mexican tortas: a spanish lesson

One of the main reasons my family moved to Mexico at the end of this summer was so that my children, ages 12 and 9, would learn Spanish.  They were born and raised in South Florida, guided by a pair of expat parents raised in Venezuela and coddled in a culture swimming with Latin American influence, so, it is not a language they are completely foreign to, but still, they are gringos, and we felt the best way to fully turn that language skill around was by living in a Spanish-speaking country.
We’ve already seen results in the short month we’ve been living in Mexico.  My son watches the early morning kiddie shows as he gets ready to school.  It is stuff he’d never dream about back home- Dora the Explorer, Handy Mandy, and Wonder Pets.  These are all phases he long outgrew.  The difference, of course, is that these are all in Spanish, and now our mornings are filled with the same sickly sweet lyrics we were subjected to five years ago, only this time…in Spanish!  (‘El telefono, el telefono suena…es hora de despertar.’)
Both kids seem to be assimilating to their new culture at light speed and the language seems to be no exception.  Aside from sharing new candies and lollipops (‘covered in chili powder, mom!’) they are answering back with the slick smoothness of a native, “No manches, guey” (translates roughly to ‘no kidding, dude’.)
I am a fluent Spanish speaker, born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela.  And yet, I am learning fast, I don’t quite speak Mexican.  Certain Spanish words I have used all my life for one thing mean something totally different here. Or worse, are completely useless here because they represent something totally different and/or indecent.Foods are an equal literary maze.  Give me a menu at an authentic Mexican restaurant and I am stumped.  Quite simply, stumped.  It is my goal to work on that while I am here and become a fluent speaker.  I’ve already started!  When I first arrived, there was a big buzz about the best spot for tortas for a quick comida. My Spanish tells me that comida means ‘food’ but it turns out, comida is the Mexican version of my almuerzo, or lunch.  People in Mexico go to la comida when they go to lunch.  If they are short on time, they have a quick torta, which had me stumped once again because for me, torta means cake, and, as much as I love a good cake, I know better than to devour one for lunch.
The Mexicans are kind and gracious and immediately forgiving so there was little shame on my part when I made the first inquiry about their habit of cake eating for lunch.  “We’ll take you to have the best torta” my Mexican guide offered as a memorable lesson in language.  And that’s when I learned (and will never forget), the art of the Mexican torta:  a delicious sandwich crammed with meat, smashed avocado, pickled jalapeño, lettuce, tomato and onions. Sometimes refried beans are slathered on there too.  Of course there are many different fillings, but the classic, and my favorite, is with Torta de Carne Arrachera, flank steak sandwich.  Translastion:  yum!

Torta Arrachera

5 tablespoons oil
¾ of a pound of flank steak (cut into strips for fajitas)

salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 Keiser rolls (or Torta rolls if you can find them!)

slather on the rolls:
guacamole and/or sliced avocado
And add:
sliced tomatoes
sliced red onions
Use the freshest meat you can find. Heat oil at medium high on a skillet and sauté the meat until it is brown. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder. Assemble 4 sandwiches.
Serves 4

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mexican tortas: a spanish lesson

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2 Responses to “mexican tortas: a spanish lesson”

  1. Chef Art says:

    Sound delish, will you make some for us when you come back? I keep an eye on your house while the kids are at “Spanish” school.

  2. Peggy says:

    My Minneapolis neighborhood is mostly Central American, with a lot of East Africans thrown in, and just a few of us melanin-challenged folks. The best tortas on Earth are available just a few blocks from my front door. Those you’re getting sound pretty good too. Mmmmmmm….

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