There is just not much about a taco that is funny. Sure there are some vague vaginal references, but that type of humor isn’t really my milieu. I’m more of a dick joke guy. Ba-dum-dum. That might come across as gay. I’m not. Sienfeld. I have several friends that are gay.
“Authentic” bothers me as a shibboleth. It seems to have taken the place of “tastes good” in reference to some foods. Sometimes I wonder if the hipsters looking down on my Tex Mex taco with beef, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and “taco sauce” are really advocates of traditional Mexican cooking or are instead terrified that the thin crispy shell it’s served in threatens to spill messy flavor filled dollops of hard to wash out grease onto their faux retro Mountain Dew t-shirt. “Authentic” is interesting as an experiment. “That’s what they eat in Mexico land!” you can say to yourself with Clooneyesque smugness. After that, tweek it till you love it.
In the mid-nineties I worked at a small, misspelled, Italian restaurant. Through broken English on his part, and comical Spanish on my part, one of the dishwashers, Francisco, and I developed a friendship based on a love of soccer. Pre-interweb and pre-satellite TV, being a soccer fan was hard. You saw games when the national team was on the cusp of disappointing you again or on Gala- or Univision when you randomly ran across them channel surfing. One day Francisco invited me to watch the Mexican championship with him. His team, the fighting something or another I couldn’t understand, were in the game. He was wired.
I met him at the designated restaurant. It was a little taco stand in Homewood near the Palisades. It was just a counter with a register and a chalk board. Looking at the place on arrival and seeing no TV or seats, I assumed that we had another linguistic fungamarole and this was just a meeting place. But then Francisco peeked his head out of the kitchen door and motioned for me to follow him. Behind the kitchen was my fourth grade classroom. A big room with whitewashed cement block walls, the floor was covered in blue speckled indoor/outdoor carpeting with various and sundry stains in appropriate places. Desks were arranged in rows maybe six deep and four across. In one corner, six feet up, was a 36″ television. Before you laugh, 36″ was a big TV in the mid-nineties. Francisco and I were the first ones there. We took seats in two of the front row desks.
There was no flood or dam break moment, but the room filled quickly. The floor filled quickly. Immigrants took every square foot of floor space. I felt eyes on my back, covetous eyes ready to usurp my desk should I need a bathroom. A woman made her rounds through the room taking orders. She said something to me and Fransisco answered. I got a beer. Later I got two tacos. They were simple. Ground beef, cumin and chili powder and probably many other spices, cucumber, onion, and jalapeno. I have not had better. Francisco’s team won.
Those tacos were in my head when I decided to make “authentic” tacos. In my head, but I did something completely different and call it authentic because it had no cheese. I took a three pound pork butt and put it in a crock pot with OJ, six limes and their juices, six garlic cloves, chicken stock, four sliced and deseeded jalapenos and one sliced and one seeded jalapeno but not two because that would give an ingredient list of six followed by six followed by six and that cannot stand. After seven hours of cooking I pulled the meat, shredded it and sauteed it with two cups of the braising liquid, a handful of cilantro, and some more jalapeno. Salt and pepper, but that goes without saying. When it looked like green flecked dog food I knew it was ready.
My neighbor’s garden exploded. With the proceeds of her bounty I made a salsa with tomatoes, cucumber, jalapenos, unidentified mild pepper that was probably a banana pepper, lime, and cilantro. I felt like making cilantro crème fraîche but the accent marks on crème fraîche are such a pain in the ass that I opted for fat free yogurt to blend with cilantro. I don’t actually care about fat content but I’m moving toward plain yogurt as a flavor vehicle more and more because it’s just so convenient. Finally I sliced some avocado because I felt like I had to. All mixed together on a flour tortilla with my adulterated carnitas recipe made for happy people.
Kalik beer, pronounced “click” but with a slight “a” between the “c” and the “l”… no, it’s more of a “click” but with a… never mind. It’s Bahamian and that gave the whole meal a CONCACAF feel to it.