Fearful that her dim-witted and loose-lipped husband would tell everyone in the village his good fortune in having found three bags of gold, the woodcutter’s wife concocted a plan. She had her husband buy her a one-hundred pound bag of flour and when he returned with the flour, she told him to lay down and rest for a while. While her weary husband slept, the woman made tortillas from the entire one-hundred pound bag of flour, so many tortillas the stacks climbed to the ceiling. She then carried the tortillas outside and threw them all over the ground.
When the woodcutter woke up the next morning, he was amazed to find tortillas covering the ground. His wife told him it must have snowed tortillas during the night. When he wouldn’t believe her, she sent him to school to learn about the phenomena of snowing tortillas. While in town, he blabbed far and wide about the bags of gold, something that didn’t escape the notice of two robbers who showed up at his house demanding the gold.
The woodcutter told the robbers that his wife had hidden the gold to which his wife retorted “what gold, I don’t know anything about any gold.” “Sure you do,” he argued. “Don’t you remember? I was the day it snowed tortillas. I came home with three bags of gold and the next morning you made me go to school.” Believing the man was out of his mind, the robbers left, never to return. The woodcutter and his wife never did find out who the bags of gold belonged to and kept it for themselves.
The rich folklore of the Hispanic culture of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado is preserved largely through cuentos passed down from one generation to the next. Cuentos are stories, legends and myths, the type for which Aesop is renown. Many cuentos are replete with the wisdom of the ages expressed in simplistic terms even a child can easily comprehend. They offer words to live by–and if they don’t impart a valuable lesson, they are unfailingly entertaining.
The Day It Snowed Tortillas is not only the name of the aforetold cuento, it is the name of master storyteller Joe Hayes’ signature book. Hayes specializes in folk tales from many cultures and has kept children and adults alike spellbound with his animated telling of cuentos, the tales of Hispanic New Mexicans. He is one of America’s premier storytellers in both Spanish and English.
In 2005, it snowed tortillas throughout the United States–and not just figuratively. According to the Tortilla Industry Association, during that year, tortilla sales in the United States totaled more than $6 billion, more than doubling their sales from the previous decade ($2 billion in 1994). Because of their versatility and deliciousness, tortillas have become so mainstream that the combined sales in the retail and food service industries are closing in rapidly on white bread. Bread, as a whole is on a decline, while the popularity of tortillas continues on the ascend.
Flour tortillas have become one of the most successful and popular products in the baking industry. They have survived negative dietary trends and their growth in popularity shows no surcease, thanks in large measure to their versatility. They’re not just for burritos, quesadillas and tacos any more. They’re often used as sandwich wraps and salad bowls.
In Albuquerque no one makes it snow tortillas (figuratively now) more than the Albuquerque Tortilla Company which turns out some 4-million flour tortillas and 3-million corn tortillas each and every week along with more than one hundred other food products which are distributed throughout the Southwest, to the West coast and beyond. The Albuquerque Tortilla Company is a true American success story which began in 1987 with a secret recipe and a dream. Starting with a used tortilla machine and eight employees in a tiny facility, the family business quickly outgrew its diminutive digs and today occupies 189,000 square feet of space. It takes a lot of space to make it snow tortillas.
The Albuquerque Tortilla Company prides itself on “home-style” tortillas, but it’s been my experience that no machine, no matter how state-of-the-art, can produce tortillas to match those hand-patted orbs griddled on a well-seasoned comal by a New Mexican abuelita like mine. In a pinch, however, the Albuquerque Tortilla Company’s tortillas will do. That’s because they’re not the paper-thin tortilla facades manufactured elsewhere. There must be something to that secret recipe, too, because these actually taste pretty good and the texture has a familiar feel, too.
Not just a tortilla company any more, the Albuquerque Tortilla Company manufactures a complete line of food products using chiles from Hatch in our very own Land of Enchantment. Those chiles are the heart and soul of many of the company’s prepared food recipes which are prepared in a state-of-the-art prepared foods plant, an 85,000 square foot production and freezer space. In addition to their food products operations, the Albuquerque Tortilla Company operates a family restaurant in the North Valley right next to the Village Market, one of the city’s best sites for fresh comestibles. Skeptics who might wonder if a meal at the restaurant tastes like something mass produced or manufactured are in for a surprise. The food is surprisingly good.
One of the first surprises is that chips and salsa are complementary, an increasing rarity in these austere economic times. The salsa is quite good with an incendiary bite that tingles the tongue and tantalizes the taste buds. Although just a bit watery, exercise a little care and it won’t run off the chips which are relatively low in salt and unfailingly crisp.
Burritos are a perfect vehicle for the company’s tortillas and like the restaurant’s stuffed sopaipillas can be stuffed in a variety of ways: carne adovada, chicken, beef, beef and bean, bean, shredded beef, shredded beef and bean, carnitas and smothered with chile. Also similar to other plates, portions are profuse. Each burrito plate comes with two burritos as well as beans and rice.
The carne adovada burrito smothered in red chile is a stand-out. The pork is tender and delicious, shredded instead of cubed so that the red chile marinade is better disseminated. The chicharron burrito is equally impressive with chicharrones that are cut small and as devoid of fat as any chicharrones you’ll find anywhere. There are also more chicharrones per burrito than any other in town. Smother this one with green chile for a taste adventure to be cherished. The beans are refried, but surprisingly moist considering so many of the ilk are as desiccated as the desert. The rice is somewhat nondescript, neither notable as good or bad.
My buddy Mike Muller swears by the green chile cheeseburger, a five-inch behemoth served with French fries and green chile that bites back.
With retail locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas and of course, New Mexico, the Albuquerque Tortilla Company is making it snow tortillas throughout the southwest, perhaps someday throughout the world.
Albuquerque Tortilla Company Family Restaurant & Take Out
141 Osuna Rd., N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 10 September 2009
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Carne Adovada Burrito with Red Chile, Chicharron Burrito with Green Chile, Salsa and Chips