Skip to content

Tex-Mex flatbread or: How I’m learning to bake in an alternate universe

August 5, 2012

Among the very many varied flatbreads of the world,  the Indians have the chapati, Ethiopeans have  injera, Armenians have lavash , and  Middle Eastern cultures  have various types of pita.  We Mexicans or Americans of Mexican descent have our beloved flour  or corn tortilla. Nothing harkens us more to our childhood memories and pleasures as  the smell and taste of tortillas. Lay a little slab of butter on a warm homemade tortilla, indulge, and the outer world ceases to exist.  If you grew up in a bi-cultural environment as we Chicano (Mexican-American) families did, you might also have enjoyed the (non)-flavor and practicality of the iconic mass-produced white sandwich bread. In my family, we usually  had the option of sopping up our carne guisada with store bought Mrs. Baird’s sandwich bread.  Mom didn’t always have time to make her delicious daily tortillas so the option of sandwich bread was usually on the table(pun intended).  I think that’s why I sometimes enjoy homemade bread with my Mexican food. That’s especially true when only store bought tortillas are available. Combine that with my interest in all kinds of bread baking and we have a perfect storm brewing.  Bread has a more substantial chew and as mentioned before, can be used to mop up any remaining flavorful liquids from the plate or bowl.  I’ve wondered why a thicker flatbread didn’t develop in Mexico.  The leavening of wheat was not used in ancient Meso-American  cooking. The Spaniards did however quickly bring with them the means to grow and harvest wheat. Some of the newly arrived Spanish made their own bread. Maybe the Aztecs, Mayas and other native people were reluctant to adapt foreign foods and techniques to their daily life. Maybe it was impractical or unnecessary.  It would have probably required a communal oven. A comal heating up over an open fire is easy to contend with. I’m sure there are some social and political implications involved here. Thanks to the immigrant population, bolillos seem to be the only Mexican bread prevalent in restaurants. It is thought to be an adaptation of French bread brought over when France made its way into Mexico’s history. Bolillos are mostly used to  make tortas, a common menu item in homestyle Mexican restaurants.  This counterpart to the American sandwich can be filled with a wide variety of ingredients, from avocado to beef tongue.

So what kind of bread would I want to have with my Tex-Mex meal?  It would be one that would have the distinct appearance, aroma, and taste of Tex-Mex all over it.  There is none that  exists.  I would like it to be communal in style, that is , shared by the family or guests. Many if not most flatbreads seem to have that quality. It is easily divided and torn by hand to pass around.  That would have come from a past alternate culinary history if the social and political dynamics had evolved differently in Mexico. It would be round in shape with optional sizes. I can’t imagine a square-shape flatbread coming out of Mexico. The round tortillas would have inspired a round bread. I also believe the ancient Meso-American’s cyclical view of the  universe  influenced the shape or form of other things in their daily life like  their calendar for instance. Much of their food was prepared for ritual and ceremony.  Just speculating about their “round bread” , I’m no anthropological historian. But back to our  Tex-Mex bread, it would be flavorful but almost  neutral in taste. It would have to compliment our typical meal.  Maybe the “Tex-Mex” aroma would come from an optional ingredient typical of our cooking style.  It would also be a simple daily bread that is easy and relatively convenient to make. The process could easily be adapted to a changing daily schedule.

I’ve made a few prototypes that I think are a good starting points for this bread, one that could have been created and evolved in a parallel universe. These will be featured in upcoming posts. Hopefully I’ll have photo-blogging capabilities up and running soon. I’m also delighted to combine two of my favorite subjects, bread baking and sci-fi.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Roberto Gonzalez permalink
    August 6, 2012 12:41 am

    WOW!!!!! Best post ever!!!! I was going WOW!… all the way through it. I share this implicit notion that this period in history is about filling in the voids, addressing those things, like why isn’t their a thicker flatbread in Mexico, right…nobody has thought of it? This is a period where we identify and transform the voids in our world, our lives. Challenge the specificities of the common, and sometimes great synchronicities arise…

    Great thoughts, Gerard! Adelante!

  2. August 6, 2012 11:52 pm

    Roberto, I love your philosophy! Purposeful positive creation. Very inspirational!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: