Grandma’s Tortillas

by MichelleR on March 14, 2012

Every day after school along with her brother and two cousins Erika would spend the afternoons with her grandparents. She remembers the house always smelling like flour and freshly made tortillas. Her grandmother, as fast as she cooked, could never keep her home-made tortillas on the table long enough. The afternoons were full of old stories and games, even friends from the local neighborhood would come over to eat Grandma’s tortillas. Even as a little kid, Erika always remembers having a tortilla in her hand.

One year Erika and her family took a trip to Sacramento with her Grandparents to visit her cousins. Leaving at the crack of dawn, it didn’t save them time when they got a flat tire on Highway 5 in the middle of nowhere. Having to wait for the CHP to show up, the blazing hot summer sun was changing the mood of the road-trip quickly. Fortunately Grandma saved the day with her burritos and her home-made tortillas!

Holidays always brought massive amounts of family and food. Every house always had dishes of posole, menulo and tamales, in addition to the regular rice, beans and tortillas. Around Christmas time the food doubled. Christmas Eve is when they opened their presents with intimate family and ate “buñuelos” a fried “sweet-do” tortilla served with cinnamon sugar and warm syrup. On Christmas day every household they would visit had the three main dishes; posole, menulo and tamales. One Christmas, Erika attempted to make tamales by herself, in one day! She soon realized it must have taken her Grandma three days to make the tamales! The physical labor of the tamale is very intensive, Erika’s poor back was in pain after it was all said and done. She would have to wait for the meat to boil, and then physically shred the meat. Her whole family said they were delicious, her grandma was very proud. Last Christmas her family had a tamale making party. They made candy tamales for the kids; they used Kool-Aid instead of water to make the maza come out sweet.

Erika’s grandfather loved Half Moon Bay. They used to live in the farms behind the pumpkin patches. Erika’s Grandparents used to take the family to the beaches at Half Moon Bay to have a picnic and of course there were tortillas. Every year they would all go to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, it is like a county fair full of food and fresh produce.

Before living in Half Moon Bay, her grandparents came from Mexico. The family visited Mexico on a 19 hour car ride with her Grandfather driving the whole way. Once again the car was stocked with a cooler full of soda, beer and burritos. They went to their Cousin’s home-town of Sonora, Hermocillo to visit the family’s farm. Two to three hours from there, they traveled to a small mountain town where only houses and horses took up land. The downtown area was a place called “la plaza” where dances, performances and announcements took place. In this “plaza” single guys and girls would walk opposite of each other, and if you were dating you would have to sneak hand holds. With Grandpa’s arrival, the town was up for celebration. Erika’s cousins put on a performance of slaughtering a cow in his honor. Everyone ate the cow, except for Erika because it was her first time seeing an animal fully prepared. The celebration was followed by food, drink and music. On their way home from Mexico they stopped at a Mexicali- border town to visit more family. The houses were not as safe as the ones in the Mountains; her family would keep people out by putting shards of colorful glass glued to the top of their wall.

Erika’s favorite family memories are weddings. These are not typical American catered weddings, but where the entire family is involved and each member has a designated task. One group would set up chairs, decorate, cook, play music, everyone was participating in some way. Children were welcome to the weddings, and always running around. All of the bride’s family would walk to the house of the groom’s family where they would meet for the first time. Then they would all walk together to the church. One of the different traditions Mexican weddings have is the “La vibora del mar” dance. It takes the place of the American tradition of throwing the bouquet/garter to the singles. The men and women are divided with the groom and bride standing on chairs to form the arch under which everyone passes. The groom often uses the veil or train of the bride’s dress. The rhythm of music is followed, which gets faster and faster, the participants struggling to keep the “snake” together running through tables, chairs and the couple. At the end of the game, depending on the sex of the participants, the bride throws from her chair the wedding bouquet, and the groom the garter.

To see this dance please click on the link below:

La Vibora De La Mar

Mexican Wedding Cookies:







  •  1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  •  1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
  •  1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces


Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed gradually add the flour. Mix in the pecans with a spatula. With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks.

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