About 16 years ago, I lost my hungry heart to a flour tortilla. I was in the small town of Las Vegas N.M., at Charlie’s Spic & Span Café, when a server placed a basket on the table. Inside was a stack of thick, charmingly floppy tortillas, dotted with browned bubbles and closer in thickness to pancakes than the wan, flaccid discs I was used to at the supermarket. My Brooklyn-by-way-of-Michigan palate was infatuated: What magic was this? How could I not have known that tortillas like these existed?
Once I headed back east, I faced a vexing problem. I could find thin flour tortillas in every grocery store. But I couldn’t find the thick, blistered ones ones. Even as time passed and the foodie revolution took hold, the problem remained: The flour tortillas I encountered were only thin, often reduced, distressingly, to “wraps.”
Part of the problem was that I’d fallen in love with a regional specialty product. Thick flour tortillas are “so specific to the region of New Mexico that [they] didn’t popularize,” says Maribel Alvarez, public folklorist at the University of Arizona.