Rascal's: The Ancient Art of the Tortilla
On Sunday, June 26, 2-3 PM Moreno will lead a class examining the oral history of masa, walking you through the steps of how it has been made, breaking down the history of this ancient process. The class will culminate in a presentation on how masa is made today, followed by a tortilla tasting for all in attendance.
Mexico has long been fueled by corn tortillas. Traditionally there were many stages in the cooking process to get the result of a tortilla. Making tortillas took up a large part of a woman's day. First, the dried corn kernels were nixtamalized, which means the corn is boiled for a short amount of time in water mixed with powdered lime, or calcium hydroxide, called cal in Mexico- then left to cool and soak overnight. Then the corn was rinsed and the skins of the kernels, loosened by the lime, were rubbed off.
Grinding the kernels is the next step of the process, done with a metate - a large stone. Once the corn is ground, water was added to make the mixture into dough. Then small portions were patted out in the hands. The tortillas were cooked on a comal over an open fire.
In the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, the tortilla-making process was industrialized. Electric corn grinding machines were invented and from the 1920s through to the 1950s, thousands of mills (molinos) opened in neighborhoods and villages. There is a big difference in the quality of tortillas available today, but many people still prefer the taste of the ones made from freshly ground nixtamalized corn.