One kid's adventures in gastronomy

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¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

In honor of this Mexican holiday, Mama cooked up a Mexican-inspired dinner. We had an appetizer of plantain chips and mojitos (Papa made me a special one with orange juice). Then Mama made corn pudding muffins, rice with black-eyed peas, and tacos. I helped put the tortillas in the pan to heat them up, and I grated some of the cheese. Mama said I had to be careful with the box grater, or I could cut myself. “Like a paper cut,” I said. “Exactly,” she said.

Mama wanted me to write about taco seasoning because making it is just about as easy as opening a packetonly not nearly as bad for you. You can control how much salt goes into it, and you know how fresh your spices are, so there are no preservatives cluttering it up. I like to smell the spices when Mama opens them, and I’m getting pretty good at naming a lot of them. Mama notes that you can use just a few spices and adjust them to your preference, but here is what she used:

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
bunch of grinds of black pepper

Mix it all together then stir into ground beef (or soy crumbles, in Mama’s case) as it’s cooking. This amount is suitable for 1 pound of beef and will make it spicy but not overbearing.

The black-eyed peas and rice are hiding under my tortilla!

The black-eyed peas and rice are hiding under my tortilla!

Even though I sort of deconstructed my taco (it had cheese and avocado on it), I did sample pretty much everything on my plate. And Mama said that was bueno.

Love, Jude

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Mama suffers from what she calls a “dinner malaise.” She doesn’t like to prepare the same meals close together, even if they’re successful, and as a result, she’s at a loss for what to make. Every night. Papa’s often asked her, “Remember when you used to make…?” But when someone mentions tacos, Mama always thinks, “Oh yeah, tacos. They’re easy, and they’re good.”

So she made tacos the other night. More often than not, it’s fish tacos, but since we had just had a fish fry, she opted for grass-fed beef for me and Papa, and something called tempeh for herself (whatever that is). She showed me how to brown the ground beef in its own fat, and told me that beef’s flavor by itself isn’t that appealing. She demonstrated how to properly dice an onion, and then she sautéed it right alongside the beef, “to add flavor.” Then she seasoned the meat with spices such as cumin, coriander, chili powder, and salt & pepper. She chopped up tomatoes, cabbage, avocados, and cheese to top the tacos, and served it all with a side of seasoned red beans, brown rice, and pineapple. I ate the pineapple and the avocado.

A few nights later, Papa thought he would try his hand at it and made red bean enchiladas with a corn salsa on the side. I didn’t mind the sauce, and I ate a few kernels of corn, but I had to call it quits on this south-of-the-border fare. Give me a grilled cheese sandwich, please. Or ratatouille.

Love, Jude