I told the Fletcher’s cook, Marta, this morning as she was squeezing about 50 oranges for our fresh juice that I wanted her to teach me how to make tortillas this afternoon.
“No se ría,” she said without even looking up.
“Soy serio, Marta” I told her. “You make wicked tortillas. They’re more addicting than Krispy Kremes.”
“Cuál es Krispy Kremes?”
This didn’t impress her. But then again, it’s hard to impress Marta. But late in the afternoon, when I was standing in waist-deep water in the pool, because it was just too hot and steamy to not be in the water, reading Jon Krakauer’s book about evil Mormons, Marta yelled from the kitchen that she was making tortillas for our comida and if I wanted to watch, I’d better hurry. So I grabbed a towel and, dripping water all over the Fletcher’s freshly-polished marble floors, hustled into the kitchen.
Marta grabbed a golf ball-sized wad of dough, slapped it back and forth between her hands a few times and then smushed it flat between a couple of layers of plastic wrap on a wooden tortilla press. I knew this part. What I’d wanted to see was her mixing up the dough. I wanted to know what went in it. Because Marta’s tortillas puff up, like sopapillas, and that’s just not normal with corn tortillas. Plus they’re sweeter.
“Marta, cuál esta en la tortilla dough?”
She shrugged. “Esto y ése.” This and that. Whenever I ask Marta what’s in a dish, she says, “Esto y ése.” But she won’t tell me what this and that are. It’s this little dance she does with me. The only clue I had was the giant bag of Maseca corn flour on the counter. But there was more than just corn flour and water in these tortillas, which I was eating almost as quickly as Marta pulled them off her comal.
I asked her if she put pork lard in the dough.
“Manteca?” she said, laughing, but not really answering my question. But something was making those puppies puff up and it wasn’t corn meal. So I decided to try a new tactic. I filled a warm tortilla with frijoles from the olla pot on the stove and raved about them. These are the best beans ever, I told her. So flavorful. “Muy saboroso. What’s in them?”
Marta, still patting out tortillas, didn’t even bother to look up at me. “Esto y ése.”
I think ignoring me is pretty much Marta’s way of flirting with me. If so, it’s working marvelously.