Today we kicked off class with some tortillas from Tortilleria Nixtamal, located not too far from campus in Corona, Queens.
The Taco Literacy crew of course took photos of their tortillas (be on the watch for #tacoliteracy on Instagram). From there, we asked some questions about how the tortillas were prepared, as well as the history of tortillas. Taco USA gave us some history, but we’ll look further into this when we read Paula Morton’s Tortillas: A Cultural History. But to further explain the science behind nixtamalization, we watched this video on YouTube:
The video does a good job pointing out the chemical process in the transformation of corn into hominy, or nixtamal. This then becomes masa, or the basis for making tortillas, among other tasty options. This important discover is one of the foundations for Mexican cuisine, and is over 3,000 years old. The tortillas we ate in class had the same recipe as those made thousands of years ago. We travelled time through corn today.
From here, we returned to the documentary Un Buen Carnicero, directed by Victoria Bouloubasis. I am excited that Victoria will be Skyping in later this semester to speak about the writing and film making she has done around foodways across the world.
We analyzed how the film portrayed Tolo and Mr. Cliff as the two different characters coming together in this film about a butcher shop in North Carolina. The film left several of the students wondering about this relationship between Mr. Cliff and Tolo, how racial and class dynamics played between the two. Several students noted how the expressions in Tolo’s face changed from the beginning of the film toward the end, in particular when he started speaking about his struggles outside the setting of the butcher shop. We noted how Tolo’s tone and story changed in the scenes outside his home, and also when driving in his car.
The unspoken piece of the film was about citizenship an undocumented labor exploitation. This led to a fantastic discussion analyzing the last portion of the film when Tolo speaks about the limits to opportunity he faces, but also the hope that things will be better in the future. The telling scenes that cut to his daughter reveal that this story Tolo tells is not only about him, but about the future generations he sees in his daughter, and beyond.
We ended class with a quick detour into the burrito bracket. In case you wondering how the burritos were scored, check this out from the amiga Anna Barry-Jester, a true burrito ninja:
Back next time with more Taco USA.