The majority of my holiday memories revolve around two people: my grandparents Erminia and S.A. Fierro.
From Thanksgiving through January 1, our home was one of constant activity with my grandpa spelling well wishes of a new year on the fence in Christmas lights, hanging more lights around the porch, and even growing a beard to look like Santa.
While he worked outside, Grandma and I trimmed the tree and cooked.
One of their traditions was making pans of enchiladas to give to neighbors and friends as gifts. I shredded the cheese. Fortunately, I was smart enough to watch Grandma make the enchiladas.
But as my grandparents got older and their health declined, Grandma struggled to create those enchiladas, so we began making dozens of flour tortillas to hand out to friends instead.
Rolling out 25 pounds of tortilla dough isn’t easy, but aside from realizing how happy we’d make our friends, the time spent with my grandmother was priceless. Those times in the kitchen strengthened our relationship.
That’s where my education of running a household, preparing meals, and getting advice on life began. Grandma shared the history of our family, explained how friendships with other families developed, and demonstrated the importance of acknowledging what each person means — one baked tortilla at a time.
And really, that’s what those enchiladas and tortillas symbolized: how much we value those who received them.
This year is the 27th anniversary of my grandmother’s death and the 22nd anniversary of my grandfather’s.
Despite their passings, the tortilla tradition continues because my baby sister, Andrèa, now fills Grandma’s role. She makes the dough while I roll out the tortillas. Sometimes, we recruit sister-in-law Priscilla to help.
Our conversations are a lot like the conversations with Grandma. We still talk family history, how many decades our family has been friends with other area families, and anything family-related.
Tortilla making continues to strengthen my relationship with my sister because we share much more about ourselves than simply our knowledge of Mexican cuisine.
The gifts of a dozen tortillas is still for the same reason: to let others know how much we value them.
Andrèa and I often joke that all the women in our family who’ve gone on before us are giggling at the tortilla shapes we’ve created (a lot of them aren’t perfectly round). And they must find a lot of enjoyment at the amount of tortilla dough that needs to be rolled out and baked.
We also know they approve of keeping a tradition going that brings smiles and full bellies to those who receive a bundle of homemade tortillas.