I looked up in the perfect azure sky, and the full moon was there, golden in the dusty veil of twilight. And, since I was still hungry, it reminded me of one thing.
Tortillas. Not those horrible white things sold in the grocery aisle with ingredients that read like a shopping list for a chemistry lab.
Those are not tortillas any more than a Chihuahua is a wolf. Distant relatives at best, with minor DNA connections, similar evolutionary relatives. No, not the same.
This golden moon is like Grandmother’s tortillas, with light and dark areas where the masa (dough) meets the comal (cast-iron pan). You can see its puffy rise, air coaxed into the layers of flour and lard, lifting and filling the kitchen with a warm smell that embraces everyone there. The scent dives straight for my stomach, teasing me with a phantom taste.
She always made me tortillas of my very own, smaller than the big ones that went in the basket for everyone else. I would hold them in my hands, bouncing them from palm to palm, letting the warmth radiate up my arms, bits of flour that had kept them from sticking coating the tiny lines-within-lines on my hands.
But even better was the masa. I never had raw cookie dough as a child; I had raw masa. I would get a pinch or two and eat it.
How different the masa tasted from the tortilla—yet its essence remained. What was the magic spell cast in the iron comal that changed it from one to another? Was it the same spell that would someday transform me from a skinny, shy child playing under her grandmother’s table into a woman with her own kitchen, her own children and her own package of lard in the refrigerator?
That night, the spell of the comal, the full moon and the memory of the beautiful flour tortillas growing in my grandmother’s hands filled my senses with memory and longing. Decades flow, and I find that I buy all my tortillas from the store.
But not any longer, I vowed under the spell of the full moon. Tomorrow, I promised, I will get my grandmother’s recipe out, spread flour on my counter and take out my rolling pin. Tomorrow, I will heat my iron comal and watch the imperfect masa circle rise. I will hand one to my daughter, one just her size, which she can bounce from palm to palm. And, when no one is looking, I will take a bite of the masa.
I looked at my hands, more comfortable on a computer keyboard than in a kitchen, and I wondered if I could do it. Could I bring back her kitchen, her warmth, her tortillas? Tonight, I’ve tapped into the power of that spell of transformation. The spell that keeps the essence the same, yet allows for the changes that must come.
It’s time to get rolling.
Winter Prosapio is a Hill Country writer and humor columnist.