Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grandpa's Farm in the Hills - Part 2 - The Food

In Part 1 of this blog (click here to read) I described my first trip out to my wife's grandpa's farm in the isolated hills near the border of Mexico State and Guerrero State.

Two Women Making Tortillas (in a different house)
One of the items which stands out most in my memory about our visit was the food.  The food was very simple.  I believe the ingredients used for everything could be listed on half a page (corn, beef, squash, beans, onions and habanero peppers showed up regularly); yet it was some of the most delicious food that I have ever tried.

To start off, on my wife's advice based on past family visits, we bought a few kilos of dough to make tortillas from a tortilla shop in the last town.  This had been made from commercially produced corn flour.  When dinner time came, the women set the dough aside and started using a hand mill to grind corn from the farm that had been soaking in warm water during the afternoon, which they ground on a flat slab made of volcanic stone and another round tool made of the same stone - like a mortar and pestle, but different shapes.  The resulting paste was pressed into a round flat tortilla in a standard tortilla press (two flat metal or wooden plates with handle attached to one to make it easy to press down), and cooked on a hot griddle.

When they took out our commercially produced dough and tasted it, then made one tortilla, and tasted it, they made some doubtful facial expressions and told us that it was no good.  I may be that it had actually gone bad, but if after I tried their homemade tortillas made from the farm's corn, I realized that even if it had been good (which it may have been) it wouldn't have lived up to their standards.

These tortillas were amazing.

One of the Girls Grinding Corn
With the tortillas we had some strips of grilled beef, beans, which had been cooked in a clay pot, and a sauce made of onions, lime juice and habanero peppers.  (I put a few drops of the sauce one taco and realized that more than one drop was too much  for me.)  While the meal sounds simple, I can't remember having many meals that were better!  It was absolutely delicious.

Later that evening we had a drink called "atole" which is made of a very fine rice or corn flour with cinnamon and sweetened.  Everyone was trying to decide who should go up to the village to buy bread (baking is not a standard part of most Mexican household cooking habits, traditional or modern.)  In the end no one went, because they realized we would have finished the atole before the person got back.  After a repetition of virtually the same situation - concerning the tortilla dough - the following visit, we realized that the food to bring to her grandpa's house was bread, not tortilla dough.  "Bread" actually refers to Mexican sweet bread which includes sugar coated rolls and pastries.  For our next visit, we will bring bread.

Another part of this food experience was that they let me help in the kitchen, grinding the corn and making the paste.  Normally, only women work in the kitchen, but since I love cooking and learning new things about any kitchen or cooking style, I couldn't resist asking.  They were all to happy to see me try to make tortillas for a few minutes.  Of course, they did it all about 10 times as fast, but it was fun.

I love coffee, and we had the pleasure of drinking coffee made from home-grown and home-roasted beans.  It was delicious, but since I love coffee so much, I'll save that for another post.

They're probably be a few more coming up about Grandpa's farm.

For Part 3, which is about the homes, click here.

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