Monday, March 27, 2006

Best of Small Town Mexico-Big Lupita's Tortillas

To continue with my "Best of Small Town Mexico" series, today I would like to feature my friend Lupita. But first a small class in cultural differences. I call her "Big Lupita." I do this because in our congregation at church, Lupita is a popular name. It is short for Guadalupe. I know at least 6 Lupitas. So, to distinguish her from the others, she being the largest of the group, I call her "Big Lupita". This is not offensive in Latin culture (now, I don't claim to be an expert in Latin culture, but I have been living in Latin America for 5 years). I think most Americans would be shocked at the lack of political-correctness here.

It is not offensive when describing someone to refer to them as "gordo" (fat) or "feo" (ugly) or "the one with acne" (really not sure of the translation). In high school I suffered from pretty bad acne and if I would have heard someone describe me as such, I think I would have died. But, the culture is just different. They say it how they see it, and everyone seems to feel fairly comfortable with their appearance. I have a friend here who refers to her husband has "Juan mi feito" or "my ugly John". I have gone to church before and had someone come up to me and say, "You look fat today, are you pregnant?" (I wasn't.) "Who's María Jiménez Hernández?" "Oh, she's the fat one over there holding the ugly baby". Makes you cringe, doesn't it? As Americans we dance around such words and descriptions. Remember the Seinfeld with the "breathtaking baby"? So there you have it, a little lesson on the bluntness of Latins.

Anyway, Big Lupita is one of the sweetest, hardest working women I know. She would do whatever she could to help another person. I have watched her find jobs for other women, and if she can't find them any work, she teaches them skills like sewing and cooking so they can help their families become more financially stable. She donates her time and talents to the local orphanage and to our church. Many an unwanted animal has ended up on her doorstep because everyone knows she has a kind heart for little critters. She ALWAYS has a new animal in her home when we visit (this week it was a hamster that someone got tired of).

And, on top off all this she makes the best tortillas I have ever had! Here she is in her home making the dough.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) white flour
  • 250 grams vegetable shortening (1/2 pound)
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • enough tepid water to make the dough

She mixes the first 3 ingredients until they are well blended and then adds in the water little by little until it feels "right" and kneads it with both hands for several minutes. She makes little balls of dough and lets them rest for 5 or so minutes and then rolls them out with a rolling pin (hers are always circular, mine are either triangles or weird squares). Then they go onto a previously heated frying pan, about 1 minute each side. Her's puff up so nicely while they are cooking.

Sounds easy, right?


She has tried to teach me several times to make the tortillas. She has come to my house, I have gone to her's. I have tried. . .and tried. . . and tried. I have changed the water temperature a dozen times. The amount of water I add. I have let them rest for more time. Less time. I've tried it at different times of the day, at different humidity levels. DOESN'T MATTER. I always end up with frisbees. My sweet kids try to eat them, but after a few bites they admit they are nothing like Lupita's and start flinging them around the house. The only way I can explain this is that the woman has magic hands.

Getting back to the cultural lesson, these little babies can sure make you fat in a hurry. I always knew tortillas weren't the best food for you, but watching her mix up bleached white flour with vegetable fat and a little water was a real eye opener. But, not enough of an eye opener to prevent me from eating 5 in a row...


K-squared's Mom said...

I have to try making these but I'm sure I will again gain so much weight that I won't be able to fit into my jeans! Not only do these soft tortillas do so much damage, I think that the crispy ones they serve as appetizers are so "innocent-looking" that you don't notice how many you've eaten until you just suddenly feel so full. I blame these little critters for the extra pundage I will need to lose asap.

It's not hard to imagine how kindhearted Lupita is. She also has a very kind demeanor. I would love to sample some of her tortillas (hint, hint, hint)! Have a great week!

Ale "the Maracucha" said...

Hello my dear friend,
I love to read your blog!!It' nice to see how you are doing over there. And it makes the distance seems shorter.
I also miss the tortilla, chile, gorditas, Soriana, Sam's club, ...but especially my friends from Carmen!
I know it will sound weird... but ...don't be surprise if you start missing the island really soon!
jejeje..I do.
Say hello to Guapo and give many hugs to your kids for me. We miss you all!

Grammy said...

Some people just have a sort of cooking magic that doesn't come through in the printed recipe. I'm glad you have good friends though, who keep trying to "spread the joy". Better luck next time.

yo mama said...

Now I'm paranoid with not knowing the language. You kept saying "oh she said you are pretty or you look so young". When in reality, they were probably saying, "she looks too old to be pregnant", or "what an ugly Americano". I'm getting out my Spanish CD's and next time I'll know the TRUTH. I noticed a slight hesitation on your part before the translation. Yikes!