Monday, May 15, 2000, 7:35:49 AM, you wrote:
hb> friends and all --
hb> i am passing along a request for info from a fellow volunteer.
hb> we both work at heifer ranch (the educational outreach center
hb> for heifer project international in arkansas) and she is seeking
hb> ideas and info for *tortillaria* construction plans (the
hb> tortillaria will be used for educational purposes, both for
hb> hands-on activities as well as a discussion piece on tours).
Here in Mexico, a "tortillería" (with an accent on the second i) is
a commercial establishment where tortillas are machine made and
people stand in line to buy them by the kilo, generally at a
government controlled price.
However, what you describe is simply a "fogón" with a "comal", a
household affair. While I don't do this myself, I've lived with it
and know the process well enough to describe it. This is what
Corn (usually white but black is best) is soaked overnight and
simmered with lime for hours into "nixtamal", then ground. Some
villages have a motorized "molino" to grind the corn each family
sends into "masa" (dough), and someone from the family is sent with
the days corn very early in the morning (before dawn). This means
that the "molino" replaces the "tortillería", and each family will
bring the masa made from their own corn to make their own tortillas
In more isolated areas or where people prefer, the grinding will be
done at home, usually by hand (and the cranking is strenuous), to
finally be ground into a finer consistency in the "metate": a stone
basin, using a wide stone bar that can be gripped by the person
doing it to further refine the masa, including that brought from the
Next, the "masa" is made into balls that are formed by clapping back
and forth repeatedly on a piece of "masa", which is finally placed
in a small hand press (generally wooden) to generate tortillas,
which are flung on the "comal" (an earthen or metal plate) that sits
over the firebox of the "fogón" and is supported by the fogón's
The tortilla is turned over at the right moment (before burning) and
served hot, repeatedly throughout the meal. (One of the signs of a
truly attentive and cultured family is the quality of the attention
given to keeping hot tortillas on ones plate, as well as one's glass
filled with natural spring water stored in and poured from earthen
vessels that keep it cool. Tortillas are never eaten alone (except
possibly in the most deprived circumstances imaginable) but rather
used to roll around everything else eaten, above all beans; also
simmered in an earthen vessel and combined with fresh tomatoes,
chili peppers, avocado slices, lime juice, fresh cheese, rice etc.
For use later, the tortillas are placed in a basket that's lined
with a clean cloth that's wrapped around the tortillas to prevent
their cooling down. (They can be reheated though, if needed).
I've lived in isolated villages and this is how it's done. You don't
need a stovepipe, just a thatched roof, and the kitchen is generally
separate from the rest of the house. The rammed earth bricks will
comprising the fogón will be covered with clay, and the floor of the
kitchen will also be clay, all nice and smooth, often red. The walls
are probably made from sticks, with forked tree trunks at the
corners supporting logs running horizontally around the perimeter
and lengthwise up at the peak.
You're going to have to go to the border to get a real metate and if
you're able to drive out into the countryside, you may be able to
find a family still doing this. At the border and in the city, it
may be difficult though. The metates and molcajétes (smaller round
grinding mortar like basins with pestles for grinding chili peppers
and or garlic with a bit of lime juice and husk tomatoes for salsa)
can be found in any municipal market however, as well as the tortilla
presses. For grinding, hand cranked units are common, like the ones
the "Corona" make sells.
hb> please direct all responses to me and i will pass them along
hb> many thanks!
hb> * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
hb> I am looking for plans for an outdoor tortilla cooking
hb> arrangement. we are planning on using cinva-ram
hb> bricks that we make on the ranch and a metal top.
A clay top would be nicer.
hb> It will need to be inside an open barn, so a stove pipe
hb> will also need to be installed...any other suggestions
hb> would be appreciated as well.
Get back to me if you need more info, although I'll be leaving on a
Douglas Hinds, Dir. Gral. - CeDeCoR, A.C.
Centro para el Desarrollo Comunitario y Rural, Asociacion Civil
(Center for Rural and Community Development,
a Mexican non-profit organization)
Cordoba, Veracruz; Cd. Guzman, Jalisco; Loma Bonita, Oaxaca
& Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico
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