Tortillas are one of the most iconic dishes of traditional Mexican cuisine. It is made up of corn, not wheat or flour.
Let’s check out why!
The history is fascinating and starts before ‘tortilla’ or even corn, as we know, existed.
Megabiodiverse is a region that holds native examples of a majority of known Earth species. Although many people mistakenly imagine Mesoamerica as a barren desert, around 60-70% of well-known species in the entire world are found in Mexico. This makes it one of the top four “mega biodiverse” countries.
Before corn, there was teosinte. It’s a relative of corn. In the Sierra Madre Mountains, ancient people started cultivating teosinte crops that were similar to modern-day corn crops.
Mesoamerican people took this new corn, dried it, and grind it down into a masa (corn dough). They would form it into small, flat cakes to cook quickly on a hot stone grill and combine with many local dishes. Women would spend years learning how to make masa perfectly. Reportedly, Mayan legend says that farmers made these cakes to satisfy their king’s hunger.
In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors noticed the Aztecs making flat cornbread or cakes in the same way. As they cooked the Spanish of cakes, they dubbed them tortillas – Spanish for cake. They preferred their ingredients from home and began cooking similar tortillas but with wheat and flour. They were popularized back in the Spanish homeland as well.