A Short History of Tortillas

A Short History of Tortillas

How were tortillas invented and by whom? How did they come to be what they are today? This article will give you the answers to these two questions and more.

As many of us know already, a tortilla is a type of flatbread that can be made of corn or wheat flour, depending on the recipe. According to some Mayan legends, the first tortilla was invented by a peasant who cooked it for his hungry king. From an archeological point of view, the first tortillas appear to date from 10,000 BC. The Aztecs, one of the best-known warrior civilizations of the Americas are said to have consumed them largely, and that’s because this civilization used to eat a lot of corn, either straight from the cob or as a part of recipes.

At the beginning of the 16th century, when many European civilizations took to colonizing the Americas, a group of Spaniards that arrived in what is now Mexico, discovered that the inhabitants used to make flat maize bread. Its then name didn’t resemble the tortilla denomination in the least as the native Nahuatl used to call the flatbread tlaxcalli.

The name tortilla came from the Spanish. In some parts of the country, after the settlers came home, there were people who adopted the flatbread and started making it as a thin and circular fried cake, sometimes prepared from chickpea meal. On top of that, the Spanish had a tortilla of their own which changed when the settlers returned to their homes and started bringing corn and various other supplies which only grew in the Americas.

Bernardino de Sahagun, a Franciscan friar, noted that the Aztec diet was mainly based on tortillas, maize, a wide array of chiles, as well as tamales. In addition to utilizing corn in their tortillas, apparently, the Aztecs also added amaranth and squash to the mixture. In some subcultures, even honey and turkey eggs were added either to modify the taste or to confer a different texture.

While the original cooking process of the tortillas that the Aztecs used to enjoy has changed nowadays, back in the day, the cooks used to pat down a golf ball-sized piece of dough and cook it on both sides after having placed it in a thin pan on a hot griddle. The process of making tortillas and their consumption, too, has changed drastically over the years, especially due to the introduction of small gas engines, as well as electric motors around the 1940s and 1950s.

These days, you can get an electric tortilla maker for yourself and make them as thin and flat as you wish. Here’s a good article on tortilla cookers you might find helpful if you want to make sure you can select the right one and you’d generally like to get rid of your good old pan.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to the fillings you can use with tortillas, which is why so many people across the world love them. If you are creative enough, you can even have them for breakfast with a little of peanut butter spread on top of one and a peeled banana in the center.

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