I should be working on my philosophy of teaching (yes, I’m applying for jobs), but I had to take a moment and write about tortillas. Corn tortillas especially, though flour ones have their place.
One reason I feel so strongly about them is that I’m allergic to yeast. Extremely allergic. Even a slice of bread (or a glass of wine — wine is full of yeast) and I’m breaking out in painful eczema rashes on my arms, face and neck. Wheat flour produces a similar though less severe reaction. You’d think this would cause me to avoid bread altogether but what can I say? I crave carbs.
But what makes my allergy bearable are tortillas. I know I need to learn to make fresh corn ones myself. If I can get my hands on fresh tortillas, my desire for any other bread is almost nil. Fresh tortillas are hard to come by in Santa Monica though. I don’t get to East Los Angeles often enough.
But the reason I’m writing this is that I woke up thinking about the best corn tortillas I ever had in my life. About ten years ago I was in Barrio Logan researching Chicano Park. The murals were amazing — if you have a chance to see them you should — but what I remember most about that day was stopping at an old fashioned tortillaria because walking past, my dad and I could smell corn.
We each got one tortilla from the owner, to taste. One bite and I was digging through my purse getting ready to buy as many dozen as I could afford. These were amazing. In my memory they were cooked over a gas fire so there were little charcoaled bits of black. They were chewy and sweet and I loved them. If you’ve never had fresh (not wrapped in plastic from the supermarket) corn tortillas, you haven’t had tortillas. It’s like the difference between supermarket and fresh baked bread, only more so. My hefty package came wrapped in old-fashioned paper and tape, looking like a sweet-smelling present.
At the time I lived in a dorm at USC. My dad, who has always thought the best of me, thought I was buying such a big package so I could share my discovery with my floor. I couldn’t bring myself to disappoint him by explaining how greedy his daughter was, but I confess, I shared these with only one other person. I didn’t wrap them around beans or make tacos. Honestly that would have been great, but all I did was, one by one, zap them in the microwave for 15 seconds, spread them with butter or avocado, roll them up and eat. First to last they were amazing. Sometimes I wonder if they were really as good as I remember them.
I can’t remember the name of the place we went. And, when I went on Yelp today to try and find it, I couldn’t. Maybe they’re gone.
Thank God my dad was with me. Otherwise I’d worry my perfect tortillas were just a dream.