Making tortillas by hand creates a rhythm. A tapping, rolling, swishing sound. I know that when I find that rhythm, my tortilla will be perfectly round. That’s only part of the process. You have to carefully take the round, flattened masa and cook it on the stove. A flame. A comal. The cast iron thingy.
Just a bit of flour softly rests on the delicate masa so that it doesn’t stick to the cast iron. Then you gently spin it. Swish. Then you have to spin it again. Swish. Until it’s starts bubbling. You grab the edge of the tortilla with your fingers so you can peel it up a bit then flip it over. With your fingers mijita. With. Your. Fingers.
I remember watching my great-grandma make tortillas. She’d squeeze off a little piece of masa just for me to make my own little tortilla. I can image her in the kitchen standing, over the cutting board, rolling out the flour masa. You know what? That’s still not the whole process. You have to eat one, freshly made and still warm, with butter. Roll it tight so the butter doesn’t drip out.
When I think of this whole process, it’s not broken into steps in my mind. There’s no measurements. There’s no cooking time. It’s a perfect memory of sound, smell, taste, color, and especially love. I eagerly watched this tradition as a young child. I didn’t think of it so importantly then. I was only eager for my little tortilla and butter. A perfect, handmade tortilla is comparable to gold to me. Making them is a skill. That skill is coveted among Latinas. It’s one of the measures of Latinidad for sure.
Which is why I wonder so much about it now. Why haven’t I spent any real time teaching my daughters? Sure, they’ve seen me make them at home a few times. But it’s only on occasion. Not traditionally like I remember in my childhood. I definitely plan to make some this week! When was the last time you’ve made tortillas?