Stretching the dough

Economic resiliency and the kinesthetics of food heritage across the US–Mexico border

Authored by: Maribel L. Alvarez

The Routledge Companion to Intangible Cultural Heritage

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138860551
eBook ISBN: 9781315716404
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506898


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The woman’s arm extends laterally, swerving midriff between shoulder and belly to catch the overhang of the free falling tortilla. The flat cake, a simple mixture of wheat flour, warm water, salt and shortening, drapes her forearm like a gauze curtain. Dispensing just the right amount of energy, over and under the elbow, these movements require such precision that observers quickly realize they might be witnesses to an ‘implicit pedagogy’ with a value that exceeds the boundaries of what is happening here and now (Bourdieu, 1977, p. 94). A gesture at once tactile and impalpable, the making of flour tortillas in northern Mexico is as much an enterprise of muscle memory as it is a display of dexterity.

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