Tortilla Tango

A few months ago, my friend Ricardo’s mom and sister came to visit from his hometown in southern Texas.  Ricardo’s family is Mexican, and his mom owns and operates a Mexican restaurant.  She is a warm and wonderful lady, and my friends and I all enjoyed getting to know her.

We had all gone to dinner together one night, and as luck would have it, I was seated next to Ricardo’s mom for the evening.  Eventually we got to talking about food, and how I loved to cook and enjoyed trying new things.  She asked me questions like “Do you like tamales?”  And I replied, of course, “Yes, I love them!”

Then she asked me, “Have you ever made tortillas?”  To which I answered, “No, but I’ve always wanted to.”

A few months later, Ricardo went to visit his family for Christmas.  When he returned, he came back with a care package from his mom: a bag of tortilla mix that she, herself, had prepared; and a bag of cooked, frozen tamales.

For me.

I was a bit taken aback that someone else’s mom would go to this much trouble for me, but according to Ricardo, his mom really enjoyed talking to me and could tell that I loved to cook, so she wanted to do something nice for me.  I was touched.  It was so sweet.

It took a while for Ricardo to actually give these items to me.  He first told me about them on New Year’s Eve, and kept forgetting to bring them whenever we would see each other.  He confessed that he had eaten some of the tamales already, but he promised he would save me a few to try.

Finally, a few weeks later, I got the gifts from Ricardo’s mom.  A gallon-sized Ziploc bag full of tortilla mix, and another gallon-sized Ziploc with about 8 frozen tortillas.  All of it homemade.

I took them home, heated up a few tamales in the microwave, and set out to try making tortillas.  The tamales were absolutely delicious.  The best I’ve ever had.

But I didn’t have as good of luck with the tortillas.  See, Ricardo’s mom had forgotten to include a recipe.  So I, being a typical male, decided to wing it.

Wing it, that is, with disastrous results.

I used a cup of her mix to a cup of water, stirred, and poured it into a hot, greased griddle.  Just like pancakes.  Except these weren’t pancakes.  I was doing it all wrong. My “Tortillas” turned out crispy on the outside and gooey and doughy on the inside.  So I tried thinning the dough to maybe, possibly, make the flat, chewy burrito tortillas.  I just got flatter, doughier pancake-like objects.

In other words, they were gross.  But I ate them anyway.

The next time I tried making them, I tried adding things– first of which was baking powder; thinking that they needed to “poof up” somehow.  I was wrong.  There was baking powder already in the mix.  I just got more doughy, mooshy tortilla-pancakes.  Back to the drawing board.

So next I tried adding oil to the mix.  This produced a crispier outside, but still a gooey inside.   I tried to disguise the fact that my “tortillas” were disgusting by adding garlic, chili powder and other spices.  It helped– but not much.

I was about ready to give up, when I realized that I had to stoop to a degrading tactic.

I had to ask for directions.

So I Googled “Flour Tortillas” and clicked on the first flour tortilla recipe that came up.

And there, staring me in the face, were the magnitude of my errors.  Boy was I wrong.

First, I was supposed to use milk instead of water.  Who knew?

Second, the whole wet-batter-on-a-hot-griddle thing was way wrong. I had to knead the dough and roll out the individual tortillas.  Now how would I have known that?

So I tried it.  And for the first time since I got this bag of mix from my dear friend Ricardo’s mother, I made beautiful, delicious, and perfect flour tortillas.

So, you see, the moral of this story is that the “typical male” syndrome of trying and trying to make something work without asking for directions first is NOT exclusively a “straight” male problem.  It is a decidedly male problem, no matter what side of the fence you prefer.

The difference is that I was able to recognize the problem and deal with it.  Even though it took about three tries before I came to that conclusion.

So… Anyone up for a fajita party?

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