Eloisa is the queen of our poblado el riego home– that’s the light blue three-story house in the neighborhood I’m constantly forgetting the name of every time I climb into a taxi. Where do I live? Just a minute, it’s on the tip of my tongue.
Living with a familia mexicana delivers its challenges: explaining my every move, finding the door sealed shut with a metal bar if I stay out too late, getting a heavy dose of side-eye and asked to stand on one leg so that they can evaluate how many cervezas I may have downed on a Wednesday night. After all, they say that The U.S. has security cameras; Mexico has mamás y abuelas. (The women are always watching.) But apart from the suspiciousness, this family life isn’t without its benefits: delicious, homemade meals served with a bottomless supply of sarcasm.
The chef extraordinaire, mother of two, and ultimate queen of this castillo is Eloisa. She has opened her home to native English teachers in Tehuacan for nearly a decade. Semester after semester, she feeds gringos and works hard to ensure that they leave “gorditos”– heavier than they were when they arrived.
One Saturday afternoon, while mixing masa with agua, she taught us to make memelas. The masa, or tortilla dough, it similar to that of tortillas. But when we roll it up and flatten it in the iron prensa, we have to be sure not to press too hard; flattening it completely leaves a paper-thin dough that won’t support its toppings. We want these memelas thick like a 10-peso coin. After a brief toasting on the griddle and a simple flip, it’s time to crimp the firey-hot edges with our fingers. These borders will keep the salsa, frijoles, and cheese from slipping off the sides.
At a cocina economica, you can order memelas one of 3 ways: con salsa roja, salsa verde, or bandera: half red and half green, topped with white cheese which completes the Mexican flag. Memelas have become my go-to food fix. Whether it’s 10 a.m. or 10 p.m., I’ll pick them up with my hand (“En méxico, usamos las manos,” says Eloisa), and finish a plate of three. They’re filling, flavourful, and cheap. An order of three down the street will run at about 15 pesos. And of course at home, with the blender running and salsa pouring, there’s nothing quite as fresh.