Basics of Mexican Cooking

You can learn the basics of Mexican cooking to create delicious Mexican dishes, includes tips on grinding Mexican corn for tortillas, how to make homemade tortillas and more.

| July/August 1977

Learn the basics of Mexican cooking and create delicious summer meals from scratch.

It's summer! A great time to learn about the basics of Mexican cooking.

Maybe it's because I'm from southern California (which sometimes seems more Mexican than Mexico Itself). And maybe it's just because I'm onto a good thing. But, whatever the reason, I don't think anything beats the taste of genuine, homemade tortillas (tore-TEE-yahs) hot off the griddle and served with all the fixin's.

Sure, sure . . . in this age of the mass-produced this and the factory-stamped-out that, you can buy your tortillas "ready made" down at the supermarket. Or, if you happen to reside in a city that's big enough to have a "Little Mexico" section, you might even shop occasionally in a small, ethnic grocery that sells freshly mixed, moist mass (moss-ah) dough which you can bake up into tortillas yourself. And, even if you live way out in the country somewhere, there's still a chance that your local crossroads store stocks "Mass Harina" . . . which is a dried version of masa made (in this country) by the Quaker Oats Company.

But when I say that "genuine, homemade tortillas" taste best of all, that's exactly what I mean. And, at least for the purist, "homemade" really starts in only one place: out in the garden or down in the lower forty.

Tortillas Begin With Corn . . . but not Sweet Corn

The important thing to remember when you set out to make tortillas "from the ground up" . . . is that you simply cannot produce any kind of masa worthy of the name from sweet corn. Sweet corn contains so much sugary starch that it just turns into a sticky goo when you try to grind it. What you want to plant is hominy corn (the seeds are readily available here In California) or, for that matter, almost any kind of field corn.

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