On a warm spring day of my youth, a bowl and rolling pin marked the beginning of my new life as an independent woman. I was heading off to college and my mother took me to Woolworth’s in Laredo, Texas to make the purchase. The bowl was a sturdy green ceramic that couldn’t have cost more than two dollars and the rolling pin might have cost even less, a far cry from some of the things I crave nowadays from places that sell gourmet cookware.
Through the years and through all my moves, I carried them around with me like a passport, a reminder of who I was and where I came from, until I finally lost track of both the bowl and the palote (rolling pin). But the shopping trip to buy them remains one of the fondest memories I have of my mother.
I imagine it was a bittersweet moment for her; I was her first-born daughter and the first to travel far away to study. She knew I would probably never again live at home, not to mention in the same town. Yet she didn’t betray her emotions. I did not understand what she must have felt that day until I became a mother myself. All these years later, I remember we bought the bowl and palote and celebrated the joy of the moment over a fountain coke at the drugstore counter.
We bought the bowl and the palote to make sure I would have the tools necessary to amasar, to prepare the dough for the daily morning ritual of making the tortillas needed to accompany breakfast. In time, as a busy student and later as a working mother, I would come to abandon the idea of having to make them from scratch. The fat content in the shortening traditionally used in flour tortillas also became a reason to go without. I began to prefer corn tortillas that I bought at the grocery store. The flour ones became a special treat to look forward to when my mother visited.
Corn tortillas are the norm in most of Mexico. However, in northern Mexico and along the U.S. border, both wheat flour and corn tortillas are eaten; wheat are for breakfast and corn for lunch and dinner.
I’ve adapted this recipe from my mother’s, cutting the quantity for shortening in half and substituting with peanut or canola oil for health considerations. Also, in my house, we didn’t stack our flour tortillas. We liked them flaky, so we separated each one, leaning them against the inside of a basket where they could cool slightly without becoming sweaty or gummy. And we would eat them like that, fresh, warm, and delightfully flaky.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
- ½ cup warm water
- In a large bowl mix the salt with the flour.
- Add the shortening and oil and mix thoroughly with your hands.
- Form a dough by adding the water slowly with one hand as you mix the dough with the other, until a soft dough is formed.
- Roll out the tortillas and cook on a warm griddle, turning on both sides.
- Place in a basket without stacking them as they come out.
- Serve immediately with eggs, beans, etc.