Bolita August 2021

What is Bolita?

Welcome to Bolita’s newsletter!!

I am so happy to have you here. In an effort to not put all of my digital eggs in one Instagram shaped basket, I am releasing a newsletter every so often. You’ll find some updates on events/pop-ups, ingredient highlights and masa recipes. I am planning on offering a paid subscription at some point in the future—every little bit will help me get closer to achieving my goal of building a community focused molino & cafe in the Bay Area… but, this newsletter is free for now. And the molino cafe is a dream. 

Please consider buying some masa and supporting Bolita, an absurdly labor intensive masa project that began in my tiny San Francisco kitchen. I appreciate you and hope to see you soon! Below, are some more words and some links to check out.

What is Bolita?

Bolita is a small ball. As a child, fresh tortillas were made from freshly mixed Maseca flour that was rolled into little bolitas, and then pressed and cooked by my mother. For the most part, we ate the same corn tortillas that most of you ate. Mission, Guerrero, large conglomerate made insipid discs of acrid, pale masa. I loved those tortillas.

But, every so often, on a weekend morning, my mom would pull out that half empty, old bag of Maseca masa harina. She would add water, add salt, and a little bit of royal (baking powder). I would help my mom mix and form the fresh masa.1 We would knead the masa, and then I would form them into bolitas, little balls, that she would press and cook on our ancient iron comal. Patience, heat, a few flips, and we had tortillas. I encourage you to make bolitas with your family. 

Bolita, the name of this project,  is also derived from one of the most beautiful varieties of maíz. Bolita Belatove is a beautiful mallow colored varietal grown in Oaxaca. Bolita varietals are recognized for their strong starches, perfect for making large tortillas called blandas and tlayudas. Although Bolita varietals come in various hues, Bolita Belatove was the first purple maíz I encountered in Mexico and it started this whole obsession that later became Bolita the masa project. I chose this as inspiration because it’s beautiful, it’s fragrant, and it’s super challenging to work with. I still haven’t cracked this varietal; I’ve never been happy with the masa I’ve made using Bolita Belatove. I love this about masa. I am constantly challenged and always learning. I love learning thousands of ways to make mistakes, because I enjoy laboring with ingredients that I value.

In my first, probably premature, piece of press, I was quoted as saying Bolita is an “art project.” I stand by this off the cuff comment. Bolita is an exploration of my curiosity with maíz and nixtamal. Bolita is a project to showcase the variety and depth of a perceptively simple, humble ingredient. I want to share my enthusiasm, curiosity and the variety.

Bolita is a reclamation project of sorts, an understanding of my Mexican-ness and lack of Mexican-ness. Growing up in the Napa Valley, the son of immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico, I spent my teenage years pushing away my Mexican-ness. That child who made tortillas with his mom now wanted Hamburger Helper and Pizza Hut P’zones2. At one point, I tasted my grandmother’s mole and accused her of trying to poison me. I gagged at the smell of pickled jalapeños and salsa de molcajete. Now, I make moles and salsas weekly. I am learning to embrace myself, my parents and my grandmothers.

Bolita no es ni de aquí, ni de allá. Bolita is too much context rolled into a masa project.

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Rancho Gordo Event Friday August 27th Visit me in Napa. I’ll be making tortillas with Steve and answering all your masa questions. The event sold out in 2 hours, but I will do my best to make extra masa so you can all get some. All the salsas are first come first serve. Swing by!

Order Here for Oakland and SF Wednesday 8/25 in Oakland and Thiursday 8/26 in San Francisco. We have a delicious chicatana salsa and our huaraches are back!!

SF Chronicle: The Best Day Ever in the Mission District Soleil Ho wrote a lovely guide and Kelsey McClellan took some gorgeous photos. Bolita got a nice little mention in the CUESA Mission Mercado portion and my friend Raquel’s Norte54 was also featured in the Grand Coffee portion! So many great recommendations.

For more visual content, you can follow my IG @bolitamasa

1

My mother recently described me as a child who was always asking to help. My persistence resulted in being assigned various jobs and I loved my jobs. Mowing the lawn, sweeping and mopping, washing dishes, taking out the trash. My favorite job was helping in the kitchen.

2

I wanted to be the kid in this Commercial