MEXICAN DOMESTIC LIFE
Many old but very practical cooking utensils are still widely used in Mexico. These include:
- Cazuela: earthenware casserole used both for cooking and serving
- Olla: earthenware jug
- Comal: round iron or earthenware baking sheet used to cook tortillas
- Metate: three-legged oblong stone base used with a cylindrical stone called a metlapil to grind corn or chocolate
And while most women can pat a tortilla to paper-thinness – a considerable skill – with just their hands, the use of a tortilla press is common, and store-bought tortillas are inexpensive and increasingly popular. The tortilla is the staple pancake-like bread, used by every class and present at every meal. It is prepared from simple ingredients of masa harina (flour ground from corn), warm water, and salt. Skill is required to attain just the right consistency to press out the tortillas. It can be used in many ways in a great variety of dishes, and also as a plate or utensil to scoop up and eat other foods.
Most modern Mexican kitchens consider the electric blender a necessity to puree sauces and grind spice mixtures and pastes to the right consistency, for those techniques are the most exacting and time-consuming in the Mexican kitchen.
It should be pointed out that although there exists to Mexico today a poor lower class and a wealthy upper class, the white-collar middle class is expanding rapidly thanks to newer and better schooling and living conditions. Annually more and more of Mexico’s citizens are enjoying the benefits of these good living and working conditions. And while the poorer and rural people make excellent use of the many old yet practical utensils, the kitchens of the middle and upper classes rival any in North America: yet it is rare that the lady of the house is also the cook.
Since many fine markets with fresh produce abound, food storage is really not a problem as most families prefer to buy their foods fresh each day. In some homes this may even include a fresh daily supply of tortillas and the freshly baked rolls called bolillas. Refrigerators are common in middle- and upper-class homes, as are various small electrical appliances, especially blenders. But freezers are not widely used. Lower-class homes rely on earthenware vessels to keep foods cool as needed.