Impacted by Environment

This weekend I took a trip to a fancy shopping center in my city – a new development that boasts an oasis of boutique shops, big department stores, restaurants, bars, and even apartments. This area is more than a mall or a shopping complex; truly, it is a self-contained enclave with a distinct design and culture.

Thinking about my experience there the following day, I realized how much the ambiance of the place affected me. I felt a new energy perusing the fragrant, curated stores and walking the streets bustling with well-heeled men and women with bags hanging from the crooks in their elbows. This energy I felt fused pleasure with longing, creating an intoxication that loosened my grip on my wallet…

Thankfully I managed to escape without making any major purchases. Clearly, though, this development was designed to encourage consumption. From the layout of the stores, to the location of the parking garage, the developers behind the shopping center painstakingly engineered a world where people would feel great (in the moment) spending money. I have touched on the false promises of consumerism here; what I really want to say in this post is that my surroundings can affect how I feel and how I act, and I suspect they do the same to you.

How great would it be to engineer surroundings in our homes, offices, and cities that encouraged human interaction and connection? I will be thinking over the next few days what that home and what that office and what that city that put human connection above all else would look like.

Tortilla business challenges

  1. Tortillas without preservatives do not keep as well.
  2. Preservatives in tortillas have given customers the expectation of a perpetually soft tortilla. My tortillas require reheating, which most American consumers are not privy to. Part of winning customers will involve changing their expectations. Lack of preservatives > preserved shelf life
  3. The business scales with effort, which, with a full time job is not feasible.

 

Next steps:

  • keep making tortillas once a week – get the recipe to world class status
  • Make your own masa. This should take my tortillas to the next level, and open up a new avenue for culinary exploration. I have a feeling that this will help with shelf life as well.
  • Reheat and storing techniques
  • Anyone in the food industry I could speak with?

“Help me, please, to carry this candle against the wind.”

I love the idea of dream catchers.

We need a safe place to collect and protect our dreams.

Very often, I find the “shoulds” in my life choking out my dreams – or at least taking priority.

The other thing that tends to interfere with the pursuit of my dreams is fear – the intrinsic fear rooted in shame that prevents me from working hard or connecting or taking action.

Daily, I must learn to be all in – to create habits of vulnerable hard work that changes people’s lives for the better.

Nothing flashy.

One day at a time.

Against the wind.

Cotton Candy Dreams – Work vs. Labor

This post is based off a number of things I have read or listened to in the past week from Seth Godin, Meg Jay, and Dan Allender.

  • Love is a skill to be developed, not a feeling
  • Leadership is not an innate talent, but something that can be developed
  • Commitment and trust are things that can be taught and learned

If these things are true, then it seems we need to invest in developing them in our lives. Why then, is our culture captivated by instant results, effortless romance, and a transient relationship with our communities? We believe that we should be able to have it all, but most of us are unwilling or unable to do the vulnerable and hard work of developing skills that matter and will make us happy in the end. Instead of investing in these exposing, challenging foundations, we hide behind busyness and hosts of numbing mechanisms that have taught us to escape pain instead of walk through it, and to consume rather than to create. We will never have the opportunity to do the meaningful work we once dreamed about, build a marriage that lasts, or nurture and serve a community we love if we succumb to these short sighted escapes.

Consumerism seems to have infiltrated not just our wallets, but also our relationships and work. Dr. Dan Allender argues: “consumerism hope is about realized desire that can be worked for without any need to labor”. I love that distinction between work and labor. Every day, it is my goal not just to work, but to labor to connect and lead others, and to pursue lofty goals that bring lasting joy instead of cotton candy dreams that promise the good life, but just leave one with a tummy ache. Most days, I drift into just working, but slowly – and it always is slowly – I will learn to labor.

Why Tortillas?

Last winter, I challenged myself to make a batch of tortillas once a week, indefinitely. I had been looking for an opportunity to do something I love that also had the potential to grow into a small enterprise. For a while, I thought keeping bees and making honey were the project I had been looking for. Since working for a single source honey company in Ecuador in the Summer of 2014, I have loved bees for their important role in keeping our ecosystems healthy, and for the tasty semi-transparent goodness they produce.  I still hope to keep bees one day soon, but without land of my own to house my would-be insect friends, I ran into a number of logistical issues that made the barrier to entry into apiculture too high for the present moment.

And so, one day while driving home from work, it hit me. I should start a tortilla business. The idea came over me all at once, but I think it stems from a number of factors. Unpacking that moment of intuition, I have come up with a list of reasons:

  • I love Mexican food. Everything from breakfast tacos to a nice mole, Mexican food and the Tex Mex fusions that were dreamed up here in the U.S. have captivated my taste buds. A trip to Mexico City last February sealed the deal for me. Dining in Mexico with Mexicans was one of the most defining culinary experiences of my life. I ate Mexican food with such taste and diversity – I was truly blown away. I left D.F. with a totally new understanding of how diverse Mexican cuisine is, and the desire to learn how to make these foods with the integrity and depth of flavor that I experienced there.
  • The opportunity to fail. My first batch of tortillas were borderline inedible, and even now, 6 months later, I have so much more to explore and grow. I love the idea of being free to fail, and to build a skill set around trial and error. I find the pressure to never fail in the corporate environment stifling and counter-productive; tortilla making gives me an outlet and a defense against the perfectionism I sometimes feel at work. There is no shortcut to perfection with tortillas – only through repetition and creativity does one succeed in producing a top notch tort. Actually, I think everything is like this. Perhaps I am not only learning how to make a tortilla, but how to develop a skill in general.
  • Tortillas bring people together – I can’t eat all of these fluffy circles by myself, and my tortilla making was never meant to be for my own consumption. It is my hope that the tortillas I make provide a context or at least one of the props for people to gather together, to look each other in the eye, and to enjoy one another’s company. Tortillas to me are one of the best foods for gatherings – you get to use your hands, pass a ton of different plates and bowls around, and build all sorts of delicious dishes together. Tortillas were not made to eat alone.
  • Easy to turn into a business. Whether I sell tortillas at a farmer’s market, start a full time business, or just make tortillas for my friends, tortillas, unlike other pursuits, are easy to turn commercial. The ingredients are inexpensive, and you can get immediate feedback on the product. The goal is not to make millions on tortillas (though I am down for that), but to learn what running a small commercial endeavor is like, to show people just how tasty a tortilla can be, and to bring people together, like I mention above.

So there it is, folks. I am excited about continuing to make tortillas. We will see where it goes. If you are interested in hearing more about my tortillas or live in Austin, Texas and would like to give my tortillas a try, feel free to shoot me a mail at petestortillas@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

The purpose of this blog

I am starting this blog for many reasons. I want to make better tortillas. I want to create more and consume less. I want the opportunity to flesh out in writing insights I uncover in all areas of life. Most of all I want to lead, connect, and live a life worth living. I expect this blog not to change any lives, or even be read by anyone other than me, but perhaps it will be a modest step toward these lofty goals. If you do manage to stumble onto this blog, I hope you enjoy it.