Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Taco History, My Misery


My mother loved ethnic food. Italian, German, Jewish, Mexican; you name it and she could prepare dishes that would make your mouth water. But, it was her Mexican dishes that enhanced her reputation as the best cook, by far, in our family.

Long before Mexican food was sold over the counter on nearly every block in Southern California, my mother had perfected her taco making. Taco sauce and salsa were not routinely sold in stores then , but she had gone on a search and found what she considered the perfect sauce. In fact, it was so perfect that my grandparents had her send them a case of it when they moved to the Pacific Northwest where taco sauce was then unheard of.

My mother’s tacos were a lot of work to make. She cooked and fully assembled several dozen of them before she served them to her brood. So, tacos became a treat for special occasions. On our birthdays she would ask us what we would like her to fix us for dinner and the answer always was .... TACOS! Except, of course, for the oldest of my younger brothers. He loved mom’s ’pusgetti’ and carrot and raisin salad.

Our little beach city was situated close to a busy port city. There was always a few lonely and homesick service men wandering into our little church. My mother put a notice on the bulletin board that any service man that was hungry for a family atmosphere and a home cooked meal was invited to drop by her home and sit for a spell. As we grew into teenagers and the word got around that my mother was warm, loving, AND a great cook our dinner table was often crowded with people. With that many people waiting to be fed, taco making had to become more efficient. So she decided that she would do the cooking, put the makings on the table, and everyone could fill their own taco shells. It was a brilliant idea! It cut her work in half, and it meant that we could have tacos almost as often as we wanted them. Many of the young service men sitting at our dinner table had never even heard of a taco, much less tasted one, but one bite of my mother’s tacos and they were converted.


My son was raised eating Bonnie’s tacos. It was love at first bite so I made tacos as often as his stomach desired. And it desired them often. Even when he went through his, “all I want to eat is a McDonalds hamburger” phase he still wanted tacos as often as he could get them. Now that he is an adult and feels like he is going to fade away if he doesn’t have Mexican food at least once a week he still favors tacos made the way his grandmother made them, and his two children are as addicted to them as he is. The one thing I do that my granddaughter has asked to be taught is ‘how to make tacos’.

Then there is John. He is from the East Coast. He contends that people there don’t eat Mexican food. He also contends that it was patently immoral for me not to have told him that although I am descended from Swedish and Scottish stock I eat like I have Mexican blood coursing through my veins. He just doesn’t get it. We were born and bred here in an area where Mexican food is THE FOOD. Wasn’t it his duty to investigate that before he committed to coming here to live?

When I ask what the family wants for dinner and everyone yells “Mexican” he replies with scowl, “I’m not hungry.” But if I say, “I’ll make Tacos", the man that’s not hungry will challenge my son to a ‘who can eat the most’ contest.


My grandson would watch the History Channel 24/7 if he could. He loves history. Yesterday he told me something that he learned that he thought was especially interesting.

In times gone by, the English fought war with Archers. The Archers pulled the bow string, to launch their arrows, with the middle finger of their left hand. Apparently they were very successful because when they became prisoners of war the enemy would immediately chop off that particular finger, making them instantly incapable of drawing a bow string.

Therefore, when an Archer went to war he would flip up his middle finger to indicate to the enemy, in a derisive gesture, “I’ve still got my middle finger. I’m able and willing to kill you,”

And that is how the middle finger became a vulgar gesture of dismissal.


I do not eat meat. I do not eat fried food. I do not eat fat. It’s not that I am against these things. I just don’t like the taste of these things unless ........ they are all combined in a TACO.

I LOVE TACOS. But, I am having gall bladder problems. I can’t eat tacos for the duration of this gall bladder thingamabob. I have to avoid meat, fried food, and fat. That’s not hard for me to do normally. I don’t like those things anyway. But last night the family ganged up on me and demanded TACOS!!!! What a bunch of unthinking, uncompassionate, callous, dunderheaded, taco addicted nincompoops.

I had to assemble the ingredients, cook, and serve the one meat laden, fat laden, fried food that I love. And all the while my mouth was watering and my taste buds were tingling. It was torture!

But I got a bit of satisfaction. As they were assembling around the table filled with the anticipation of a TACO fueled eating orgy I pushed my wheelchair in front of a dish of low fat cottage cheese, made certain that they all could see me, and practiced my ‘Archers' Finger Gesture Exercises‘.

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