Previous stop: Cambodia
Now that we're back to work—mentally, if not physically, and not all that mentally yet—our trips-without-going-anywhere are less frequent, perhaps once per month. Our next stop is Baja California. We've been down to San José del Cabo twice before. (And we'd like to actually go back, so wear your mask, etc.)
For Christmas I got Chen a copy of The Baja California Cookbook by David Castro Hussong and Jay Porter. Granted, it seems to be about the northern state of Baja California near to Tijuana, not Cabo and Baja California del Sur where we've been, but it's good enough for now. An idea comes to mind: maybe we can drive the length of the peninsula some day, stitch that north part to the south part with experience. Who knows.
Taking a quick cruise through the book, I've found the thing I'm most interested in: corn. In December we were making some food with thick, soft cornmeal wrappers—sort of like spherical dumplings—but the wrappers were not easy to work with. The corn meal dough never really cohered. They wouldn't really break when we steamed them, but they would crack, or a weak spot would become a hole. I couldn't understand how corn could be made into tortillas or other kinds of bread that I associated with Mexican food. I just hate not being able to figure out something basic like that.
Halfway through the book is a page: "On masa". It describes a process called nixtamalization, which prepares the corn to be ground and, apparently, to be made into a proper dough. For me, that's the missing link. And bonus points for the word deriving from the original Nahuatl (nixtamalli) instead of Spanish.
Another thing that caught my eye was something about "sourcing good maize". I'd never thought of that before. Basically all the corn we eat now is some kind of sweet corn. What kind of corn—maize, sorry, but I don't know what the difference is—are they talking about. What kind of corn would be "local" to whichever place we were trying to model our food? Where does one get different types of corn seeds to plant (in small doses), and would it even work here? Are there types of corn that would have been native to our current area that we might be able to work with instead? I don't have anything against the types of corn we have now, but it's interesting to think about everyday things in a different way—about what the options are, what the options were, how things became the way they did.
A few other captured links:
- Diana Kennedy. The Tortilla Book (1975).
- ...and the author herself seems to be an interesting character to read more about
- Daniel Gritzer. Easy Nixtamalized Corn Tortillas Recipe. Serious Eats (2016-04-28).
- Frank Giglio. How and why to nixtamalize corn. Farm & Forage Kitchen (2014-10-29).
- Emily Johnson. Nixtamalization Protocol. Environmental Archaeology Laboratory, Boston University (2016-09-02).
- Dan Gentile. Three Local Chefs Are Keeping ‘Nixtamalization’ Alive. Austin Monthly (2020-03).
- Masienda and MiniSuper Studio. Nixtamal: A guide to masa preparation in the United States (2017).