The here and now... and what and why

Complacency is a trap. At least that’s what I was thinking when I up and left the comfort of a Yankee prep school gig, where I taught music, amongst other things, for 28 years. There was also that life long career as a composer, musician and artist.

First, it was a year in St. Thomas, USVI, working as a reporter and shooting photography and then, a year in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Time passed.
More time passed and a year back in the Athens of America followed by a hasty return to Oaxaca where it is all happening.
A couple of years in San Sebastian Etla and now, just down the road in San Pablo Etla. Life is good.

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For additional photography please visit my flickr page.
You can find my music on Jango (World & latin - Worldbeat) and at iTunes and most online stores.
¡Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!
If you are coming to Oaxaca, please contact me for tours or advice.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo
The view from Corazon del Pueblo

The hereafter re me

My photo
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Musician, photographer, videographer, reporter, ex-officio teacher, now attempting to be a world traveler

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The art of making tortillas

It seemed as if everywhere I looked as the wedding preparations proceeded, there were women making tortillas.  There must have been thirty working at it Saturday morning, the day before the wedding.

These are large hand made tortillas and creating each is a labor of love and an art.  If you have ever tried to make one, you know what I am saying.  I asked all the men if they could do the simplest part, just transferring the tortilla from the press to the comal without messing it up and they all said no.  I have tried it many times and can never believe how effortless and easy the women made it look.

On Thursday, the great aunts of the bride were sorting the corn, which had been grown in a field adjacent to the house.

 
Certain kernels for tortillas, others for atole and still others for other uses.

Here ia the comal before starting.  It will get coated with a lime paste to prevent sticking.

Note the clay sides upon which the comal will sit.
After sorting, the nixtamal, which is the dried corn kernels that have been cooked with a little lime to allow the skin to be removed, is ground into masa.  Using a stone matate is a real workout.

After the masa is the right consistency, with each forward thrust, a tiny amount is pushed over the edge, which is collected in large mounds.
Here's mother of the the bride, Emilia going through the process necessary to make one tortilla.
Her setup.

First she grinds the masa again.

Then a small amount is patted between the hands to form a patty,

which in turn goes on the press.  Each is rotated and pressed a few times between the plastic sheets on the press.

Then it is peeled off the plastic, no mean feat, and deftly put on the comal.

Not only can the women make this look easy, but they can fix any flaws with a mere pinch of the fingers.

The tortilla is flipped and then removed and placed vertically up against the comal to toast to a crispy brown.

I would bet there were close to a thousand tortillas made.  Each one a work of art.

4 comments:

Jody said...

I am in love with this post and its photos. Bravo-you got it sooooo right!

Carlos Williams said...

The lime that is used to process the corn for masa provides calcium, needed for growing bones. That's very important in a diet where dairy wasn't so readily available in the past. It's a wonder how a culture and diet evolved to provide a complete protein with the combination of beans and corn, lime for calcium, peppers and vegetables for vitamins and trace elements. And it's kind to the earth.

Carlitos

Carlos Williams said...

The lime that is used to process the corn for masa provides calcium, needed for growing bones. That's very important in a diet where dairy wasn't so readily available in the past. It's a wonder how a culture and diet evolved to provide a complete protein with the combination of beans and corn, lime for calcium, peppers and vegetables for vitamins and trace elements. And it's kind to the earth.

Carlitos

Sonya Melescu said...

These are amazing photos, you really captured the emotions, actions and work. Wish I was there.