This doesn’t feel right, I say to myself.
I press on, afraid to add any more liquid to the dough for fear of majorly fucking something up. About ½ cup of flour remains in the bag, and that’s not nearly enough to start over if this fails.
Mija, I say to myself, mija you’ve added too much flour. These will do mija but next time, maybe not so much flour.
I am my own Abuela.
Yeah sure, I was born with two grandmas. I am named after both of them.
Sarah for my Grandma Sarah, a cool Bostonian, a descendant of the Mayflower, army wife with the phrase “children should be seen and not heard,” never far from her stiff upper lip. Not one to mince words, she told my father when he asked permission to marry my mother (lol), that he was absolutely not what she and my grandpa had envisioned as a husband for their daughter. They were expecting someone “tall, athletic, blonde hair… whi-” She stopped herself before finishing that word, but those three letters hung heavy in the air in front of my brown father.
My middle name is Francisca. For my Grandma Kika. I don’t know much about my Grandma Kika. She yelled at my sister for smudging her nail polish when we visited her once as children. She voted for Trump. Thirty-odd years ago, she made my mom cry, telling her that my father deserved to be with a real Mexican woman – that my mother would never be good enough. Look, I don’t know much about this lady. But she died a few years ago and my poor dad was as devastated as I was indifferent.
I am very jealous of my good friend, Adam. A first-generation American, with not one but TWO abuelas. Abuelas who speak Spanish. Abuelas who make tamales at Christmas and use Awesome to clean everything and beg you “Mijo call me!!!!”. I feel like I’m an orphan in some Dickensian world, looking through frosted windows panes into warm living rooms, watching abuelas do abuela things. Chucking chanclas. Whatever.
As I start to roll out the tortilla dough, I am realizing that these tortillas are not perfect circles. Fuck. They are misshapen. Mija, I tell myself, this is ok, but next time mija, roll the dough into balls before you pat them out to rest.
They look vaguely like states. I see Texas. I see Illinois. I see New Mexico, vaguely. Which is the answer my Dad gives – vaguely – when I ask him “where did your family come from?” My mom made states one time. My Grandpa Pete taught her how to make tortillas, once. Long ago. And I guess they came out looking like states? And I guess my dad and grandpa made fun of my mom for that? All I know is the legend goes that my mom was so discouraged by the commentary that she dumped them in the trash, and vowed to never make tortillas from scratch again. And it was true. To this day, my parents eat tortillas with many of their meals, yet they are always the gross cardboard tasting flour torts from Mission.
But oh my god, oh my god!! The beauty that is a fresh tortilla. The delicious decadence of a steamy stretchy warm tortilla. The smell. Better than baked bread. It is something with which I was rarely acquainted growing up.
Until I found myself living in England, with nary a tortilla to be found. Out of sheer necessity, I went to the webs, and found a recipe for the “Best Ever Homemade Flour Tortillas”. I closely followed the directions and was surprised to find the curtains of mystique lifted. These little guys were near perfect, and tasty, and also, circular. I texted a picture to my mom.
I always assumed that making tortillas was really hard. And definitely, something that I could never pull off. But I did it. And I can keep doing it. It’s actually quite simple.
When I make tortillas, I feel a connection to ancestors unrecognizable. Like, somehow, through the magic of a Pinterest recipe, I am able to reach across the realms of time and find something in myself. I find my own abuela. Someone who can pat my cheek and teach me secret things about a culture and heritage from which I find myself estranged. I wonder about my future kids. Will I teach them this recipe? Will I teach them Spanish? How will they, mixed children of a mixed woman, integrate and celebrate their own mixedness?
Mija, I say to myself, stop getting ahead of yourself. Focus on the tortillas for now. Next time, less flour.
BEST EVER HOMEMADE FLOUR TORTILLAS
Adapted from Pinterest, by a mixed girl trying to find her way
2 ½ cups of flour
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of baking powder
⅓ cup of olive oil
1 cup of WARM water (not boiling, but warm, not lukewarm, but like solidly WARM)
- Mix flour salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
- Create a little hole in the middle of the bowl. Pour the oil and water in the hole. Stir until it is all mixed together and beginning to stick together in a “ball” (more “inside of the bowl” shaped).
- Dump onto a floured surface, then knead. This part is awesome. The consistency should be silky and smooth and elastic and not too sticky. It should feel like Play Doh’s softer and warmer cousin, Play Dahh (lol). If this isn’t the case, carry on – Or add more water? But that might end up fucking it all up.
- OK, now divide into 16 portions. I do this by halving the dough, then halving those portions.
- Important: ROLL PORTIONS INTO LITTLE BALLS. Then take the little balls and pat them down into little flat patties.
- Cover the flat patties with a clean town (or paper towel is what I use)
- Let rest for at least 15 minutes and at most 2 hours.
- Once they have been rested, take each little patty and start to roll it out. The dough should not snap back when rolled out, if this is happening then give them patties a little more rest time.
- Heat your pan to medium. No need to grease it.
- Toss the tort on the pan and be ready to flip it once bubbles start to pop up. You’re a real one if you can use your fingers to do this.
- Once both sides are cooked, put them on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm!
Sarah Gallegos is a New York-based writer and filmmaker. Through her work, she is continuously delving deeper into investigations of self-discovery. When not sleuthing through her own inner workings, she is passionate about creating space for artists to connect internationally through light-hearted yet earnest art-making. (She coordinates play readings over Zoom – lol) Some favorite writing credits include: pre-face (short film; currently in post production), BeanyTodd (play; staged reading performed at The Lounge in Dixon Place in 2019), and this is your sign (short film; selected for The 2018 New York Short Film Festival); www.sarah-gallegos.com