Nobody likes a tasteless tortilla and one man is on a mission to make sure that nobody has to eat one.
Tortilla consumption has fallen 40% over the past 30 years because they have “lost their flavor and texture,” claims Rafael Mier, a businessman and corn promoter.
Mier is determined to rescue consumption of the national culinary icon, and says that there is no reason why there can’t be a rich diversity of different tortillas and flavors.
“In Mexico, center of the origin of corn, there is not a single tortilla: there are hundreds of tortillas as there are of varieties of corn,” he said.
However, a trend towards homogenization of the tortilla and the use of inferior corn flours are to blame for their declining quality and in turn the dwindling number of people who eat the staple, he argued.
Mier explained that a traditional process called nixtamalization — in which corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution to remove contaminants and increase nutritional value — is being lost and the quality of tortillas is deteriorating as a consequence.
“A real tortilla made with nixtamalized corn is not the same as a commercial tortilla made with industrialized, low-quality corn flour with conservatives and additives,” he said.
In Mexico, there are more than 2.5 million people who cultivate corn, around 80,000 tortillerías (tortilla shops), 15,000 convenience stores, 5,800 supermarkets and “none sell nixtamalized tortillas,” Mier complained.
The corn enthusiast also said that other popular Mexican dishes such as chilaquiles, tostadas, enchiladas and tacos used tortillas as an “invisible ingredient” and consumers don’t pay attention to their “image, quality and flavor,” leading to further negative economic, cultural and health consequences.
In addition, government authorities don’t keep records of who is cultivating what kinds of corn in the country, Mier said, implying that if they did, it would encourage the production of a greater diversity of tortillas and help restore their position at the apex of Mexico’s culinary culture.
In contrast to Mexico, Mier said that tortilla sales in the United States are on the rise and argued that if Mexico is to reverse the declining trend here, people need to elevate what many see as a humble staple to a product of near sacred significance.
“You have to look at the tortilla as [a part of our] national heritage in order to conserve the greatest exponent of our gastronomic culture . . . we must protect corn and the tortilla as elements of Mexican culture,” he said.
Source: Milenio (sp)