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The Californian

Californian contributing columnist Steve Flores.

It was a fatal error committed 40 years ago.

They had been married only a few weeks. The bride surprised her new husband and excitingly made dinner, which included fresh home-made tortillas.

He sat at the dinner table, surveyed the delicious food she had proudly prepared and inched his chair closer to the table for some serious still-on-our-honeymoon-style-home-made cooking. He couldn't resist starting with the still-warm tortillas. Hot to the touch, he twirled the tortilla like a mini-pizza in his hand as he slowly spread the melting butter. He expertly rolled it up, took one bite, swallowed and said, "These don't taste like my mom's!"

Need I say more?

She grabbed the half-eaten tortilla from his hand, and the fresh stack on the table and threw them all in the trash. She said, "Well, we won't have to worry about that again."

That was 40 years ago.

That was the last time my friend Steve Mendez, or as we call him "Flash," saw his bride, Frances, make tortillas for him. It's one of my favorite stories that "Flash" tells...and as you can probably guess...he has many.

Always conducted over our favorite cold refreshment, my one-on-one counseling sessions with "Flash" finally had a breakthrough when he finally realized that when he said, "These don't taste like my mom's!" Frances heard, "I don't like your tortillas,", and that meant "You don't really love me."

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

Sans-tortilla, they are happily celebrating 40 years of marriage.

Oh, she still makes tortillas, but never for "Flash." When their son Stevie and his family visit, tortillas are often on the menu. But like a fox sneaking into a hen house, "Flash" must become ninja-like and grab and snag at just the right moment or face the wrath of a bride scorned and who never forgets.

When I lived at home with my seven brothers and sisters in southeast Bakersfield, my grandmother would make fresh tortillas in the morning and for dinner for us at home. She came to live with us after my mom died from leukemia to help my dad raise me and my seven brothers and sisters.

I was fork-, spoon- and knife-deprived until I started to eat in the cafeteria at Casa Loma Elementary School. We had the correct eating utensils at home but why use them when you could scoop, roll and dip almost every food type made by mankind with a freshly made tortilla?

I can still see her in the slightly tattered apron, a smudge of white flower on her cheek, her graying hair pulled back in a bun listening to an Eydie Gorme and Los Trio Panchos album on our living room stereo as she pounded, flipped and patty-caked each individual tortilla.

As my grandmother made the tortillas, my brothers and sisters lined up and would politely ask for the next hot one off the grill. She made sure each one of us had our turn. As soon as it hit the top of the tortilla stack, we grabbed it and rushed to the kitchen table for some butter and home-made chili. Yum yum...almost nothing better...except for my wife's.

Thanks, "Flash." I am a quick learner.

-- Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at