I have declared war on these crunchy corn taco shell demons. I must get my hands on the dude who came up with this loco idea so we can have a conversation about proportion, ratio, and balance. God made a P.E.R.F.E.C.T. taco on the fourth day, and it truly was a little piece of heaven. That crunch, the saltiness, just the right amount of seasoned beef, tiny chunks of tangy queso cheese, garden-warm tomatoes, chilled lettuce, salsa, and a goddess-like slice of avocado under a thin veil of sour cream. If I weren’t already Christian, I’d convert, just for the creation of the taco.
But then some dumb schmuck has to go and mess it all up. Stand N Stuff taco shells SUCK; they ruin the ratio! You have to put toooo much beef in, and then too much of everything else, for fairness and balance, thereby completely ruining the delicate and perfect original creation. Isn’t it enough that Obese Nation has to supersize every item in the drive-through? Now they’ve launched a steroidal assault on the humble taco.
Whoa, where did that cranky bitch come from?? Ah, now I remember…The Spousal Unit was giving me the stink eye because I’d made tacos for the second time in four weeks. “Listen buddy, in my house growing up, every Tuesday was taco night and you’re complaining about having them twice in ONE MONTH?” Growing up we had the same exact thing every night of the week. Monday was spaghetti, and since my mom was an astonishingly bad cook, it was served up limp as a Pope’s willy with canned tomato sauce. That was it, no added herbs, no marinara simmering on a loving Italian mama’s stovetop for hours, no Parmesan. To complete the meal we each received one slice of frozen garlic bread. Gordon Ramsey clearly had been to supper at our house, which is how “Hell’s Kitchen” got its name.
Tuesday was taco night…thank you dear Lord! Sadly Mama never mastered the art of breaking up the ground beef and each shell was often filled with a 3” slab of grey meat. The poor girl never grasped the concept of browning meat, either. She steamed it in its own fat and liquid, so that nothing was ever caramelized and brown. Grey as ash, every time.
Wednesday it was mayo sandwiches. Thick swipes of Miracle Whip were slathered on a single slice of white Wonder bread and then folded over. Yum! Eat your heart out, Anthony Bourdain!
Thursday was Mama’s bowling league night, so I got a dollar to eat whatever I wanted at the concession stand. I’m convinced those corn dogs and fries, combined with Sunday dinner at my grandma’s, are what kept me alive throughout my childhood. You might be a redneck if your idea of fine dining has any connection to a bowling alley.
Friday. Catholics. What do you think we ate? If you are sensibly envisioning grilled planks of salmon, or lovely red snapper, you would be so very wrong. We were poor here, remember? Friday night’s special hell was creamed tuna on toast, which went something like this. Toast up a slice of Wonder bread. Smother it in one can of the cheapest tuna on sale, mix with a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of mushy green peas, then add a bag of crushed potato chips. Then she would add an appropriate amount of milk to make it stretch to cover however many mouths showed up at the table (don’t forget these were usually Elvis Daddy nights and all the hysteria and bodies who showed up to deal with that situation!).
My mom was born during the Great Depression and its mark on her was deeply seared. She equated fresh garden fruits and veggies as the stuff of poverty and country hicks; cool, uptown folks ate from cans and boxes purchased in a grocery store. So, despite the fact that my grandparents lived on a farm nearby and produced copious amounts of yummy goodness from their gardens and orchards, my mom refused these offerings from them, turned her nose up, in fact. It is the God’s honest truth that until I left home at age 18, I had never eaten a salad or a fresh vegetable; everything came from tin cans and was cooked until most of the original color was missing.
One of the funniest culinary moments in my childhood happened when I was six. My mom worked as a minimum wage secretary at an insurance firm, so I was a latchkey kid, providing me with mucho opportunities to get into mischief. But on this day, my intentions were only pure and angelic. My mom was having a coworker over for dinner that night, to see if she might want to be a housemate and help ease her ongoing financial burdens. I decided that I’d make dessert, but all I could find was one tiny box of lemon flavored Jello. It instructed me to add two cups of boiling water to the powder and let it gel in the fridge. No problemo, except why would I only use two cups of water? That wouldn’t make much dessert at all. However, if I were to add 12 cups, now that would be impressive; we’d have dessert every night that week.
When my mom got home and opened the fridge to start her prep for yet another dinner from the Hands of Satan, all that greeted her were bowls of yellow sugar water. I really don’t understand why she got soooo super mad, but she made me go to confession twice that week. I put my culinary career on the back burner until I turned nine and was so hungry I convinced my German grandma to teach me to cook. I can still remember the first dinner I cooked for the family. Fried pork chops (it was Texas, OK?), rice, green beans, and biscuits. My stepdad was so giddy from eating something other than Mom’s cooking, that he brokered a deal. For every breakfast or dinner I cooked, he would give me a dollar. I thought I was riding a gravy train on biscuit wheels, for certain. Strangely, eight years later, when I left home, he mysteriously lost 20 lbs.
Now back to “Texas Toast”. I’d hatched a plan to stop doing those ridiculous ‘junior’ modeling assignments. It was risky, and would definitely involve a loss of income. The question was for how long. I would show up on my go-sees and instead of looking like a 14-year-old virgin child, I began gelling my hair back and wearing very heavy black eye make-up. The clients would politely send me packing. This tactic was a lot less stressful than constantly fighting the agency over this issue. Eventually, I began to get more bookings that suited my age and look, and the dreaded teenage impersonator days faded away for good. Apparently my European road trip was finally paying off.