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Tacos

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Molcajete & Fresh Salsa
Molcajete & Fresh Salsa (spicy!)

Cilantro
Cilantro

Grilled Beef
Grilled Beef

Tomatillo, Molcajete, Rat Tail Peppers in a Kerr Jar
Tomatillo, Molcajete, Rat Tail Peppers in a Kerr Jar

Corn Tortillas
Corn Tortillas

The Whole Enchi---Taco.
I took a picture of all the ingredients, so I don’t forget.

The first time I remember eating a taco, I was with my best friend Carissa Goodwin, and our mothers had taken us to Taco Bell. We were six years old and we had just come from the swimming pool. My mother ordered me a soft shell taco on a flour tortilla with meat and cheese only. Of course, no spicy sauce. I remember liking it. A lot. It didn’t have much flavor, but it was warm and soft and cheesy.

That was 22 years ago. I’d like to say that, although I have come a long way from Taco Bell, such as moving on to meat flavored with cumin and garlic, even working in ‘Tex-Mex’ restaurants and sampling what others swore was the most authentic Mexican food, I have to agree…ethnic food is never authentic until a person of that ethnicity cooks it for you.

Last week I bought a big fat gas grill and since then, my roommate and I have been cooking out everything that will fit on that damn thing. Tonight, he had me run to the store to buy tomatillos, cilantro and onion. When I had come back from the store with the produce, he was already out in the backyard cooking these large, thin cuts of beef on the grill, the smell of which I’m sure was tantalizing the entire block.

He came inside with the prepared meat and placed it on the red cutting board. With his giant kitchen knife, the one with the seven-inch blade, he began dicing the meat. It is amazing to watch this man cook—as he turns around, monitors the beans in the pot on the stove, then simultaneously places the tomatoes and some Serano peppers in the blender for salsa, chops the onion, prepares the tomatillos, hashes the cabbage, and minces the cilantro all with an efficiency and speed of a British automobile engine. Every movement flows into another task, every turn reveals a new ingredient.

He knows what he’s doing, and he’s concentrating. I can’t disturb him, can’t talk to him just now, I have to just rest myself against the bar where he’s cooking and watch. It’s entertaining, mesmerizing and—admittedly—erotic. Watch him as he rinses the bunch of cilantro and runs his hand down the stalks, gently squeezing the leaves at the end to remove the excess water. Watch him as he spins the empty blender barrel in his hand before he drops in the little green tomatoes. Watch him as he spears a triangle of beef with the end of the knife and eats it right off that menacing blade. He is on task–he doesn’t look at me during this process, except a quick glance after he eats that piece of meat. Yes, I see you.

A few moments later, a little taco is assembled and resting on a plate in front of me. It’s a small mountain of white and red and green and brown. And honestly, I would have taken a picture of the taco, but I made the mistake of tasting it before I photographed it: From the moment I tasted it, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else but eating it and maybe 10, 15, 20 more. Well, I ate three. Delicious.

He’s always been a good cook. Most everything he makes is tasty, and a good sized portion of his cooking repertoire is really quite exquisite. But this…these tacos, were simply the best thing I have ever eaten. I told him so. Some food is good, some is wonderful. Some food is comforting and some food is exciting. But sometimes you eat something that is life-affirming. That is so incredibly exciting that you know you will be thinking about it for the next 15 years. These tacos were it.

I told him I thought they were amazing. He said, “Really?” He’s generally falsely modest when it comes to my compliments on his cooking, but I think he’s genuinely surprised that the simplest things he makes are always my favorites.

“You’d better be careful,” I say.

“Why?”

“Because if you continue to cook food like this for me, I’m going to fall in love with you.”

He laughs, pauses, then adds, “It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to me”.

Cocky son-of-a-bitch.

—–
Currently listening to Zooropa by U2

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Written by pocheco

May 22, 2008 at 7:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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