A Life Shaped by Bread

Nancy Mendez has been making tortillas since she was a child, and it led her to a career.

By Nancy Matsumoto

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Nancy Mendez was an 11-year-old girl growing up in Puebla, Mexico, when her grandmother taught her how to make corn tortillas. She botched her first try, and her grandmother said, “When you marry, how will you make them for your husband?” Mendez’s response: “I’ll buy them!”

She didn’t, though, and saved her money by mastering the process, waking up at 5:30 a.m. to rinse the soaked corn kernels, grind them into masa, and press and cook them so that her family would have fresh tortillas for breakfast every morning.

Little did Mendez know that 18 years later, she would hold the title of product coordinator for tortillas at Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK) in New York City, working with women from around the world who are preserving their countries’ baking traditions and selling their products to an appreciative audience of New Yorkers.

Photography by Albert Elbilia
Video by Janet Lawrence

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