If you are familiar with El Charrito burritos, you know one of the many reasons why our Mexican restaurant is so popular is our homemade tortillas. The warm, soft, and fresh taste of these tortillas compels people from all over California to come in and enjoy our authentic Mexican food. While you may know that tortillas are delicious, you may not realize that they actually have a long history that dates back thousands of years! In this blog, we will briefly go over the history of the tortilla so you can more fully appreciate this delicious food.
Ancient History of Tortillas
Tortillas are hardly a recent invention. In fact, tortillas have been a staple of the standard diet of many people in South America for thousands of years. Remains discovered by anthropologists in the Sierra Madre Mountains suggest that the ancient Mayans created corn tortillas. Legend has it that they were made by peasants in an attempt to ease their king’s hunger.
In the early 16th century, Spanish conquistadors discovered the Aztecs in Mexico, where they discovered that a flat bread was a staple of their diets. Adding protein and starch to their diets, the Aztecs were fueled by this new type of food. It was the Spanish who coined them “tortillas,” which translates to “little cake” in English. To make tortillas, the Aztecs would take corn, dry it, and ground it into meal, using that to create a corn dough. They would then roll this dough into a ball and press it, then grill it on both sides. This was the predominant way to make tortillas for the next 400 years, and was adopted by the Spanish into their cuisine.
Modern Day Tortillas
The popularity of tortillas spread to the United States. In the Old West, cowboys would use the tortilla to eat their favorite foods, as they were versatile and easy to transport. They would stuff the tortillas filled with beans, meat, and vegetables, making way for the burritos, quesadillas, and other foods that are now commonly wrapped in a tortilla.
In order to meet the growing demand for tortillas, the United States mechanized the production of them. In the 1940s, corn meal was made with wet grain grinders, which were powered by electric motors and gas engines. By the ‘60s, tortilla machines could make tortilla shells in two seconds.
Tortillas are now no longer solely used in Mexican food; rather, they have become standard to the American diet. From the tortilla, the tortilla chip was born, which are among the top two favorite snacks in the United States (second only to the potato chip). Today, Mexicans often use tortillas as a utensil with which to eat other foods.
Everyone loves a hot, freshly made tortilla, and after learning more about its colorful history, you might be craving one. If that is the case, come to El Charrito, where we have the most delicious Mexican food in Monterey. See for yourself why there is so much hype around our tortillas by coming in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner today!