Friday, April 01, 2011

This Summer I Want to Make My Own Tortillas

Last night for dinner, Robert and I made the last of the chorizo and red potatoes and assembled breakfast tacos.

Now, if you know me, you know that The Breakfast Taco and I go way back. If my mother ever were to inquire as to what my father and I wanted for breakfast, the answer was always breakfast tacos. Always. I distinctly remember making breakfast tacos at our cabin in Eureka Springs two summers ago; we cooked multiple meals, but that it the only one that I can remember. And I remember bowls of breakfast potatoes and of crumbled bacon on our kitchen table; I remember my father and I both passing up the bowl of yellow scrambled eggs. Only my mother and my dog, Sadie Beagle, wanted anything to do with the eggs.

Yes, that's right; I did not eat eggs in my breakfast tacos. In case you didn't know, dear reader, eggs are kind of a big deal--in fact, kind of the main part--of a breakfast taco. I mean, it's what makes the taco a breakfast item, yeah? My dad and I always complained about the Austin establishments (Rudy's BBQ for instance, and Flipnotics) that had breakfast tacos available for take-away on weekday mornings, but pre-mixed the filling so that eggs were inevitably involved. I grew up having to usually get my breakfast tacos at a sit-down restaurant, with the exception of some VERY noteworthy places on the upper east side in high school (read: KEN'S TACOS--or Alonso's, which I heard recently is no longer in existence, sadly). My taco of choice was bacon, potato, and cheese.

I was reluctant to try chorizo on my breakfast tacos from Ken's, despite the fact that I was sure it would be delicious because Pez, my debate coach, ate one almost every morning. But Pez had once said "Ah... heart attack in a flour tortilla" as he ate his breakfast in front of me, and what can I say? It kinda stuck.

Two and a half years ago, however, I went to Barcelona for a weekend with Alex. And I felt adventurous and daring. So I tried chorizo.

Oh my god. Dear reader, if you have never tried chorizo--try it. Do it for me. Do it for yourself.

But, I digress. My main point was that I did not eat eggs in breakfast tacos. I just didn't do it. That is--until a few weeks ago. Robert had made scrambled eggs one morning and I tried a few bites, doused in salsa. Then I tried a bite sans salsa. And then on another morning I had an entire serving of scrambled egg--seasoned with chili powder--all to myself. And I bravely suggested that on my birthday we make breakfast tacos with egg in them.

So, the tacos that we had last night (and then this morning) were leftovers from my birthday. I want everyone to know that the chorizo was actually cheaper and had less calories than the bacon OR the sausage. I don't know what that says about its authenticity, but hey--I'm in Iowa. I'm not gonna be too picky.

Last night before we made our delicious "extremely early breakfast" as R called it, we went to a spoken word performance that was being held in honor of Cesar Chavez's birthday. Both of the performance poets were of hispanic heritage and the majority of their poems reflected this both in subject manner and in language. The performance was quite politically charged, and some of the poems I could tell were meant to be touching--and were, really. But I was stuck on one poem that was about a woman's grandmother who taught her how to make tamales and spoke to her in Spanish when she was growing up.

You might be aware that I, too, have a Mexican grandmother who speaks to me in Spanish. And if you didn't know that, I do know that you probably know that I don't speak Spanish. It's the great irony of my heritage; my grandmother raised her children to assimilate into the World of the Successful White Man, and did not speak Spanish in her household. When my mother asked her to speak in Spanish to me when I was a child so that I might pick it up as a skill, my grandmother refused. And now that she is in her late 80s and has Alzheimer's, she remembers little English and tries to speak to myself and my father, when we visit her in the nursing home, in Spanish. And we cannot understand her.

So I spent a great deal of the poetry slam reflecting on my complete lack of a history. I am hispanic, but I know no Spanish, and I have no idea where in Mexico my family is from. When I asked my grandmother about making tamales several years ago, she scoffed at the notion that anyone would actually want to know how to make them because they are so time-consuming and tedious. She would not share her knowledge, her stories.

In my Ethics class we have been discussing the ethics of history and memory and nostalgia, and one thing that I read in an essay by Adrienne Rich stands out to me; she writes that those without histories cannot go forward without some sort of knowledge of where they have been, and thus those without histories ought to create their own. I'm struggling with this notion at present, but what I do know is this: this summer, I am going to make my own tortillas, and I might spend a day making tamales so I can learn for myself of whether or not they are worth the tedium.