Mar 28, 2004, 11:01 AM
Post #2 of 6
Re: [TomG] a molcajete, a clay comal, and some cal.
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....Iíve seen some indigenous people middle-aged and with an amazing mouthful of great white teeth, and they looked like they couldnít afford dental care, nor pop. Joaquin used to work for the IMSS system as a compliance accountant. He traveled to all the different areas of Oaxaca staying in pueblos checking on things. He says you see these things, itís the calcium. The handmade masa is important, has more cal they say....
There is no question at least in my mind that tortillas prepared from "fresh" masa taste better than those prepared from "maseca"-style corn flour. However, asserting dietary superiority such as a higher calcium content is what I'd classify as foodie and/or cross-cultural romance.
1. Calcium hydroxide is used as a processing agent, not a direct food additive. It's used during nixtamalization, in which corn is cooked and then steeped in a calcium hydroxide solution to loosen the corn kernel's pericarp and modify the starch granules and protein structure. The corn is subsequently washed and drained before being ground. During the washing and draining, excess calcium used during the process would be lost down the drain.
2. Corn is nixtamalized for both fresh masa and during the production of maseca-style corn flour (which should not be confused with cornmeal). The difference between the two is downstream following milling, where fresh masa (referred to as "wet" masa in the trade) is immediately formed into tortillas, while masa for maseca-style corn flour is flash-dried for reconstitution sometime in the future.
3. Studies have found similar calcium levels in both home-made and "industrially"-manufactured tortillas. As an example, in a 1992 literature review entitled Maize in Human Nutrition the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization cited calcium levels of 104, 202, and 217 mg/100 gram sample in homemade tortillas, and 182, 198, and 205 mg/100 grams in "industrial" tortillas. In both cases this is a marked increase in calcium levels compared to the 48 mg/100 gram concentration identified in pre-nixtamalized corn.
4. Nixtamalization does have the downside of decreasing the total thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and carotene contents of masa compared to the precursor corn. The significance of this decrease is still being investigated with some researchers claiming the loss is offset by the increased bioavailability of the remaining contents, while others indicating that a loss is exactly that, a loss. In this area corn flour has a significant advantage over fresh masa in that the product can have these vitamins (as well as other nutrients, with iron and folic acid being the most commonly mentioned) added back to the product downstream of nixtamalization at a very low additional cost. GRUMA/GIMSA, the Mexican multinational corporation which controls a massive portion of the corn flour market (Maseca is their brand name in Mexico) is a major backer of nutritional research in the corn flour arena, and has been an active proponent of nutrient enriching or fortifying corn flour. Although one would hope that corporate benevolence is at play here it is also quite possible that having the import and export duty categories, and Mexican tax status changed as a result of the sale of an enriched product is a significant motivator here.
Other Amusing Sidenotes:
1. Comparison of black beans with other common types of dried beans, such as red or pinto will show you that the nutritional profiles are very similar.
2. Clay, in comparison to cast iron, various steel alloys, aluminum, or copper is an extremely inefficient conductor of heat. This means that for the same unit value of food heating a clay comal will require more fuel. If the fuel source is bottled gas ("GaaazzzZZZ!") it means that the user is paying more to heat a clay comal, and on the global picture consuming more natural resources. If heated with wood or charcoal you have increased user exposure to combustion products such as carbon monoxide, particulates, and PAHs, as well as the global issues of deforestation and air pollution.
(This post was edited by ET on Mar 28, 2004, 3:13 PM)