Missionary Mommy Advice – Cook like a local – Tortillas

Amy LOVES giving parenting advice.  She is passionate about cloth diapering, breastfeeding, and sleeping.  One of our friends recently found out she was pregnant and asked Amy for advice.  This series hopes to capture that email exchange for posterity sake!  Missionary mommies, mommies on mission or anyone in general…ENJOY!

Mommy’s, is this a conversation in your house?

Me: What do you want for dinner tonight?

Husband / Kids: I don’t know.  Whatever.

Me: Ok how about (insert something delicious and yet low maintenance to make)?

Husband / Kids: Umm…not really I don’t want that.  How about (insert something less delicious and healthy and quite labor-intensive to make)?

I end up making what they want and then the kids only eat a portion of it!  Talk about SERIOUS aggravation…Ooh I best pray for a calm heart right now thinking about it! Dear Jesus…..

….ok I’m back

Now imagine you are in a new country and don’t have access to those family favorites of the States.  For the missionary mommy, cooking like a local becomes a necessity to maintain your sanity!  This was one of the top 3 lessons I have learned since being in Belize.  But cooking like a local was a hard missionary mommy lesson to learn.

It was September 2012, we had just moved to Belize, quite literally that day.  We go to the grocery store, not really knowing what we were getting into and thought ourselves “let’s have Mexican”.  We are so excited so we scour the aisles.  We get the cheese; we get the tomatoes, green peppers, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, for the pico and then we start looking for the tortillas.  So we look in the usual places refrigerated aisles, others as well.  We make one pass, then another, finally a third and we realize….

Uh Oh!  They don’t have pre-made tortillas here.  Then we thought…how do they even do Burritos?!?

I distinctly remember with each pass of the aisles the panic in my voice raising and volumes that are embarassing.  Heads turn and look.  Josh tries to calm me down. We quickly finish the shopping and leave.

So needless to say, after waking up at 3AM that morning to MOVE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY and FAILING at grocery shopping, we did NOT have Mexican food and I was sure we were going to go hungry FOREVER!

The next 4 – 5 weeks were much of the same, story…wash, rinse, repeat.  Desire something “American”, Belize doesn’t have the ingredients, and I left the store frustrated and determined that I wasn’t sure we made the right decision moving here.

Then it hit me… We were at a friend’s house eating and I watched her make tortillas….What’s that I remember asking?  She said tortillas.  That night Madeline literally ate 7 12″ homemade tortillas and the LIGHT BULB went off!

It was time to learn to cook like a local.  But there was one problem.  I am a recipe-follower.  If it says put 1/2 of a tablespoon in something, I am the person that gets a knife and levels it off.  Exact, precise, that’s how I cook.  And it drives Josh BONKERS!  He is an engineer’s cook I guess.  A lot of estimation and risk in cooking.  I want to know if something didn’t come out ok then it was the recipe’s fault and not mine!!

In Belize, recipes, a lot like time adherence, are dreams and not realities.  SO I had to adjust.  There was NOT going to be a recipe for tortillas.  I was just going to have to figure it out.  After a couple of failed attempts, we had a Belizean come over and walk me through the process.  She cooked, I scribbled down a make-shift recipe.  She said things like “on really humid days this is what I do for the recipe!”  I thought to myself. what on earth do you mean “YOU ADJUST THE RECIPE BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER!!!!”  This missionary mommy, may never learn to cook like a local I thought to myself.

But the number one personality trait that I rely on while in country is my own stubbornness.  I was personally tired of eating “mercia food.  It was time to push through my own hang-ups. First there were the gooey ones and then there were the cardboardy ones and then the so-so ones….and then it happened. I made a batch of perfect tortillas.

The only way I can describe my elation is like when you make a batch of cookies or a cake and it comes out just right, the icing is perfect, shape is perfect, taste is spot on.  That’s what it was like for the tortillas.  They came out and looked the part and then I tasted one and wow…it was not just good, it was great!  Then Josh tasted it!  Got his approval.  Then Madeline ate one and then another and then another….We had success!

Now I am happy to say that I am a tortilla master, both corn and flour versions.   And this missionary mommy can start lowering the food budget as I begin to master cooking like a local.  Instead of having something American that costs too much, we now are eating fry beans, eggs, and tortillas.  Cooking like a local has changed my demeanor, frustration level and quite frankly budget!

So for all you missionary mommies or really just mommies out there, stop using the store bought tortillas and start making your own!  It’s not as hard as it seems and the results, rewards, and lower food costs, will speak for themselves.

And since I know there are rule / recipe-followers like me out there.  This is what I came up with after my trial and error for the

Perfect Flour Tortillas.  Enjoy!!

(makes about 6-7 burrito size tortillas)

3 cups of flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons of shortening

1 cup of water (may not use it all)

vegetable oil for counter

Place first 3 ingredients in bowl and mix together. Add shortening and make into cornmeal consistency. Then add water until moist. Knead lightly on a lightly oiled counter until mixed. Let rest for 20-30 minutes. Then divide into balls. Then flatten them with your hands or a rolling pin (all Belizeans laugh at me when I do this. I can’t do it by hand yet). Then  place onto a cast iron pan or griddle or comal over a medium heat. They will start to get hard around the edges and then you flip.  Finish on next side and place on plate to rest.  Then Enjoy!!!



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