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Metate y Metlapil



There are two types of mortars and pestles in Mexico. One is for dry ingredients, one is for liquid.

A Metate y Metlapil is for dry.

"Metate" is the mortar (the grinding surface); "Metlapil" is the pestle (also called "mano", the grinding "stick.")

The mortar is basically a grinding stone, the Central American equivalents of the European mill stones or querns.

It is a stone slab with three short legs, with a top that is relatively flat, rough, and slanted. There are two shorter feet in the front, one higher foot on the back to make it slanted. The surface will be about 20 inches (50 cm) long by 12 inches (30 cm) wide.

The pestle is also made of rough stone.

They are used to grind corn, nuts, seeds, cocoa beans, etc.

To use, you sit or kneel behind it, facing the slanted end, and grind downwards on the slope. You use the pestle as you would a rolling pin. You put your food in the centre, and roll the pestle back and forth over it.

Almost no one uses a Metate y Metlapil anymore, as they have been replaced with either hand-cranked grinders, or electric blenders.

A Metate y Metlapil needs to be seasoned in the same way as a molcajete is (see Molcajete y Tejolete for the curing procedure.)

History Notes

This version is based on the Aztec version, which had three legs. The Mayan version just sat flat on the ground.

Language Notes

In Nahuatl (the Aztec language), "Metate" comes from the word for the grinding surface, "metlatl." "Metlapil" means "son of metate."

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"I'm a man. Men cook outside. Women make the three-bean salad. That's the way it is and always has been, since the first settlers of Levittown. That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. If this wasn't firmly understood, you'd never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies and things on the front..."

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