Monday, February 24, 2014

Tortillas and Traditions

“Everything has it’s beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

~Andy Warhol

There are teachable moments all throughout our lives. Lessons. They aren’t exactly something one usually picks up perfectly on the first go. And sometimes, we never perfect what it is we are trying to achieve. For most people, seeing as we’re human and have flaws coming out of every pore of our being, lessons take a good long time to learn, through numerous mediums. The thing to remember is, you don’t have to cringe with disappointment and disgust as you’re on this journey, whatever it may be you are learning at the moment. Every step along the way has value for that very moment. Once that moment has passed, you are different, whether subtly or dramatically, from who you were previously. What’s important is just accepting and embracing where you are, when you are. The world is full of it’s own fast and harsh criticisms of our every move, that at the very least, we ought to be kind and loving to ourselves. 

Throughout my years, I’ve had my fair share of life’s lessons. Some quite profound while others, much more unceremonious. Today, as I began to pass on a tradition my grandfather first tried teaching me over a decade ago, my mind is flooded with memories. 

“Hija! Not like that. It’s going to be dry and too hard to roll out!” he said getting flustered.

“Papa, it’s okay, they’ll be fine. I’m doing this just like you did.”

“Ay ay ay! They are ruined!” he declared with exasperation. “You might as well just throw it in the garbage. We’ll have to start again.” 

“They aren’t ruined Papa!” I respond, scowling as I found myself annoyed at my own grandfathers lack of confidence in me. 

As I recall this moment, this lesson, I chuckle. I chuckle because of all I’ve learned between then and now on the art of tortilla making. He was right, very early on in the process. My tortillas weren’t up to par. The last time I made my tortillas, I couldn’t for the life of me, recall how much of each ingredient I needed and the exact thought crossed my mind at the same point in the process as it did him, all those years ago. “They’re as good as garbage, ruined! I have to start over now!” And that’s exactly what I did. You see, it wasn’t that my grandfather was being too negative or just lacked confidence in me. He knew the process inside and out. He had made those exact mistakes and once it was done, saw no point in either of us wasting any time. He was calling it like it was...the kettle was black! The difference between then and now was that I didn’t just toss them away. I tried to salvage my dough, and my tortillas didn’t turn out so terrible. They were just a little hard to roll out and in the end, required a little more effort as we chewed them up. I did, thankfully, have the second batch, that was much more standard. 

As I made my tortillas today, they turned out as perfect as I’ve ever been able to make them. They were pliable, chewy, delicious and unlike many times in years past, resembled a circle, rather than the state of Texas. I don’t personally mind a tortilla in any shape, but my grandfather has always taken a knife to cut the edges of his dough so that it comes out as circular as possible. Over this last summer, my husband, my daughter and I were able to visit my family out in Wyoming. While there, my Aunt Max gave me a lesson in tortilla making. It was a refresher course really. But she had a way of explaining and teaching that clicked for me after all this time being frustrated and scared of failure every time I made them, never knowing what I’d get. Since our refresher course, I’ve enjoyed the process much more as I’ve grown considerably in confidence. There is now a rhythm and a flow and I finally feel like I’ve got this. I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected it, but I’m pretty happy with all I’ve learned along the way and my current ability to produce some great tortillas! As I was rolling them out and flipping the one on the pan, it brought me great joy as my husband proclaimed with a cheery disposition, “I get so happy when you make your tortillas for us!” It’s such a simple thing, but if it makes a difference to him, it means everything to me! 

In the process today, after my little girl had been watching longingly as I dumped, stirred, and mixed the ingredients to make the dough, I realized it was time for her first lesson in tortilla making. And as I tried showing her how to roll the dough into individual balls, “like we do when we play with play dough...” she took two I’d already rolled between my hands and put them one on top of the other and smashed them together with great pleasure. “This is gonna take a while,” I thought. 

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