas are also used as improvised spoons, delicious edible utensils!

Artículo Producido por el Equipo Editorial Explorando México.
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