round, thin, flat bread of Mexico made from unleavened cornmeal or, less commonly, wheat flour. Traditionally the corn (maize) for tortillas was boiled with unslaked lime to soften the kernels and loosen the hulls. (This lime was the principal source of calcium in the Mexican diet.) The grains were ground on a stone saddle quern, or metate. Small pieces of dough were patted by hand into thin disks, a task requiring considerable dexterity. The tortilla was then baked on a comal, a griddle of earthenware or iron. Today most tortillas are purchased at tortillerias, where the dough is mixed by machine, stamped into disks, and passed by conveyer belt over a flame. Tortillas stale quickly and are usually bought fresh daily or even for each meal
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