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Family dinner with the Gallegoses: Tortillas and togetherness

The great American family dinner tradition, Census data show, is perhaps greatest among Latino households in the US. Four generations of the Gallegos family – of San Ysidro, Calif. – have regular dinners together. And gorditas – small, stuffed tortilla pouches – are a dinner mainstay.

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The family dinner ritual at the Gallegoses home includes four generations for tortillas and togetherness. Rosa Gallegos serves gorditas – stuffed tortilla pouches – to her mother, Manuela Marín. This is part of the cover story project on family dinners in the June 25 issue of The Christian Science Monitor/Weekly magazine.

Max Dolberg/Special to TCSM

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On the most southwesterly street in the United States, inside a shade-dappled tract house, Rosa Gallegos is in the kitchen preparing gorditas de chicharrón on a recent Saturday afternoon. Her husband, Jesus, and grown kids, Ailin and Omar, hover nearby waiting to help slice strips of cheese and stuff the little tortilla pouches with a spicy filling of pork rinds, tomatoes, and chilies.

For now, though, the kitchen is Rosa's domain. She reaches into a bowl of masa (corn dough), shapes a golf-ball-sized sphere, flattens it into a disc with a tortilla press, and cooks it on the comal (tortilla griddle).

"My mother used to make the masa at home from scratch," she says in Spanish, cocking her chin toward 85-year-old Manuela Marín, who is watching a black-and-white movie on TV. "But I just buy this from the ."

PHOTO GALLERY: The great American family dinner ritual

US Census data show that among the 10 million Latino households in America – like the Gallegoses – family dinners are more common than in the general population. More than 84 percent of Latino parents with kids under age 6 report having daily meals together.

Four generations wait hungrily for Rosa's gorditas today, including Omar's wife, Mary, and their infant son, Carlo; Ailin and her daughter, Paulette, 7; and cousin Melanie Diaz, 5.

Store-bought masa is but a minor tweak of a family tradition that has remained unchanged for generations. Rosa learned this recipe at Manuela's skirts. Manuela learned it from her mother back in Durango, Mexico. Manuela's memories are fuzzy, but thinking of her own mother's cooking induces reverie over buñuelos (sweet, fried dough).

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