Canadian Coffee Break: F#ck The Coffee It’s Taco Time
The Canadian Coffee Break brings together some of the finest Canadian minds in Southern California every week for a topical, lively round-tablesque discussion over very dark coffee. Won’t you join us.
The subject on the whiteboard today is the taco. Widely available in 50% of the city’s streets east of La Brea (broad generalization), tacos exemplify the on-the-go southern California meal like nothing else. At $1 a throw on average, can you find a better deal…anywhere?
The wonderful thing about the taco is that as a feminist, I can thoroughly get into eating a food that’s the opposite of a phallic symbol (what would you call that? Vaginal symbol? Is that too crass?). Sometimes I feel vaguely uncomfortable slobbering all over a fat, long, wet, juicy popsicle (or corn on a stick), and what’s the perfect empower-ternative? A food shaped like the vulva*.
*My mother, who worked at Planned Parenthood for 10 years, gets angry if I call it a vagina, since if you’re looking at the thing from the outside, you’re really talking about a vulva (the vagina is the cavity just behind it).
But enough about hoohahs and weewees. I’m stalling by using my advanced knowledge of human sexuality, displayed above, to disguise an Escalade-sized hole in my taco knowledge. Growing up in Nova Scotia (my kids are gonna hate these stories someday, as I’m guessing you do by now) my single dad made them on weekend visits, using an Old El Paso taco kit. That was my only taco exposure before moving to California at the tender age of 17. Sidenote: I also had never met anyone Latino; I spent the first six months of my time in LA thinking my friend Paul Rodriguez was from the Phillipines or some other exotic Asian Pacific island country. So basically I’m a hick. Laugh if you must.
Since I’ve moved to LA, really the only taco place I frequent is Machos Tacos (three visits in 2007!). I had the vegetarian tacos there for the first time on Monday night. I was surprised at the use of pepper in the beans. I can’t stop thinking about it. Really. I’ve never had black pepper flavor in a taco before–it was a shock.
I guess I’m not in Old El Paso anymore. But I suppose that’s what growing up is about. That and using the word vagina correctly.
JG Ballard once said that border between the first and third world ran through LA along Wilshire boulevard. Of course LA’s urban geography being what it is, there’s no real rhyme or reason to the distribution of wealth, so Culver City bumps up against Inglewood, and Mount Washington against Cypress Park, but as far as the taco truck phenomenon goes, I’d suggest Ballard’s border to be somewhere around the LA river. Personally I’m a fan of taco zone, which parks in Echo Park by Alvarado and Sunset. I actually have a buddy who’s doing his MFA thesis at USC making a mobile phone accessible system of his own personal reviews tacos trucks, you can read his reviews here for now.
In Montreal where I lived for 10 years, tacos were not to be found, it was all shwarma and shish taouk. So i’m down with the the taco. I’ll do buche and stuff like that no problem. Tripe I’ve never been that hot on. In Mexico they actually have the friggin cow’s head in the little rickshaw thing they cook out of, and they’ll carve out the eyeball for you, if you ask nice. That kind of thing is more on a case by case basis.
My mom made us tacos twice while I was growing up. Actually, given my extensive Mexican food restaurant knowledge (which is based on: Get a chicken burrito and make sure they put the jalapenos IN it so you don’t have to, otherwise you’ll burn your eyes again, Jamie) my mom made us Fajita Tacos. She would always make the ingredients and then make us put them into the taco shells.
I never appreciated that. But then again, people appreciate different things. For example: I’m not sure if people appreciate it when I go to their house and at supper politely ask them to put the food on my plate. They’ll typically say something like, “I don’t know how much you want.” When I tell them that they can call Mom and ask her, they tend to think I’m joking.
The good people at Taco Bell called Mom apparently. When I order a spicy chicken Crunchwrap Supreme combo, they know that I’ll be JUUUUUST hungry enough to want that taco when I’m done. Thank you for caring, Taco Bell.
Funny thing about the preponderance of Mexican food down here in the Southland. If by a series of serendipitous events one ends up in a Taco Bell in oCanada, he or she is lucky to find a menu item even remotely Mexicanish in nature. French fries in the tacos, french fires in the pop, french fries in the hamburgers, french fries till you drop. Nacho Supreme? Not so much… try “Fries Supreme.” Oh yes, the misrepresentation of Latino/a cuisine in the urban centers of Canada is most egregious. I imagine in the rural locales, Mexican food is Captain Crunch with some queso and guacamole. Yum.
That being said, moving to California was a godsend in disguise. While I had my reservations of leaving the Great White, all was well after I stumbled upon a La Cocina, Del Taco, Cabo Cabana, El Pollo Loco, Tijuana, King Taco, El Coyote, Senor Fish, Mijares, and that one place in the historic district of San Diego whose name I can never recall (necessarily in that order). If anyone is interested in making a quick buck, move up to Canada and offer someone a “quesadilla” in exchange for some currency of the legal tender variety. While the Canuck may not quite know what native tongue you are invoking or have any idea what kind of tortilla bacon you’re hawking at him, after its consumed Joe Canada will tell his friends and you’ll be second only to Celine in Canadian fame and fortune. Oh, and once you’re establishment is erected, don’t forget to add some poutine to your menu. Just a word of advice – we love us some poutine.
As an aside, Del Taco doesn’t get nearly enough love from the connoisseurs of Mexi-cuisine. Del Taco 4 Lyfe.