Mexican Cooking Good Luck Ritual

The informant is a 47-year old accountant working in California, originally from Michoacán, Mexico. She lived a modest life as a young adult, having to take care of her family at a very young age while still finding success in management. She then moved to the United States with her husband to raise their family and now works in accounting. She primarily speaks Spanish with English as a second language.  He shall be referred to as MB.

MB explained that when she was first growing up, she lived on a ranch with a traditional adobe stove, heated by an open fire fueled by firewood. MB states that every morning, her grandmother would make tortillas from scratch, but the first tortilla would always get tossed into the fire. MB says her grandmother did this to “feed” the fire and keep it happy, to be sure it behaved properly throughout the rest of the cooking process in the morning.

According to MB, this tradition didn’t carry over with her mother or herself because of their transition to a consumer gas stove when they moved from the ranch.

To me, this personification of the stove fire reflects the great practicality of life on the ranch. Unlike modern households, where we are separated from so many of our amenities (we don’t see the fire in our stoves when we cook, and our dishes are cleaned within the confines of a dishwashing machine), those who actually do that work with their hands have a greater respect for such basic things as fire and water. This could explain the personification of a fire as something to be kept content for the sake of the people cooking, almost like a religious offering (considering how devoutly Catholic MB’s grandmother was). While MB and her mother didn’t carry on the tradition and attributed it to a lack of adobe stove, she appeared to have been willing to do so had it not been for the dangerousness of throwing a tortilla into the small fire of a gas stove.