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Bad Expat: Tortillas de Maiz, No Me Gusta.

Clinton, Connecticut is not the Mexican food capitol of the United States. I know, right?! Until I was 19 I was sure that all the best taco shells came in an Old El Paso box from Stop n Shop and were stuffed full of ground beef, shredded mozarella, Pace picante sauce and black olives. Hmm-mmm, authentic. So when I confess that after 2.5 years living in actual Mexico I still do not really enjoy corn tortillas you will quite rightly scoff, and point out that I have the palette of WASPy Morlock and am no authority in such a serious matter. I will argue, because you will recall I am a master debater, that I am an authority of my own tastes and affinities, if nothing else in this mixed up world.

Corn tortillas are like the jazz of John Coltrane or V. van Gogh’s use of color; they are ineffable, sublime, but not necessarily my favorite things. Would I rather eat a flour tortilla, listen to the MC5, and gaze upon the chaotic glory of William Holman Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott? Fuck yeah. Do I know that my perferences are slightly more gauche, mundane, inferior, less excellent? Yes. And even though art and everything is subjective we, the collective, has agreed that some pieces posess a greatness that borders on sacred. Man-made art objects that reach us in that portion of the brain that recognizes truth, beauty, and love beyond words are rare and delicious.

Corn tortillas, not so much. I have been to Tortilleria Divino Nino. I have had their freshly made wares. I get the tactile pleasure of a warm stack wrapped in thin paper. I love to see the generations of women, the gnarled hands and the young mixing the masa and making the snowflake-unique tortillas. Crafted with skill, tradition, and deep understanding, every culture has its manna. Our daily bread can contain subtle energy that connects us to ancestors and progeny. Humble food is a good thing and simple, slow food is best, agrees everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Alice Waters. And we all know that these “little cakes” are the root of all in Mexican home cooking and therefore are its heart and soul.

But not for me.

I try tortillas all the time.
I try tortillas with some lime.
I try tortillas while I rhyme.
I do not like them; it’s not a crime.

Please, somebody pass the Newman’s Own All-Natural Bandito Chunky Salsa Peach. Cause I’m from the CT and that’s how we roll.

There Are 10 Responses So Far. »

  1. It took me many years to see the light but I finally warmed up to corn tortillas. In the years since they have become my preference. I still prefer flour when you’re talking burritos, and I don’t think God has created a corn tortilla that doesn’t fall apart when loaded with pico, meat, and soaked with lime juice, but hey, there’s still time for you to come around.

  2. Hey Jullian,

    Im from Ct too!! Now in fla and will be there in 2 weeks. I agree with you about the corn tortilla, give me a flour one and Im just so happy!! Hope to catch up with you sometime!!

    Jody

  3. Ehh, it’s all carbs, and all delicious.

  4. Four years ago, when we moved here, (from our summer home in Mystic CT)you could not pay me to eat tacos on corn tortillas. I specifically went out of my way to only eat in restaurants that I knew served flour tortillas. Well, here we are four years later and guess what? I loves me some corn tortillas!! I can’t quite believe it myself. Our tacos arabe will always be served up on flour tortillas but all other manner of tacos now come standard issue. I also no longer like pizza or popcorn without hot sauce. What is happening to me???

  5. You cannot find a decent corn tortilla in Los Angeles, I’m pining for Divino Nino…the thing I like best about them is that they’re so skinny, you can eat about six at a time…yum! What they DO have here is great tamales at the farmer’s market…

  6. Jillian, you should try some with some ‘manteca’ and a pinch of salt. Nothing else. Oh, and a nice, tall, Coca-Cola!
    Asi lo comian mis ancestros.

  7. OMG – I always insist on having black olives on my Old El Paso tacos as well and have finally converted Mr. 1/2 Mexican Ross! Yum Yum Yum. Could go for one right now!

  8. I second the opinion given my Kanasinero, although it wasn’t my ancestors who used to eat tortillas with manteca (lard) & sal (salt) but instead it was me!

    Accessing “memory lane”……… my grandma used to make me homemade tortillas but whenever I wanted to eat them with manteca (lard) & sal (salt), she would make a fat tortilla (think of 5 or 6 tortillas one in top of the other, but make it one tortilla only), and while the tortilla was still hot she would with her fingers remove the top of the tortilla creating something akin to a “tortilla crater” and in that “crater”, she would put the manteca with its pinch of sal and the “fat” (& hot) crater-like tortilla would make its way to my stomach.

    Such fat tortilla has its own name but right now I can’t seem to remember its name so my description will have to do for now.

    Anyway, it is surprising how good and tasty such a “snack” could be, fattening for sure, but oh so good.

  9. Toloc

    I think it’s something in the way of ‘Pim’.

  10. Malcolm,
    The corn tortillas in Yucatan have nothing in common with “real” corn tortillas in other parts of Mexico. Here in Yucatan, the “masa” is different and so are the resulting tortillas: they are too thin, have color specks in them and are a different color, their texture is also different and they fall apart as soon as a filling is introduced. My family doesn’t like the tortillas here at all, whenever we need them for a dish, I make my own, Mexico style, not Yucatecan and it makes a world of difference.
    If you love tacos, then hand-made, Mexico style corn tortillas are it. “A taco is only as good as the tortilla it comes in”.. Amen. BUT, if you want “hard shell” tacos, then buy corn tortillas from MEGA COMERCIAL (the best quality store made ones) for frying and make your own hard shelled tacos, enchiladas, chilaquiles, totopos, nachos, etc. If it’s Burritos or Chimichangas you are craving, then go to Chedraui and get the packaged, semi-cooked, flour tortillas, store brand (they come out like “hand made”) and start from there.
    Yucatecan masa is also not the good one for Mexico Style tamales (yes, Yucatecan tamales are completely different and so is the masa used in them)- I make that also and it makes a big difference.
    For more recipes of ideas, you can read my food blog at http://belinadventures.blogspot.com/
    (I also do my own pizza, pasta and all else…..) your pizza’s look wonderful, congrats!

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