Monday, December 2, 2013

For My Sister

About five years ago when my sister was coming to visit us from Tucson, she asked if there was anything she could bring me. Why yes, I said. I want a molcajete.

A molcajete, for those of you who are not from Arizona or another state with a big Mexican population, is a kind of mortar and pestle made out of very rough stone (traditionally basalt, a volcanic rock). It's the traditional Mexican tool for grinding spices and stuff like garlic for salsa or whatever. 

I think at the time we had a big bag of cumin seeds I was using to make salsa and I needed a way to grind them. Small stuff like that can't be broken up in a food processor because it just slips under the blade. In retrospect, I do not know why the hell I didn't just buy a spice grinder like a normal person. Probably because I'm not a normal person. I'm a person who thinks nothing of smashing seeds in a rock vessel.

So I requested the molcajete. And my sister, being the stand-up gal that she is, made a trip to South Tucson to secure one for me and then hauled it in her suitcase all the way to New York. This was a significant feat, because HOLY HELL are molcajetes heavy. They're solid stone, and they're not really something you want to be lugging cross-country.

But like I said, my sister is swell that way. I asked, she delivered.

And then, uh, I never used it. Shame.

It's been sitting in our guest bedroom downstairs--quite decoratively, I might add--ever since then. And the reason I never used it is because of the initial preparation necessary before the molcajete can be used. See, because the stone is so rough, it has to be kind of seasoned and ground down or else the food you make in it will have little bits of stone in it.


So it has to be soaked for awhile, then dried, and then you have to grind white rice in it over and over until there's no more gray in the white rice. That's when you know it's done shedding bits of rock into your food. I never did this, so it was unusable.

Then I decided to make mustard yesterday. The mustard seeds needed to be ground a little, and like the cumin seeds, the food processor was useless. I tried putting them in a bag and whacking them with a cast iron pan. Nope, no good. 

So I prepared the molcajete: soak, dry, grindgrindgrind. Then I ground up the mustard seeds. And it worked perfectly. Plus, it was kind of fun to stand there like a peasant woman in my kitchen grinding away in my molcajete. Kind of fun for a short time; I wouldn't want to do it for long, I'll tell you that. Those peasant women must have had some incredible arm muscles.

Anyway, the point is, the molcajete has finally been put into service. So thanks again, sis, for hauling it cross-country for me. Next time you come to visit, I'll make you some mustard.

* I used this recipe. It's still aging in the refrigerator, so the jury's still out as to whether it will be any good.


Anonymous said...

So glad that it is in use!

And, for the record, may I state that I only had carryon luggage that trip, so I got to explain a molcajete to TSA. In Pheonix, that should really need no explanation. But, they decided I wasn't going to weaponize it, so we were let thru.


Anonymous said...

I guess you could've used it as a cannon ball.:) Beth

rls said...

I'm just impressed that you still knew where to find it in your house after 5-ish years.

Joan @ Debt of Gratitude said...

So proud of you! Wish I had one.

You know, Krysta at Evil Chef Mom claims you can only make a proper guacamole in one. I've wanted one ever since.

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

Oh, my heavens.
I totally want one.