“Mexican Grandmother”, stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen
A woman’s kitchen is like her lingerie drawer—don’t try to rearrange it! No sensible “abuela” (grandmother) would tolerate someone such as a recently retired husband with no culinary experience entering her kitchen with the primary idea of change. The kitchen is her domain, where she rules unchallenged.
I have been fortunate, but I know people who, coming home from work or an afternoon away, find their kitchen completely turned around. It takes a lifetime to find the most efficient arrangement in a room used so often, but apparently only an afternoon to change it. But as Norman Cousins once said: “Life is an adventure in forgiveness.” So an occasional foray into unknown waters is OK. Most husbands are excellent dishwashers.
My family moved to Quadalajara, Mexico in the ’60s, my mother learned to speak Spanish and my father didn’t, and they found that what we had been calling tacos and enchiladas were strange and exotic food to the average Mexican. Sitting in a lovely shaded outdoor restaurant in Tlaquepaque surrounded by happy people drinking pitchers of sangria while tapping their feet to the rhythm of a mariachi band, we ordered tacos, and were puzzled after waiting for sour cream and grated cheese to arrive with our order. Our waiter was quick to tell us that what we had been eating for years was “Tex-Mex” tacos. Not that it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t “authentic” Mexican.
Mexico was good to my family. People came to visit, some even stayed awhile. My daughter came to climb a mountain by moonlight. My aunt and uncle moved there too, so they had their own little commune complete with shared maid service and barber.
People have been eating food wrapped in tortillas for more than 1,000 years, but the first known meaning of the word “taco” was seen in 1895. The taco is the best known street food—something you can pick up and eat with your hands. As such, it can contain anything you like; meat, cheese, fish, chicken, scrambled eggs, whatever.
Having a taquisa or taco party is the easiest way to entertain. Line up tortillas, 2 to 8 per person,, and keep them warm, have dishes of 3 or 4 fillings and let everyone make their own. This type of party has become very popular, and is really quite simple. People take a flat tortilla, put whatever they like on it, and fold it over.
Shredded chicken, pork or beef moistened with a bit of sauce, a big pot of chili beans and another of rice are good accompaniments, and beer to wash it all down with.
Making your own tortillas is easy, but if you live near a Mexican market or tortilla factory, they are a lot easier. Tortillas come in either corn or flour depending on what you like. I like the flour ones if you are going to fry them, but otherwise I like the corn. Sauces are all over the place. The El Paso brand sauces in the market are OK if you don’t want to make your own. The idea of a taquisa is to keep it simple and have a good time.
Now let’s cool off with a nice lemon dessert, PARFAIT PIE. I first made this about 45 years ago and loved it. It was delicious but I misplaced the recipe until last week. While screening for a lemon cheesecake recipe, there it was! So I’m sharing.
Combine 1/2 cup butter with 2 Tbs. sugar (do not cream). use pastry blender.
Add 1 cup flour and mix just until dough forms. Place 1/4 c. crumbs in small pan. Press remaining crumbs evenly in a 9″ pie pan with well floured fingers.
Bake at 375 until light golden brown. Crumbs 10-12 min (mine took 7) pie crust 12-15 min. Cool
Combine in small mixing bowl 1/3 c. (1/2 of 6 oz. partially thawed frozen lemonade. Add several drops yellow food coloring
1/2 cup sugar
1 unbeaten egg white. Beat at high speed until soft peaks form.
Beat 1 cup whipping cream until thick and fold into lemon mixture.
Spoon into cool baked shell. Sprinkle with crumbs and freeze until firm 4-6 hours covered.
NOW LISTEN TO ME: When it says 4-6 hours that’s what it means if you want to serve it for dinner, otherwise it gets too hard. I left it in over night and it was frozen so hard we had to wait awhile to enjoy it. Just freeze it and then put it in the fridge covered until you can’t stand it any longer.