Wednesday, February 10, 2010

People of the Corn, Meet West Africa

As many of you know, since my return from Guatemala in the late Summer of 2008 I have been making tortillas pretty much non-stop. Not your typical supermarket or Mexican food tortillas. These bad boys have a smaller circumference and a bigger belly. The Bulldog of the tortilla world. Anyways, that practice pretty much came to a stand still upon my arrival in Cameroon. In my first week I took advantage of the local vegetable market and got my hands on some freshly ground corn flour. Thinking this would be quite suitable for tortillas I went ahead as anyone trained in the art of tortillas guatemaltecas would and began the ancient and oft-repeated process of tortear. Well, the preparations turned out just fine but the final product turned out to be far too grainy. I gave up. For the next 2 and a half months I wrote it off that the corn here was too grainy and just plain not the right type for tortilla making. Afterall, Guatemalans had been making tortillas since practically the beginning of time (no joke, Mayan creation myth literally says that man was molded out of corn) and thus their corn had been bred since God knows when to be perfect for tortear.

Now, since that very first attempt I’ve been scouring supermarkets and any other place that might have a corn flour for my blessed Maseca. Although easily located in even the smallest of small-town America grocery stores the blessed corn concoction is nowhere to be found in Yaoundé. As delicious and plentiful as the local vegetable production is, even during the dry season, without tortillas my diet has been simply suffering. But, there is always light!

Last week I was speaking with ASOY’s science teacher Thom, about my predicament and he inspired to try out the local corn once again. With his nudging, I took out the leftover corn flour from my first attempt at tortear and grinded the living hell out of it. Then I sifted it using a flour sifter and took out all the larger granuals. Then, I repeated the ancient process that is taking place right now in millions of Mayan homes and made the tortillas.

This time, there was no overly grainy taste and the final product was actually okay! While the taste of Cameroonian corn is still not ideal for tortear, the corn, once ground into dust is actually quite tasty!

So, a goofy nomadic American kid kicks it in Guatemala for a bit, eats a ton of and subsequently learns to make an ancient cuisine, brings it with him to West Africa. Adopts the practice to the current surroundings and bang! We have globalization. Please believe that after my visit stateside this summer I will be returning with a handful of traditional Guatemalan tortilla corn seeds and bring the process of globalization full circle. Who knows, maybe in a generation or two Cameroonians are as well known for their tortillas as Guatemalans, saber…

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