Rice, Beans, and Tortillas

The primary Mexican diet consists of carbohydrates. Rice, beans, tortilla–oh and some form of meat. It is surprising how many people do not know that beans are a carbohydrate and not a protein. I worked at a clinic and was discussing with some of the medical assistants and non-medical staff that even though rice and beans make a complex carbohydrate, beans are still a carbohydrate. They did not believe me until the doctor confirmed what I was saying.

Anyway back to rice, beans, and tortillas. Mexicans don’t seem to eat many vegetables. When they do it is lettuce, cucumber and occasionally corn. I will talk about Mexican corn later because it is amazing.

I remember growing up in Texas at all the Tex-Mex restaurants and even at home we would have this knock off version of rice. It was red with some unidentifiable objects in it. I always avoided it. It was not until my good friend made rice was for me that I realized what this red stuff was supposed to be. She cooks her white rice with water, oil, and salt. If she wants a tomato flavor she will add a tomato bullion cube or tomato puree.

She also makes other amazing rices using the same method of cooking. She will add onion and garlic. Sometimes she adds a chicken bullion to this. I think she also has some secret ingredient because it always turns out perfect. Of course lime can be squeezed over any of these varieties because lime and chile are added to most foods. At others times she adds sour cream to already cooked rice and it is very good. All the rice I have had so far in Mexican is very good even though I prefer whole grain rices.

Beans can be bought pre-boiled at any of the little corner stores. You just have to choose who you trust to have good beans. They come in either a plastic container or bag. Of course you can make them yourself at home with water, salt, oil, and a little garlic and onion. The dried beans can be bought anywhere and they are pretty inexpensive. If you choose to buy them pre-cooked they can easily be turned into refried beans. They are first pureed with a little juice and then put in a skillet with oil or lard. My friend uses canola oil because she is trying to be a little healthier. You can buy olive oil in Mexico though, we will have to try that some time. Anyway they are cooked in the skillet with the oil until they are how you want them, hopefully not too long or they will dry out.

Tortillas can either be corn made from Maiza (this is corn flour, very different from corn meal and will not work for cornbread–I tried) or flour made from horina (normal white flour). Or it is pretty easy just to walk down to the tortilla shop and buy them pre-made. In Mexico corn tortillas are used more often. Sometime my friend is going to teach me how to make tortillas but that has not been a necessity yet. I will learn before we leave Mexico. My cousin Joy, who is married to a Texan from Mexican descent, makes the best flour tortillas in the world. Her mother-in-law taught her. When I was teaching my friend in Mexico how to make a pie crust she said it was pretty similar to making tortillas. Someday we will see.


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