Tortillas are cheap. So why make them? Well there are a few good reasons. For one, homemade tortillas taste WAY better. Partly because they are fresh. Partly because they don't have a lot of preservative. I always hate that weird dry flavor in store bought tortillas. Another reason is that you can make them however you want with whatever you want. We don't usually get extremely creative with this. We usually just add half whole grain flour, but I suppose you could add herbs and spices if you wanted to. It's also a lot of fun for the kids! It is also a lot easier to prepare quick, healthy recipes and eat healthy when you have a stack of freshly made tortillas in the fridge.
What I really want to talk about though is this concept of holistic living as a way of being cost effective. I find that making tortillas is a great way to illustrate. If I look at what I did this afternoon I can say that I made about 50 tortillas in about 2 1/2 hours. I spent about 5 dollars on the ingredients. I know that I can go to the store and buy 12 tortillas for about 3 dollars. I save about $7.50 on 50 tortillas. So I just spent 2 1/2 hours of fairly hard work saving a measly $7.50. Most people would say that this just isn't cost effective and they would go back to store bought tortillas. But there are a lot of flaws in looking at it this way. It makes a few assumptions. The first assumption is that both tortillas are of equal value. The second assumption is that making tortillas was the ONLY thing I was doing for that 2 1/2 hours. And the third assumption is that I'm clocked in somewhere!
So are store bought tortillas and homemade tortillas equal? No way. I can hardly eat store bought tortillas because I'm used to good ones. But the second question is where we get to the crux of holistic living. Was I doing MORE than making tortillas during that 2 1/2 hours? Well, from the second picture you can see that there was at least one other thing that I was doing. I was giving my kids a learning experience. They helped measure out ingredients. They helped mix. They learned that flour gets really sticky when you add water. They learned that the best way to clean sticky dough off of your hands is to rub dry flour on them. They learned how to turn a little ball of dough into a flat tortilla using a rolling pin. They got to participate in family life. And the list goes on and on.
The third assumption is that $7.50 in over two hours is not "worth it." But what would my time have been worth if I wasn't making tortillas? I didn't clock in anywhere. There isn't a minimum wage for my life. Often times the ability to work for nothing is a luxury. And if I want to put a value on my time then the least I can do is claim day care savings. Here in Wells it's about $5 per hour for three kids. That's $12.50 for 2 1/2 hours. Plus $7.50, I'm at $20.00 for 2 1/2 hours. And if I compare to the cost of expensive tortillas I'm sure the number would go up. Also I could compare to the cost of an expensive day care with tortilla making classes. Then the cost would go way up. Pretty soon my time is worth $50.00/ hr. And sometimes I look at it that way. But usually for me the important thing is to asses cost effectiveness through a holistic lens. When you consider all of the benefits of something beyond whats measurable in cost and savings, you start to integrate. Gardening becomes food, exercise, and education. The line between work and play can fade. Saving money and earning money become the exact same thing. And most importantly I find that I start to notice opportunities everywhere. How I can make the best of an item, a situation, or a problem. How I can live holistically.
Here it is: 6 cups flour
1.5 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp shortening or oil
3.25 cups of water
-Mix dry ingredients. Add water and oil. It's better to err on the side of too much water since it's easy to knead in more flour. Knead just enough to mix ingredients well.
-In the bowl that was used for mixing the dough add a little bit of oil and spread it around so the surface of the bowl is covered. Make dough into ping pong to golf ball sized balls. Place them in the oiled bowl but roll them around enough to coat them in oil first so they don't stick together when you stack them in the bowl. If there's not enough oil in the bowl to coat all of the balls then just put a little oil in a little bowl and coat the balls that way. Let them sit for about five minutes.
-Turn the burner on with a large flat skillet on it. Finding the right amount of heat comes down to trial and error since each stove top is so different, in general about low to medium.
-Get out a good rolling pin and dust the counter top with flour. Too much flour will fall off in the pan and accumulate till it starts to burn. Not enough flour will make the dough stick to the counter top and the rolling pin. You'll get a feel for it. Roll out one ball at a time to the thickness of canvas. It should make a tortilla about 6-10" across.
-Put it on the hot skillet. Don't put it on unless the skillet is hot or the tortilla will stick. As soon as you put your first tortilla on the skillet start rolling out your next one. The skillet will heat up really fast if you don't keep putting new tortillas on it. Keep an eye on the one in the skillet and flip it when it gets full of bubbles. Flip it with your fingers. Grab the edge quickly and you wont get burned. Trying to use a tool just gets too cumbersome. The second side cooks way faster so by the time you flip it you need to be ready with the next one rolled out. Keep repeating these steps until you have a nice stack of homemade tortillas.
-The last step is the most important though. There's a fine line between a tortilla and a cracker. Differences in humidity can make the dough dry or wet. The way to make sure the tortillas always stay floppy even when you mixed the dough too dry is to always keep a plate on top of the stack that is done cooking. Even better is a plate and a towel, but this gets hard to add to the pile. Basically you want the pile to steam itself a little bit. This keeps the moisture in. When you do this, dry tortillas become tough but floppy. There's nothing wrong with a tough tortilla, I kind of like them that way because they are really durable and you can pack them full of good food and they'll roll up without tearing.