Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mexican Leg

 So, I am Mexican-American. My mom is Caucasian, and my dad is from Mexico. I often get asked "what are you?" and the answer that always pops into my mind is " least I was last time I checked..."

Growing up, I really wasn't aware of being of mixed race until someone reminded me, and yes, sometimes people rudely did. I remember in grade school when we were doing an exercise about the awfulness of the Holocaust where the teacher physically divided us into two groups:

The people who would survive the Holocaust based on looks, and the people that wouldn't.

I was in the very small group that wouldn't.

It was the first time I was aware that I was considered different, and it confused me very much. I remember very well the large group of "survivors" eyeing us and the look of superiority that filled them. I felt equal to the them, and looked like them enough, but why was I considered different from them? Well, I suppose enough wasn't enough when it comes to race relations. It was a hard lesson to learn at that age, and it unfortunately spilled out onto the playground, now that differences were made aware of.

I have tried to embrace both parts of me, but I have to admit, it has created quite an identity crisis inside of me. I am not "this" enough, or I am not "that" enough. I often wonder what people see when they look at me. Do they see me? or are the wondering what I am? Mostly, people think I am Native American. I get that a lot. And those little bubbles that you fill in on those forms that need to know your ethnicity? They have the list of races for you to fill in the bubble of what you are and they say "choose ONE". Do I consider myself more American? or Hispanic? Screw that. I check them both.

What I am, is human. Female, next, and then, well, a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. But I can also say I am proud of what I am. I am proud that my mom and my dad proudly made me in a time when there was still blurry lines about the subject. I am proud to say I am Mexican, and I am proud to say I am American.

Grace is growing up in a time of more tolerance, thankfully. I pray she will never feel the sting of someone feeling superior just because of ethnicity. It hurts in a place you can't know unless you've been there, and I hope she never has to feel that.  She has my darker skin tone, and my brown eyes. Dark curly hair, too. When she was little, she overheard me saying I was Mexican-American, and wondered what I meant by that. I explained it to her, and she wondered what she was.

 "Well," I told her, "I suppose you would be 3/4 Caucasian, and 1/4 Mexican".

She looked at me puzzled. "What does a quarter mean?"

Hmmmm.... how do I explain this so she can understand...I took my finger and hovered it in a cross pattern in front of her body dividing it into four sections so she could see.

"There." I said, pointing to her right leg. "Right there. This part of you is Mexican. You have a Mexican Leg. You're a very lucky girl."

She was delighted. She talks a lot about her Mexican Leg. It dances better than the other one, and runs faster too, she tells me.

Gotta bring a little humor in, because that's how we roll around here. : )

Since it is Cinco De Mayo, here is a very, very, very dear tutorial. I grew up on these, and it is by far my favorite comfort food of all time:

                           Homemade Tortillas 

Here is what you will need:

  Masa (you can find a bag of it at a Mexican grocer or a well stocked grocery store) and a Tortilla press.

Put some Masa in a bowl. I have about 1 1/4 cup in the bowl above, and it made 6 tortillas. I never measure it, I always eyeball it depending on how many tortillas I am making. This here is a very small batch I am making, an after school snack for my girl.

To the Masa powder, very slowly add warm water, little bits at a time while stirring it with your hands to make a firm dough. Too dry, the dough will be crumbly and crack easily, too wet, it will be mushy, so it has to be just right. Once you have a firm dough, tear off parts of it and roll it between your palms to make a ball, not quite the size of a golf ball, just a little smaller.

Open your tortilla press and line it with plastic. A Ziploc bag works very well for this. Take a quart size Ziploc bag and cut the seams off of all four sides to make two separate pieces of plastic the same size. One will be for the bottom of the tortilla, and one will be for the top of the tortilla. Place a ball of dough on top of the plastic.

Make sure to put the other piece of plastic on top of the dough before you press it.  If you don't line the top and bottom of your dough, it will totally stick to your tortilla press which is a messy bummer.

        Press your tortilla press firmly (the fun part) until you see the tortilla squishing out from the sides.

            This is what your flattened tortilla will look like. Carefully peel away the top plastic off.

         Carefully transfer the tortilla to the palm of your hand and peel off the other piece of plastic.

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Once it's nice and heated, put your tortilla carefully on the griddle. It will steam as it cooks. They burn easily, so don't leave the stove. Peek at the underside, and when it is a little brown and pulling up at the sides, flip it like a pancake.

Cook the other side. They will bubble and puff up, and then it is ready to take off the heat. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the system down, so don't be discouraged by torn or burnt tortillas. You'll get the hang of it quickly. ; )

       And then, your tortilla is done! you can make tacos, taquitos, or anything else you like with them.

For a snack, our favorite thing to do is right after they are off the griddle and nice and hot, slather it with some butter, and sprinkle it with salt, roll it up, and eat it like that. Ultimate comfort food. The best.

So, I do hope you try these. They are worth the investment of a tortilla press and worth the fuss.

Happy Cinco De Mayo, Friends!!! XOXO

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