- The tortilla is the symbol of Mexican cuisine
- Its origin goes back so far it is impossible to define a specific place
- Some attribute it to Tlaxcala, whose name comes from the Nahuatl tlaxcalli, which means tortilla
We Mexicans are corn, and the tortilla pretty much sums it up. According to archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, no other people in the world believed that humankind was created from the staple that was the basis of its diet. Mesoamerican origin myths relate that the gods made people from corn. From its domestication (about five thousand years before Christ) to the present, it has been an essential part of our daily diet, especially in the form of the tortilla.
Although it is said there are about 700 ways of consuming corn in Mexico, the easiest and most widespread food is the tortilla, the endearing companion of any Mexican dish. Whether as a taco, in chilaquile,s or enchiladas, or rolled into a small cone to be used as a spoon, the tortilla is a must on any table in this country, crossing both regional and socio-economic barriers.
The tortilla has given rise to food customs, behavior patterns, cultural values, and related technologies, such as the metate—from the Nahuatl metatl (grind)—a rectangular stone used by Mesoamerican women to grind foodstuffs, especially corn to make the masa dough. For thousands of years tortillas were made by hand, but with the nineteenth-century industrial revolution, the hinged tortilla press was invented and in the twentieth century the automatic mechanical tortilla machine came into use. Homemade nixtamal and tortillas fell into disuse and commercial tortillerías—shops devoted specifically to tortillas—cropped up on every corner.
- The tortilla is made from nixtamalized corn dough called masa.
- The ancient process of nixtamalization consists of preparing the grains of corn with lime or ashes to facilitate grinding. Nixtamalization increases the nutritional value of the corn.
- The machine we see nowadays in tortillerías was invented in 1904 by Everardo Rodríguez Arce and Luis Romero. It could produce 16 thousand tortillas per day.
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