by David Cecelski
I’m all excited because my sister and her husband just gave me my first
molcajete, one of the most important cooking tools in a Mexican kitchen.
Molcajetes are heavy stone bowls that stand on three legs. They’re used
like a mortar, in combination with a tejolote, a sizeable stone pestle.
Molcajetes are typically made out of black basalt
mined from the volcanoes around Mexico
City. They’re big and heavy—mine weighs 8 pounds. For
thousands of years, they’ve been used for grinding spices and herbs and for
making sauces and salsas.
For convenience sake, growing numbers of Mexican
cooks use electric blenders instead of molcajetes. But my brother-in-law, who
is from the Mexican state of Guanajuato, says that most cooks still recognize
the superior value of a well-seasoned molcajete for blending and bringing out
Swathed in soft cloths, molcajetes arrive here every
day now, carefully tucked under arms or gently packed in suitcases or duffle
bags. For our new Mexican neighbors, they’re literally a little piece of their
homeland that has come here with them: out of the country’s volcanic soil, they
bring the flavors and aromas of kitchens that are now a thousand miles away.