I don’t know what it is about homemade tacos, but I can eat the hell out of them. Now, I have no illusions that my tacos are in anyway authentic. I also do not even kind of argue that there is anything spectacular about my recipe. Heck, it’s really just ground beef, seasoning (from a jar) and fixins, but it doesn’t matter. I can polish off four or five of those babies and still find myself pausing to consider arm wrestling my husband for the last shell.
Growing up we didn’t have a lot of “ethnic” food. Despite that fact that I lived in California for a good chunk of my childhood, we were meat and potatoes people. My mother made meatloaf at least once a week. When we went out to dinner, it was either to Bob’s Big Boy, this amazing whole in the wall pizza place, or, if it was Sunday after church, Sizzler. The closest we came to adventurous eating was when mom would grab the Old El Paso mix and cook up a batch of tacos. Not that I complained. She could mix meat, a packet of seasoning and water like nobody’s business. Heck, I learned my skill from her.
Taco night was so much fun because not only could I stuff my face, but I got to decide what I wanted to put on my taco. I didn’t have to eat what my parents liked. My mom had everything separated out and I got to pick and choose. There were no icky sauces to scrape off or ketchup masquerading as a topping. I could identify every ingredient and they were all fresh. Plus, I could get really messy and not get yelled at because my mom and step-dad had taco juice dripping down their hands too.
Sometimes Mom wouldn’t feel like cooking and we’d hit up Del Taco* or El Polo Loco, but these were as close to authentic Mexican as we got. Once a classmate’s mother (Corey Cisneros) made homemade salsa for a class party and I couldn’t believe how good it was. I was 10 or 11 and never had it before. I didn’t quite know what to do since it didn’t come from a jar, but man did I love it. But I digress. Even at Del Taco and El Polo Loco, I ate at most two tacos. I mean they were fattening and tasty, but just not quite as good as what my mom made. Which I know makes no logic sense, but what can I say?
As I got older my horizons expanded a bit. Even though moving in with my dad and step-mom did not broaden my culinary horizons (whenever we’d go out my dad would order a cheeseburger with extra cheese, fries and a glass of milk), I did find myself eating Taco Bell about once a week since it was the only place open after the theater closed on weekends. And while I loved it, two tacos was my limit.
Once I got to college, I met people who ate outside the realm of American fare and I started going to places that not only had crazy things like tostadas and chile rellenos on the menu, but also had employees who not only spoke Spanish fluently, but sometime had trouble understanding me, so I felt I was getting a somewhat authentic flair…well, for the Midwest.
Even though I loved the new flavors and dishes, I found myself gravitating toward a few dishes: taco salad, taquitos and tacos. Coincidence? I think not. Still, even though I love our local place’s tacos, even at my hungriest I can barely eat three (and then I feel all bloaty and sick for doing it). But give me a cookie sheet of 12 taco shells at home and I’m enviously eyeballing the whole lot wondering how quickly I can eat them before my husband gets them all.
When I was dieting a few years back, one of my biggest food griefs was that I had to cut back on my tacos. I would still make them, but I’d limit myself to three, and in order to get that third one, I’d cut out the cheese. Every time I made them, I’d stare longinly as my husband finished off his fifth and sometimes six taco, and heave a big sigh when I realized he’d be the only eating the leftovers for lunch as a homemade version of taco salad.
Tonight was taco night and since I’m not on a diet, I scarfed down four. We introduced my son to them and although we cut them up into a version of taco salad, he still managed to gobble down two of them. There were two shells still in the kitchen and I thought long and hard about them. I won’t lie, I really wanted them. And even though I’m not on a diet, I am trying not to make myself sick with over eating, so I gave in and let my husband have them (for a total of 6). I was jealous.
I don’t know what it is about homemade tacos, but I kind of want to make them again tomorrow!
*Del Taco is a West Coast chain. Sort of a much, much better Taco Bell. I used to dream about their burritos. Then, when we went to Vegas last year I got to have it again. I wanted to bathe in the deliciousness that was Del Taco. I probably would have eaten there every day if my husband had let me.