I remember waking up to that smell. Toasty warm tortillas right off the comal. They were my favorite. Of course, I could never eat just one.
Billy and I each had our own style for consuming homemade tortillas. He would roll them up and bite into one side, preserving their heat while quickly devouring. I love eating them flat or simply folding them in half and I always added salt to mine. We spent so many afternoons debating about which technique was more effective while running between the backyard and the kitchen grabbing fresh tortilla after fresh tortillas.
I liked to tease Billy because of the photos I’d seen of him attacking tortillas as a toddler. With a tortilla in one had and a black chicken resting under his arm, Ma says he’d walk around in diapers, showing off his chicken, “Eagle,” with a mouthful of tortillas. They called him El Gordo.
Most small town kids have a slew of animals at home. Our family has had countless chickens, dogs and even a goat. We named him Elvis because the afternoon we picked him up he wouldn’t stop screaming on the car ride home.
“El Gordo! El Gordo!” I’d chant at Billy while we roughhoused.
In response, he’d usually grab my arm and give me a “snake bite” or put me in a headlock for a long minute. Being older, and as a result, bigger than me had its advantages.
I don’t think he minded the nickname too much. Everyone thought he was so cute. He loves that. Even if he denies it.
“Let’s go grab another!” I urged him.
“I’ve got an idea!” Billy smiled. “I’ll be right back.”
He ran inside. In a minute, he was back on the patio.
“We’re making a bunch of extra tortillas and bringing them to the animal shelter.
“Animals can’t eat tortillas?” I was confused.
“I know that! But the people that take care of the animals can and I bet they’re hungry after a hard day of caring for all those animals.”
Billy was always thinking about animals. Animals and being outside. That summed up Billy. He didn’t know it, but I loved that about him.
“Okay! And maybe we could take some to the people at the veterinary clinic and the food pantry too.”
“We better help make them then! Let’s go!”
We made tortillas all afternoon. Mixing and kneading, rolling and cooking. Flour dusted the counters and that delicious toasted aroma filled the house. After we had made more tortillas than we could count we divided them up, wrapped them in aluminum foil to keep warm and delivered them to friends around town.
Most small town kids are taught to take care of your neighbor. Our community was always having potlucks and gatherings. We loved contributing all on our own. It was a first for us.
Of course, at the animal shelter we stopped to play with the puppies. Our dog had died a few months ago. Old age. Billy was devastated. He buried him alone and stayed out there for hours.
That day we came home with a furry little Shepard mix. I named him El Gordo.