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Toasting Toasted!



Toasting Toasted
I'm a retired AP reporter/bureau chief. I loved John Saltas' Private Eye column on Christmas Eve. Last night, I toasted (a bit too much, methinks) to A Christmas Story, and Saltas' writing ["Xmas Central," Dec. 24, City Weekly], prompted me to toast to him (lightly, this time of day).

Merry Christmas, John, and please buy the Tribune.

Bill Beecham
Salt Lake City

Never a Flour Tortilla!
As a gringa who loves to eat and has lived in Oaxaca for many years, I beg to correct some of your comments about tlayudas ["Monday Meal: Oaxacan-style Tlayudas," Dec. 15,]. First, the name comes from Nahuatl and the "tl" at the beginning is pronounced like a "cl" sound. In fact, in older parts of town, most of the signs are spelled clayuda. This would be the sound used in other local words, such as Jalatlaco, Tlacolula. Definitely a "click c" at the beginning.

It's OK to pronounce it wrong, but never, ever, ever use a flour tortilla. Only the Northerners here in Mexico eat flour tortillas, unless you go to the pueblo of Tepelmeme on the way to Puebla. There, they take their local wheat and grind it into a masa with the metate. Think the best Indian chapati you have ever had, and it is better!

In the markets, you hear women selling blandas (large soft handmade tortillas) and tlayudas (these are the same large size but have been carefully dried). Always, always always, the masa is maize.

You left out a key flavor: asiento. Or pork lard. It is always smeared generously over the entire tlayuda. Recently, we can buy a great product that tastes very good and almost like asiento. Strangely enough, it is ground sunflower seeds. Think sort of like tahini is to sesame seeds.

The bean paste that is then spread on the tlayuda is the chef's secret. Not always with pasilla—I love pasilla, and I think I get it about half the time—sometimes, it is with just epozote or finished with hierba de conejo or hoja de aguacate (rabbit herb and avocado leaves). I have never seen a large quantity of onion added. The bean paste I see is still black.

Some people do make it on a comal, but the most common way is to put it folded into a wire basket (sort of like one used to grill fish). It is hinged and just the right size—all tlayudas are the same size. This wire basket is placed directly on the coals. When toasty, the tomato, avocado and, perhaps, cabbage or now lettuce is added with your required amount of salsa. The meat is usually grilled separately, and because it is somewhat tough, it is often just eaten with your fingers. Usually, it's tasajo or cecina.

If you come to Oaxaca City again, let me know. The lady at my corner makes heaven every night—tlayudas, melotes, tostadas, tacos dorados, empanadas de queso, and on Saturday, incredible pozole. Hard to spend more than 20 pesos.

Never a flour tortilla!


Teri Gunderson
Oaxaca, Mexico

Correction: Utah guitarist Jamie Glaser is working on an album titled Grateful Am I. The album is influenced by the LDS faith, although Glaser himself is not LDS. The introduction to City Weekly's Dec. 24 Five Spot column indicated otherwise.