Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tasty bits of history

While at LA Plaza on Sunday, I wandered through the exhibit, and saw this book - Pio Pico's Spanish/English Conversation Manual - on display.  Seeing items like this excites most historians.  We like, political wonks, have some sort of coding in the DNA that not only allows for this response in what some think a dry field.  Truth be told that DNA actually encourages the response.

Over time I've come to think of history like a good wine.  The most unique is not always the best and the best is not always the most unique.  Often the context matters as much as the thing itself.  A glass of good wine shared with friends is infinitely more valued than a great glass of wine by myself.

Seeing the activities for community members at LA Plaza reminded me of this thought.  They had a station where students were grinding nixtamal.  Hominy in the metate is ground into masa nixtamalera, finely ground corn flour.  

Herbs and water were added to mix.  Then placed in the beautiful new tortilladoras, usually called tortilla press in English.  
These are parts of a tradition that have bound and blessed many a Mexican meal.  The making of the tlaxcalli, or tortillas, being an expression of the four elements.  Tradition is kept vibrant.  

The teacher guiding this Manual Arts culinary student was the history docent.  I'm sure at some point the teacher shared the history and meaning of the tortilla in Mexican culture.  Good to remember that much history can be found in our foods.

When asked if she liked what she was doing, there was no pause between the end of the question and beginning of the smile on the student's face.  She loves to cook and plans to become a pastry chef.  There'll be history in that culinary expression, too.


  1. Tortilladoras -- I'll remember that word for my next Spanish/English conversation.

  2. This was Pio Pico's book? His own? Did he write in it? That's amazing.

  3. @altadenahiker, I had to look up the word. I wasn't to call it.

    @ Petrea, Yes. Not quite sure quite what you mean by "his own". That's a really good question. It was his property, but I don't know about the internals. I'll do a little research and try to answer your questions. It is amazing. The exhibit has a lot of artifacts and ephemera that are surprising.