Talo is a tortilla made using flour from various native varieties of corn in the area of Mungia (Biscay), Basque Countries. For many years, particularly in the post-war period, talo and white beans had been staple foods in the diet of rural people in this region. It was the main element of every meal, from breakfast to dinner.
The local varieties of corn used to make talo produce small cobs with very small compact grains, and have short growing cycles. They are usually sown together with white beans to benefit from the ability of beans, as a leguminous vegetable, to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Associating these two crops has enabled minimal quantities of fertilizer to be required (traditionally manure provided by cattle from the same farms). Another feature of producing the corn flour for Mungia talo is roasting the cobs, which is done at low temperatures in wood-fired ovens at farms. After the cobs are roasted, the grains are removed and stone ground in watermills.
Formerly there were about a hundred of these mills, a proof of how important the activity was in the Butrón river basin of the Uribe district. Only four still operate: the Gamiz mill, run by a likeable husband and wife team, also organizes educational tours and is very interesting to visit.
The grinding process is very thorough and produces a low volume of excellent flour. The full-flavored roasted flour keeps without any problems for more than a year and is easily digested, prompting interest from celiac associations.
The flour is kneaded with warm water and salt to make talo, a thin disk about 15 centimeters in diameter which is cooked on a hot steel plate.
Talo is now mainly eaten at holidays, accompanied by chorizo sausage, bean soup, dried salted cod or, as a sweet treat, chocolate.
At village festivals talo is often prepared in a txosna, a stand containing cast-iron electric plates.
Mungia, Uribe district, Biscay Province, Basque Countries
Mariano Gómez Fernández