To kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, Culturas co-founder Sonia Smith-Kang brings us her recipe for tortillas de harina.
Can you tell us more about your recipe?
Tortillas are a staple in homes today. It crosses cultures. They can be eaten alone or filled with most anything you have in your fridge or pantry. For me, tortillas are bites into my Mexican history.
What cultural memory does making tortillas de harina bring up?
The memories of my childhood came flooding back as I made homemade flour tortillas with my children during the summer break.
A proud military brat born to both parents in the military, my parents were stationed on the island of Puerto Rico where my sister and I were born. We were then transferred to the Hawaiian island of O’ahu where my brother was born. When my parents separated, we came to the mainland. We moved in with my grandma and grandpa in California. They were the keepers of my Mexican culture and helped keep our traditions alive, including making homemade tortillas.
They didn’t make them often, especially as they got older, so when they did, it was a special time. With Vicente Fernandez music filling the house, we’d start the preparation by gathering all the ingredients and materials. Like most abuelas, getting measurements out of my grandma was challenging, as she cooked by feel, sight, taste and experience. After mixing and when the dough was ready, balls were formed and rolled out. We placed them onto a large metal tray and headed outside to cook them.
We lived on an acre of land that was more like a rancho with our chickens, geese, a horse named Boy, a dog named Spud and a random peacock named George that would visit from our neighbor’s yard. Next to the large shady trees was a hammock and an open fire pit my grandfather made. He was a talented craftsman and loved building and making things. Our house and yard was full of all his creations.
We took a seat in lounge chairs near the pit and gathered to watch them cook the tortillas. Us kids had front-row seats to the action and watched in anticipation as bubbles formed on the tortillas, then flipped by their bare hands— hands that had hardened from years of touching hot surfaces in their restaurant and working hard labor for decades.
Once cooked on both sides, the tortillas were stacked and placed under a dish cloth. When they were warm enough to handle, my grandma would slather mantequilla onto the tortilla, roll it up burrito style and hand each of us a proberlo.
With the first bite, we’d do a mini happy dance in our seats, sheepishly bobbing our heads as we ate our tortillas.When all the tortillas were done cooking, she’d place them in a plastic bag for storage. They didn’t stand a chance once in the house because everyone would grab them.
My grandparents are no longer with us, but I carry their memories in all I do. Different sights, tastes and experiences bring me back to my childhood growing up with them. It’s now my honor to pass onto my children what they taught me. Although I don’t remember my grandma making quite so many mistakes as I did making the tortillas, once we got the measurements right, we nailed it. If they were here, I’m sure mis abuelos would taste my tortillas, start bobbing their heads and do a sheepish dance in approval.
Let’s break it down. How do you make your tortillas de harina?
Prepare your materials and ingredients:
Large plastic bowl
2 1/2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
3 tbsp Lard
7 oz Water
Start with flour in a bowl. Add salt.
Add water slowly
Heat comal skillet
Make equal amount dough balls
Place on skillet
When bubbles, form flip over
Let cool under dish towel
Package in ziplock
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