No-recipe tacos*.

Think about the meal you want to make. Do you have everything you need? Check the fridge. You are probably out of tortillas, or perhaps you didn’t have them in the first place. Put on your boots, find your shopping bag and debit card, and walk three blocks to the corner store for corn tortillas, preferably small ones because the tacos will be held by small hands. Grab limes, cilantro, and a package of Reese peanut butter cups to eat alone later.

Grab coffee at the hipster café up the road and check your phone. Listen to the ambient rhythm of quiet chatter, and bask in the sweet sound of no one calling your name from a bathroom. Lose yourself on Instagram for 37 minutes.

Think about an alternative taco, because the chorizo might be spicy and the child, aged four years, is sensitive to anything hotter than a bell pepper, despite your best efforts to expand his palate. He likes corn. Doesn’t he? You think he likes corn, and if you caramelize the corn it will start to taste like sugar. You know he likes sugar.

Return home. Kick your boots off at the door. Notice the laundry, and how no one else has noticed the laundry. Do a load of laundry.

Do another load of laundry, and then another. Do three more loads after that. It’s possible that you are some kind of wizard and the washing machine only works for you.

The dinner hour is approaching. Answer “what’s for dinner, mum?” with “tacos” and hear “I like tacos,” which you know to be a lie because the only way he’d like tacos is if tacos were chocolate chip granola bars. Believe in yourself, and in your child, who is learning and growing and becoming a whole person who will one day genuinely appreciate and enjoy tacos. Everyone likes tacos, right? Worry that he’ll grow up to be the one person who doesn’t like tacos. Practice saying things like “he’s just really sensitive” and “I’m not disappointed.”

Mince one onion. Set two pans over medium-high heat. Into one, place a pat of butter; into the other, a glug of oil. Into the butter pan, place a quarter of the minced onion; place the rest into the oil pan. Cook the onions until they are translucent and someone wanders into the kitchen to ask for a granola bar, and to say something accusatory about the smell of onions. “Why are you cooking onions?” “I’m not.” Shoo him away.

Smash and mince one garlic clove and throw it into the butter pan. Mince one jalapeño pepper and throw it into the oil pot. Cook until the onions in both pans have turned brownish. Answer three weirdly specific questions about the male anatomy as it relates to Iron Man, the Hulk, and daddy. Pour yourself a glass of wine.

Drain a can of corn, and throw the kernels into the butter pan. Stir occasionally, until the corn smells sweet and has browned in places.

Crumble a pound or so of chorizo into the oil pan, breaking it up with the backside of a wooden spoon. Cook until charred in spots, but not burned. You’ll know it when you see it. Move the granola bars to the top shelf of the pantry, as they’re becoming a point of contention.

Snip cilantro leaves into a ramekin. Cut a lime into quarters. Make salsa out of mango and apple. Spoon sour cream into a small dish. Open a jar of tomato salsa. Crumble queso fresco into a bowl. Explain that Black Widow is different from Hawkeye in some ways, but similar in others, and we should celebrate those differences and not keep bugging mum about them right now. Explain that granola bars are for lunches. Explain that you don’t care what Grandma would let him have or eat or do. Shoo him away.

Soften your tortillas. Years ago, you would have prepared these individually, and lovingly, but now you use the microwave. Something about wet paper towels and stacks of six and dish cloths and 30 seconds or so on high.

Slice an avocado. Discard overripe avocado. Slice another avocado.

Call your family to the table.

“I was hoping to have … not this,” he says.

“You told me you like tacos,” you say.

“But not this kind of tacos,” he says.

“Just taste them.”

Prepare your tacos. Start with a slice of avocado, then add a little bit of chorizo, some queso fresco, and a few cilantro leaves. Squeeze a few drops of lime juice over each one.

Watch a small hand knead a soft tortilla into a wad. Watch the wad explode into crumbs as he opens his small fist. Hand him another tortilla, and tell him he must eat it. Show him how it works. Watch his small hand knead the tortilla into a wad. Pour yourself another glass of wine.

“Eat some corn,” you say.

“Eat some corn,” you say.

“Eat some corn,” you say.

Shove a spoonful of corn into his mouth.

He is crying. You are mean.

“Drink some milk, and then take another bite,” you say.

He glares at you. “You keep this up and you’re going to bed,” you say.

He will chew his first bite of corn for 20 minutes, during which your partner will eat eight tacos and you will drink another glass and a half of wine.

Send him to bed. “Can I have a granola bar?”

Wine.

Finish your tacos. Bring him back to the table.

“Are you going to eat now?” and then, “good.”

Supervise six further bites of taco and sixty minutes of chewing. Wonder if any part of this constitutes a victory. Think about your friend Grace, with her clean apartment, and about how she probably ate a beautiful meal in appreciative company just six blocks away while you were here saying stern things about corn and avocado and respectful behaviour.

Clear the table. Load the dishwasher. Fold the laundry. Listen to him tell his father a distorted version of what you told him about Black Widow. Listen to his father tell him he doesn’t think she is sad she’s not more like Hawkeye. Listen to them read a story about Black Widow. Wonder what Mexico is like, and how long you could reasonably go for and how many tacos you could eat while you’re there.

Get settled on the couch with the same or maybe another glass of wine and your secret peanut butter cups, and last month’s Bon Appétit. Loud footsteps approach, and you imagine it must sound like thunder to the people in the apartment below.

“I’m still hungry,” he says.

“You should have eaten your dinner,” you say.

“How about I have a granola bar?”

*Individual results may vary.

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12 thoughts on “No-recipe tacos*.

  1. My kids are eight and they have completely opposite reactions to tacos: my daughter loads hers up with guacamole, pulled pork and cheese (they’re in the 0-3 percentile so more calories!), my son adds guacamole, cheese and says his taco is too full for the meat and proceeds to roll the tortilla in to a straw and suck out the cheese & guacamole and then discards the tortilla.

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    1. Kids! I think they try to make it so you never really know what to expect with them. The night before, he ate salmon and an onion pilaf with only minimal complaint; they’re screwing with us, I’m sure of it!

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  2. I so feel you. I SO feel you. I have had a few small victories lately though. Lettuce is no long a gag-inducing devil. Only if its iceberg. And chopped like coleslaw. But, victory. he also eats tacos that are deconstructed. Apparently it tastes better when not all mixed together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t even know what half those ingredients *are* but I’m going to find out.

    Maybe. Probably not.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I never cook, have never EVER read a food blog, and you have converted me with one post. You’re hilarious and I am also flat broke, so we should be friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes you speak the truth and I absolutely love your blog which I found the old-school way from your BOOK!!! This is an esp great post and eerily familiar. You are obv a good mom. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hilarious! I’m a grown man (physically) and I would have questioned why I was smelling onions when we were having tacos too. The onion is ground into the packet already, right? My sons wouldn’t eat these tacos either, but my daughter would have fought your partner to the death for that 8th one. Lol. True story, my son, who likes the onion, avocado, lettuce-less tacos (nachos in taco form I guess is what it is), flipped out because we had tacos on a Wednesday instead of taco Tuesday. Kids…the insanity is real.

    Liked by 1 person

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